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Fighting Fair

Ty Supancic, Esq.

Everyone disagrees sometimes. In fact, a relationship that avoids conflict may be unhealthy. Healthy relationships do not avoid conflict, but use it to clear the air productively, without hurt feelings. Here are fourteen rules for fighting fair:

1. Take Responsibility. It may take two to argue, but it only takes one to end a conflict. Make a commitment to never intentionally harm your partner’s feelings.

2. Don’t escalate. The most important commitment you will make to fair fighting is to overcome any desire to speak or act hurtfully.

3. Use “I” speech. When we use “you” speech, it is often perceived as accusatory. Instead, talk about your own feelings: “I feel hurt when I hear ______.” This may prevent defensiveness, as it’s hard to argue with a self-report.

4. Learn to use “time outs”. Agree that if hurtful speech or actions continue, either party may call a time out. The three elements to a successful time out are: 1.) Use “I” speech to take responsibility, such as, “I don’t want to get angry.” 2.) Say what you need: “I need to take a walk to clear my head.” 3.) Set a time limit: “I’ll be back in 15 minutes to finish our talk.” These steps will keep either of you from feeling abandoned.

5. Avoid and defend against hurtful speech. This includes name-calling, swearing, sarcasm, shouting, or any verbal hostility or intimidation. Agree to a key phrase that indicates hurt feelings, such as “That’s below the belt.”

6. Stay calm. Don’t overreact. Behave with calm respect and your partner will be more likely to consider your viewpoint.

7. Use words, not actions. When feelings run high, even innocent actions like hitting a tabletop may be misinterpreted. Use “I” speech to explain your feelings instead.

8. Be specific. Use concrete examples (who, what, when, where) for your objections.

9. Discuss only one issue at a time. If you find yourself saying, “And another thing….,” stop.

10. Avoid generalizations like “never” or “always”. Use specific examples.

11. Don’t exaggerate. Exaggerating only prevents discussions about the real issue. Stick with facts and honest feelings.

12. Don’t wait. Try to deal with problems as they arise — before hurt feelings have a chance to grow.

13. Don’t clam up. When one person becomes silent and stops responding, anger may build. Positive results are attained with two-way communication.

14. Agree to these ground rules.

Remember, when you both agree to common rules, resolving conflict is more likely. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to fight fair, we simply can’t resolve a conflict. When this happens, talks with a trained professional may help. We are always available to assist you when you are unable to reach a resolution you can both live with.

The family law lawyers at The Law Collaborative, Los Angeles, are dedicated to providing useful tools like these to assist couples in managing conflict, resolving issues, and preserving families. Remember: We host a FREE family law workshop on the second Saturday of every month. The next workshop is this Saturday, Sept. 9 from 10AM to 12PM. Call (818) 348-6700 to RSVP.

Best wishes,

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The Law Collaborative, APC

 


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