Fight fair with these tips

Fair fighting is a way to resolve conflict effectively. Follow these basic strategies to keep the disagreement from becoming destructive.

Many people don’t realize that there is a right way to fight.  This typically isn’t something that is taught in families or school settings.  Consequently, awful situations can arise when people start fighting and violence quickly erupts. Fair fighting is an effective way to manage disagreement and the feelings that come with it. The following basic guidelines for fair fighting can help keep disagreements from becoming entrenched or destructive: 

  • Agree that fights exist in order to reach common ground at the end of the disagreement.  Therefore, trust, love, respect, caring and kindness are key elements in every fight.
  • Stay calm. Try not to overreact.  This often helps the other person to be more empathetic.
  • Express feelings in words, not actions.  If feelings become so strong that there might be loss of control by one of the individuals involved, create a word or phrase to indicate that time to cool down is required.
  • Statements of anger must be factual.  For example: “I resent that you left the dishes in the sink all day.”
  • Be specific about what is bothering you. Accept statements and understand them for what they mean. 
  • Keep the issue to the present.  Avoid bringing up previous incidences, former fights, actions, in-actions or behavior which have nothing to do with the topic of the current fight.
  • Do not use name calling, swearing, insults, threats or intimidation.  This creates an atmosphere of distrust, more anger and vulnerability.  Again, trust, love, respect, caring and kindness are key elements in every fight. 
  • Do not raise your voice or dominate the conversation.  Do not make attempts to control by out-shouting or making more noise to drive home a point.
  • Always acknowledge each other’s basic feelings.

In the end of a fight, individuals involved should come away feeling respected, understood and committed to change some behavior that may be irritating or difficult for another to accept.  Compromise is always a win-win resolution to a fight.

With some or all of these guidelines in place, conflicts will occur less.  Eventually there will be less destruction and more constructive expression of anger. 

Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) offers RELAX: Alternatives to Anger classes.  Visit the MSUE events listing to find a class near you.  For more information on fair fighting visit the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center.


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