Fighting Fair: The Do’s & Don’ts of Effective Communication in Relationships
No matter what stage of the relationship you are in, whether you are a new couple or have been married for 20 years, you’re going to come to the day and moment when you and your partner bump heads or in a fight. Don’t fret! This is normal. However, there’s some do’s and don’t to be aware of to best communicate your feelings and needs.
Don’t blame or point fingers: When placing blame in an argument all this does is make the other person be on the defensive. When they are on the defensive they no longer even hear what you are feeling. All they hear is what they did wrong and are now trying to defend their points rather than being solution oriented on how to make the issue better.
Do use “I Statements”: I know everyone hears the term “I” statements but what exactly does that look like? I statements are statements that communicate how you feel or what you are experiencing without placing blame on your partner.
For example, instead of saying, “You really pissed me off because you are always hanging the phone up in my face!” try saying, “I get upset when I am hung up on because I feel disrespected.” This way you are letting your partner know how you feel and why you feel that way without blaming them to help eliminate them from being defensive.
Don’t scream and yell: Let’s be honest, if you are having a disagreement with your partner, or anyone, and they start yelling and screaming at you one of two things are going to happen; 1). It’s going to trigger you to want to fight, or 2). Shut down and walk away. Either of these do not lead to roads of effective communication or resolve. You can’t hear anyone when they are yelling at you, what’s going through your head is all of the ways you feel disrespected and how can you retaliate. I know I will end any conversation when yelling is involved because it’s ineffective and will quickly escalate to something that’s uncontrollable and hard to come back from. At that point we’ve both lost.
Do use your inside voice: Our teachers would always remind us to utilize our inside voice when in the classroom and has been adopted to my fighting fair rules in any relationship. When you are using your normal indoor voice and aren’t yelling, you can clearly and concisely state what’s going on, your feelings and emotions, and are better able to be heard by your partner. Remember you are not trying to chastise them when arguing so there’s no need to raise your voice. They’re a whole adult and deserve to be respected as such no matter how upset you are.
Don’t listen to respond: Have you ever been expressing yourself to someone about a situation where they are at fault, and while you are in the middle of expressing to them your point they cut you off to defend one small part of what you are saying? Yea, they aren’t listening to you effectively. They are on the defensive and are just listening to know when to interject and argue a point. Nothing gets resolved here. It will steer the argument into a bunch of small disagreements, driving further away from the main issue.
Do Listen to understand: Your partner is not your enemy. They want to know that they can come to you and discuss when issues arise and actually be heard rather than attacked. Hear them out by letting them express their feelings without you interrupting or trying to challenge their feelings.Do some self reflection and own how you made them feel. Their feelings are valid and whether or not your actions were intentional or unintentional it still made them feel a way. Acknowledge that before giving your counter response.
Don’t bring up old issues: As easy as this is to do, please don’t do this. Bringing up past issues becomes so irrelevant to the current fight and just becomes ammunition that you are just loading off and will blindsight your partner. Could you imagine having a disagreement with your partner about them coming home late and then they bring up the time you forgot to pick them up from the airport 3 months ago. It throws you off and leaves you now trying to defend yourself from that when the actual issue is they were late coming home and didn’t say anything. Leave past fights where they are…in the past!
Do stay present and focus on the current issue at hand: Plain and simple. Stay in this moment of feelings and emotions, and if you are triggered and reminded of a past incident stop and ask yourself, was that issue fully resolved? If so then bringing it up again is redundant. If it wasn’t resolved then ask yourself is this something you want to rehash so it can be resolved? If it is then do so at another time.
Don’t be petty or intentionally hurtful: Again, your partner is not your enemy, so what do you gain by being intentionally hurtful or petty? How did being mean or petty help your relationship? Did it Bring you closer or drive you farther away? The old saying is ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ and if you’re comfortable intentionally hurting your partner, I’d encourage you to reevaluate if you should continue the relationship.
Do take a pause, breathe, and reset: Our partners most times know what buttons to push and we become so angry in the argument that we want to lash out. When you are feeling yourself getting to that level, pause…take a deep breath, assess whether or not you can continue the conversation calmly in the moment or if you need to take a break to cool off then address it at a later time. Speaking out of anger will easily have you say something that hits hard and you can’t take words back. It’s okay to pause and regroup.
Lastly, “When in doubt write it out.” Being vulnerable and communicating your feelings can be difficult at times and you may not have the right words to say at the moment. But rather not say anything at all I encourage you to write out what you want to say. If you’re anything like me, and you are better with your words when you can see them, then simply write it down and read it to your partner. “Well, why not just give it to them for them to read it themselves,” some might ask. The answer to this is simple, text doesn't relay tone and you don’t want them to read it and add a tone that you didn’t intend. You still want to vocalize to them what’s going on, you’re just gathering your words to be as clear as possible.
Arguments happen, but don’t let the argument itself become bigger than the relationship. If the relationship is worth saving and you can find a resolution then remember these tips so that you can be as effective in your communication to resolve the issue.