Arguments are bound to occur in relationships. Couples can benefit by setting guidelines to follow during their disagreements. Here are some rules for “fair fighting” that may lead to less time spent in conflict and create more potential for compromise:
- Show respect. Avoid name calling, criticism and swearing. Use a calm tone of voice. No use of force, threats or intimidation.
- Speak one at a time and allow equal time to listen and be heard. Take turns so that you and your partner have an opportunity to be heard. Focus on listening instead of thinking of a rebuttal while your partner speaks.
- Be honest with yourself and your partner. Accept responsibility for your words and actions. Acknowledge your part in the conflict and avoid blame. Blaming your partner may lead to defensiveness and escalate the argument, which detracts from problem solving. This may also mean admitting when you are wrong.
- Allow for time outs and breathers. Hostility, anger and defensiveness cloud judgment and limit rational thought. Take a short break to cool off, calm down and gain perspective.
- Try not to generalize. Pick one topic or problem to discuss at a time. Avoid dredging up the past and saving up on gripes to dump all at once. Try to avoid going off on tangents.
- Look for middle ground. Avoid expectations of a winner or a loser in the argument. Compromise means both you and your partner are willing to give a little to find a solution.