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Keys to Fair Fighting

heart with a bandaid

Most relationships have some conflict. It only means you disagree about something, it doesn't have to mean you don't like each other! When you have a problem to talk about:

  • Negotiate a time to talk about it. Don't have difficult conversations when you are very angry or tired. Ask, "When is a good time to talk about something bothering me?"
  • Don't criticize. Attack the problem, not the other person. Open sensitive conversations with "I" statements; talk about how you struggle with the problem. Don't open with "you" statements; avoid blaming the other person for your thoughts and feelings.
  • Take the time to genuinely listen. Don't plan what to say next while you're trying to listen. Don't interrupt.
  • Listen with your ears and your heart. Sometimes people have emotional messages to share and weave it into their words.
  • Ask questions. Ask if you think you may have missed the point. Ask friendly (and appropriate!) questions. Ask for opinions. Show your interest.
  • Share information. Be generous in sharing yourself, but don't overwhelm others with too much too soon. Don't use "the truth" to hurt others.
  • Don't assign feelings or motives. Let others speak for themselves.
  • Stay with the topic. Don't use a current concern as a reason to jump into everything that bothers you.
  • Say, "I'm sorry" when you're wrong. It goes a long way in making things right again.
  • Don't assume things. When we feel close to someone it's easy to think we know how he or she thinks and feels. We can be very wrong!
  • There may not be a resolved ending. Be prepared to compromise or to disagree about some things.
  • Don't hold grudges. You don't have to accept anything and everything, but don't hold grudges-they just drain your energy. Studies show that the more we see the best in others, the better healthy relationships get.
  • The goal is for everyone to be a winner. Relationships with winners and losers don't last. Seek answers to problems together.


Written by Joyce Woodford
Kansas State University Counseling Services, Manhattan, KS © 2001