When in a relationship there will inevitably be fights. But don’t you think that life is too short to fight? So how can we avoid some fights or at least fight smarter?
The idea of fighting smarter is to spend less time and less energy into fights but also to make them more efficient by being able to identify the problem and to solve it.
Do you happen to fight over small things like socks lying on the floor? Probably yes. The first thing to do is to actually recognise the real issue underneath the surface. Very often it hides an unsatisfied need like acceptance, trust or respect. For example, if a woman would get upset about a stupid sock lying on the floor it is actually not because of the sock itself but because she feels that her work at home is not being respected.
The same happens when I ask F if he is sure that this is the correct way and that he gets suddenly very upset. The reason behind it, is that he feels that I do not trust his ability. Knowing and understanding our partner’s need, is in this case very helpful. Most of fights will take place because of many different small triggers but will hide the same unsatisfied need. You can find here an article as well as a test to help you understand each other’s needs.
In order to identify the real issue, it is important to pay attention to our partner and to listen to what she or he has to say. Especially because the reason why we get upset is usually because we are overwhelmed by a strong emotion and we are unable to identify our feelings and communicate them by simply saying for example: “I feel like you are not respecting my work” or “I feel like you are not trusting my abilities”.
As we are a team, it is our role to support and help each other and when identifying such behaviour in our partner, once has to remain calm. In fact, if we are both arguing, neither of us will be able to listen to the other one. It will lead to a dialogue of the death and nothing good will come out of it. By listening to our partner, we offer him or her the calming effect of being truly heard, and understood as well as comforted, reassured, and relieved.
This way we can avoid a very common but unhealthy pattern called demand-withdraw. This happens when one partner raises an issue, which feels like a demand to the other, who withdraws to avoid discomfort.
The question we want to ask ourselves is: “Do we want to prove our point/be right or do we want to solve the problem?” This simple question can save us a lot of energy. So, in this moment let’s forget about justifying ourselves and let’s be smart.
Once both calmed it is possible to talk again about the real problem in a rational way that will be much more productive. Our perception will not be distorted anymore and we can see the big picture. The other partner will then have the chance to share his or her own perspective and experience and actually being heard.
Hera are a few steps that can help:
For the one observer:
- Recognising the start of the fight and the alert raised by our partner.
- Asking ourselves: Do we want to prove our point/be right or do we want to solve the problem and avoid wasting time and energy with a fight?
- Acknowledging what our partner has to say and giving the attention needed to express their feelings before sharing our own point of view or experience.
- Helping them to calm down.
For the one getting upset:
- Differentiating feelings vs. facts by not using phrases like “you always” or “you never” but rather “I feel like”.
- Focusing on the larger picture rather than filtering only the behaviours that we are accusing our partner of.
- Differentiating situational vs. essential by not attributing certain behaviour to the character of our partner.
- Focus on one issue at a time.
Those tendencies are described in details by Esteher Lorel in her video.
For both partners:
- Identifying the real issue
- Talking about it when both calmed
- Finding agreements and focusing on the solution
At the end the strongest tool we have is our love for each other. When F gets upsets I try to focus on my love for him which makes me feel compassion and help me to support him and not to start making my point but rather listen to him and understand what he feels. The same as focusing on his love for me helps him to calm down. Reconnecting to our feelings and feeling love and compassion for each other can conquer any fights.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”. Dalai Lama