Because we are spending a lot of time in our homes practicing social distancing, the chances of experiencing conflict are pretty high. Whether it’s with your spouse, children and teenagers, or roommates, it’s probably going to happen. And because we still want to be around each other when the pandemic is over, we need to know how to fight well.
Some of these conflicts will be related to stress and not being able to spend time away from each other. I always say that I love time with my family, but I also love time away from them. It’s good for us to have time away from each other, but we can’t do that right now! What we can do is learn conflict resolution strategies to make sure we are all fighting fair.
Strategies for Fighting Fair
Recognize conflict is not about winning.
Conflict should not be about our need to be right or to win, but it should be about the need to be heard. We should sacrifice the need to be right or to win the argument because we value the person we are arguing with and their needs. Each person in the conflict or argument needs to be able to voice their need or concern. If everyone walks away feeling like they were heard, then it was successful.
Understand why you are upset.
Before you begin talking about the conflict, try to figure out why you are upset. Are you upset because someone left the milk on the counter, or are you upset because you feel like they aren’t pulling their fair share of the household duties?
Try not to yell.
Once you start yelling, you stop listening, and the other person stops listening, too. They aren’t hearing what you are saying; they are hearing how you are saying it. At that point, any potential of resolution is lost.
Take a time out!
It sounds nutty, but even as adults and teenagers, there are times when we just need a minute. When you start feeling overwhelmed by the conflict, flooded with emotion, and you’re getting angry or upset, give yourself time to calm down. This also goes for when things start to get heated or arguments become personal.
We want to get to the root of what we are feeling and communicate that well. If you are overwhelmed, the problem is going to continue to escalate, and nothing will be resolved. Separate and agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.
Only fight about one thing at a time.
A fight that starts out as one issue, such as spending, can quickly turn into a fight about one party not caring about the family. When that happens, there are now two problems to resolve instead of one. Getting off-topic can easily make the argument about everything a person has ever done wrong and everything we have done wrong. At that point, it turns into a free-for-all, resulting in no resolution. Instead, you are left with a lot of anger, hurt, and frustration.
Take turns talking.
This can be a hard one, but try not to interrupt. You can help protect this rule by setting a timer. Each person gets a set amount of time to express his or her needs and concerns. Don’t think about what you are going to say next while the other person is talking but focus on their words. When they are done, form your response. This is called empathetic listening, which is another blog for another day.
Don’t use degrading language.
Don’t call each other names and don’t put each other down. Don’t use inappropriate language. Discuss the issue, not the person.
Use “I” statements.
We need to express our feelings and take responsibility for them. For example, “I feel angry when you won’t put your phone down when I’m talking to you,” is understood differently than, “You make me mad when you won’t put your phone down when I’m talking to you.” It’s not, “You make me feel this way.” It’s, “I feel this way when this happens.”
The goal of conflict isn’t to win; it’s to feel heard, and hopefully, find a compromise. There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is too messy for that. Do your best to come to a fair solution or come to a place where each of you can walk away with an understanding that can help soothe negative feelings.