You may have met a couple who “humbly brags” about never having Fighting Fair. If that is indeed the case, it’s usually due to one of two reasons. Either they have mastered some impeccable communication skills (which is possible), or one or both of them are not sharing their true feelings either with you or with each other (which is much more likely).
Either way, if you get a room of therapists together, they will probably be telling you that arguing is not a bad thing. After all, being in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re no longer an individual with your own views, perspectives, and feelings. The key is making sure that you and your partner both “fight fair” when you do not agree.
What does that mean, exactly? Let’s find out by looking at these seven tips.
1. Remember what “fair” means
One definition of the word “fair” is “free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.” This is a good one to keep in mind during a disagreement. Although you have your own opinions, you should still seek to understand where your partner is coming from, be honest about your feelings and needs, and try to look for what will ultimately be good and right for both of you.
2. Cool off first (and let them do the same)
Often, simply taking a few moments to calm down and collect our thoughts will ensure that fights are resolved much more quickly and smoothly. However, if you know that you’re frustrated (if not downright mad) and you try and push an issue anyway, it’s probably not going to go very well. The same goes for your partner. So, try going for a walk, watching a 30-minute sitcom, or taking a shower.
Do something that will let you step away from what’s going on for a moment; that way, you can gain a better perspective. In addition, if your partner asks for some space, grant it. Pushing them into something they are not ready for is probably going to do more harm than good.
3. Follow the Golden Rule
Your parents may have raised you to treat people like you want to be treated, and that’s actually a very important thing to keep in mind when you’re in the middle of a disagreement with your partner. No one wants to feel attacked, belittled or patronized. Keep that at the forefront of your mind during a fight with your significant other.
4. Listen more than you speak
When arguments escalate, it’s often because one or both individuals are more interested in being heard than listening. When that happens, both people get cut off or end up raising their voices. Talking over others is rude, and screaming has never accomplished much of anything. You need to get your point across, but so do they. Make sure to listen, even when you’re angry and frustrated.
5. Watch your body language
More than 80% of communication comes from body language and not words. So, movements like rolling your eyes, tapping your feet, or sucking your teeth do not convey that you’re looking for a resolution. Instead, such gestures tend to be translated as indicating that you couldn’t care less about what your partner has to say. You don’t have to put on a “poker face”—just try to be conscious of whether your body language is putting up a huge emotional wall.
6. Don’t make it your goal to hurt their feelings
Arguments are not professional boxing matches. In other words, you’re not getting paid to win a fight with your significant other. Therefore, don’t set out to hurt them. No matter what the issue may be, your love and respect for them should always take precedence.
7. Avoid manipulation
Whether you’re giving the silent treatment, holding grudges, withholding intimacy, bringing family members into the situation, or being passive-aggressive, doing things for the sake of gaining control of a situation is no way to fighting fair. Dr. Phil always used to ask “Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?” There’s a lot of wisdom in that question. In the middle of an agreement with your significant other—who is the one, you love—be sure to ponder which of those results you would actually prefer. This reflection will help you to gain clarity as you’re disagreeing with one another.