You are tired of his shoes left at the side of the bed. You almost tripped getting up at night. So it starts, the argument, that is. “Why do you have to leave your stuff all over the place? Just put things away!” He glares at you and says, “Really? So you are Ms. Perfect?” Nothing gets resolved and both of you are upset. This is not a good argument.

A good argument allows you to express your mind, be open and listen. The way you fight can make all the difference in your relationship.

Good fights or arguments begin with rules of engagement. There is no swearing, yelling, name-calling or disrespect. When you feel your anger rising, you both agree to take a time-out. And no one is keeping score. Arguments should be aimed at dealing with issues and trying to solve them.

Once the rules are set, ask yourself, what am I really unhappy about? What is the real problem? For example, is it really about his shoes, or taking out the trash, or even occasional lateness?  Or is there something deeper triggering this argument like feeling unsupported in the relationship?

If you don’t get to the root issue behind the argument, you’ll have the same fight over and over. Then you’ll lose your cool and become defensive or simply give up and start detaching.

To begin a good fight, consider the timing of starting an argument. Are you tired, stressed, sick or dealing with too much? Then this is not a good time to bring up a problem. And if the person isn’t ready to talk, don’t force it. Wait until they are ready.

Then when you begin telling your side of the matter, take time to listen to the other person’s point of view. Patiently wait for your turn to speak. Next, realize that the most important part of fighting is to preserve the relationship. This means being right is not the goal. Rather, your goal is to help the other person hear and understand your concerns within a context of honor–not shame.

Next, leave criticism and anger at the door. Don’t start with a verbal atomic bomb. Complain but don’t criticize. Your approach to a problem should be what we call soft, not harsh. “Hey honey, I want us to figure something out together.” Not, “You frustrate me by leaving your stuff everywhere.” Use first-person pronouns like, “I feel…” instead of “You are…”

Now, if the other person becomes upset, try to repair the damage. “I am sorry for…” This signals a willingness to take responsibility and work toward reconciling the problem. It will also  keep a fight from escalating. When you feel overwhelmed, stop and take a break. Take a deep breath, a pause but stick to the issue.

Then think, is there any way to compromise or accommodate the other person? Does your partner make a good point? Can you accept his or her influence on the topic of discussion? The more willing you are to accept influence, the better an argument moves toward agreement.

Finally, problem-solve. Be ready to make changes in whatever area or topic is being discussed. If something can be solved, solve it. If not, agree to come back to it at another time. Or simply agree to disagree. Be clear when you tell the person what you need.

The bottom line of any argument is to discuss your differences, but value and appreciate the other person regardless of the problem. Preserve the good will between you while coming up with ways to solve the problem.

How to have a good fight

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