By Licia Ginne, LMFT
In all relationships there are conflicts and learning how to argue in a fair manner is important. In couples therapy and psychotherapy you should be learning these tools and have a safe environment to practice them in. Remember if you are trying to resolve a conflict with someone give yourself some time before the discussion to map out your goals for the conversation and be sure that you have a good environment for sitting down for the talk.
Here are some guidelines for when you sit down to discuss issues.
1. Be specific when you introduce a gripe.
2. Don’t just complain, no matter how specifically; ask for a reasonable change that will relieve the gripe.
3. Ask for and give feedback of the major points. Make sure you are heard and your partner understands what is said. Ask your partner to tell you what they heard.
4. Focus on one issue at a time. Otherwise, without professional guidance (or 3rd party) you may skip back and forth evading the hard ones.
5. Do not be glib or intolerant. Be open to your feelings and equally open to your partner’s feelings.
6. Always consider compromise. Remember your partner’s view of reality may be just as real as yours even though they may differ. There are not many totally objective realities.
7. Do not allow counter-demands to enter the picture until the original demands are clearly understood. Sometimes writing the agenda down helps everyone to stay focused.
8. Never assume that you know what your partner is thinking until you have checked out the assumption in plain language; nor should you assume or predict how your partner will react, what would be accepted or rejected. Allow the other person the opportunity to accept or reject any offer.
9. Do not correct your partner’s statement about his or her own feelings. Do not tell a partner what they should know or feel.
10. Never put labels on a partner, use name-calling or personal attacks. If you really believed that they were incompetent or suffered from some hopeless basic flaw you probably would not be with them. Do not make sweeping, labeling judgments about their feelings, especially about whether or not they are valid or important.
11. Sarcasm is dirty fighting.
12. Offer directions about the type of communication and response you need. Do you have time for problem-solving, empathy/sympathy, venting, support, etc. This allows your partner to make an informed assessment of their ability to be there for you.
13. Hurts, grievances and irritations should be brought up at the very earliest moment. Otherwise the issues may build into huge explosions.
14. Do not overload your partner with grievances. To do so makes them feel hopeless and suggests that you have either been hoarding complaints or have not thought through what really troubles you. Take time to meditate and give your feelings time to clarify into productive negotiations and requests.
15. Allow time for each person to think about the requests and needs of the other. These negotiations may need more than one sitting. Set up a follow-up time to meet.
16. Remember that there is never a single winner in an honest intimate fight. Both either win more intimacy or lose it.
Based on the book, “ Pairing “ by Dr. George R. Back & Ronald M. Deutsch.