Three Principles for Fighting Fairly
Fighting is not always a bad thing. Fighting in close relationships is inevitable, and actually the best marriages and the strongest families DO fight, but they learn how to fight fairly. I think there are three keys to fighting well in your family:
1. Create a Safe Environment
Greg and I used a code phrase, we would say “I need you to be safe”. That phrase, alerted the spouse, that the topic had the potential to not be good, and it was hard to talk about, so a safe environment was needed. You can teach this tool to your children and practice creating a safe environment for them to bring up topics that they maybe scared to talk to you about.
2. Actively Listen
When your child or spouse is opening up and sharing their heart, don’t interrupt and don’t defend yourself. Just listen. There will be time for your side of the argument, but listen first. After you have listened, repeat back what you heard them say. We even use that language, “What I hear you saying is ……” Then they have the opportunity to confirm or clarify what they are trying to communicate. You don’t have to respond immediately or solve their problem or defend yourself. It’s enough in the moment to simply hear them. Then take some time and gather your thoughts (or calm your temper!) before coming back around to the subject.
3. Be Assertive
When something is bothering you - speak up. Our family members cannot read our minds. (And that’s okay and it doesn’t mean they don’t know us or love us!) You MUST tell your spouse or your kids when something is bothering you. This doesn’t mean we should burden our children with all of our emotions, but when it pertains to them and specific actions they have taken (or not taken), communicate with them so that a dialogue can begin.