How to fight fair within relationships

Is there a way to fight fair? Yes! Resolving conflicts using positive communication skills will bring people closer together and make relationships stronger.

Learn how to fight fair and share these skills to those close to you. These techniques work best in close relationships, such as those involving parents, partners, spouses, children, other family members and roommates.

First, set up a meeting time to explain fair fighting to everyone in the family. Each person needs to be willing to follow the same steps. Think about the following four C’s:

Conflict: The next time you find yourself arguing with someone close to you, stop and think about your threshold, the point at which you know you are about to lose it. This is the point at which you can most effectively make changes and communicate more effectively. When calm, we are all capable of better self‑control.

Code word: Choose a code word for this threshold (for example: rewind, backtrack, pickled fish-lips). All household members must agree to respect the code word. You can call it on yourself, if your own anger has reached the threshold, or somebody else can call the code word if they see anger rising in you or someone else. Give everyone a chance to practice using the code word.

Calm down: When someone calls the code word, everyone must stop talking and moving for one minute. During that one minute, everyone should try to relax physically and think calm thoughts. Be a model of calm. Let other members in your household see the self-control you are using to calm down. When you feel agitated, say to yourself, “I can be calm. I am going to take six deep breaths.”

Come back and try again: At the end of one minute, someone can ask, “Are we calm enough to talk?” If everyone involved answers, “Yes,” you can start to work on a solution. You may decide that more time is needed to calm down. If that is the case, each person needs to go to a separate place for some more quiet time. Once everyone is calm enough, discuss the problem using “I statements.” Using the “WIN” solution to talk to people such as: WHEN YOU (state specific behavior), I FEEL (state specific feeling), I NEED/WANT (state specific need). For example: when you don’t come home at curfew I am scared something happened to you. I need you to call if you’re running late.

When our brain is full of the stress hormone, cortisol, you are not as thoughtful as you would be when you are calm. Do you want to get all excited, lower your IQ for a few minutes and maybe end up saying something you might regret later? Or making a tough situation even worse? It is your choice. Use the fair fighting technique with your close family and friends to keep the fight fair and not regret what you say later.

Alternative to Anger-RELAX classes are offered around the state of Michigan. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find out more information on enrolling or programs in your county.

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