In my last blog post Learn How to Listen I wrote about the importance of learning better listening skills, because it was such a crucial part of our lives. Well guess what? So is learning how to effectively manage conflict.
Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional – Max Lucade
You cannot live a life without meeting conflict, and so you must learn to find the skills to deal with it in order to reach mutual agreement and a positive solution. A great way to learn is through experience, but how do you experience an argument with your wife, husband or work colleague; learn from it and strengthen your bond with that person at the same time? Psychologist George Bach teaches people a conflict management skill known as “fair fighting”. Fair fighting allows people to engage in conflict while at the same time treating the other person with respect, listening and experiencing the other point of view and stating your needs, feelings and views while being heard. I like to call it fight club!
The first rule of fight club – you cannot fight unless you have permission to fight
Minor issues and debates often lead to full-scale arguments because of a timing issue. There is usually one person ready to argue and there is another poor soul who is not prepared in the slightest. To start a fair fight the person with the problem must seek permission to hold the fight and without it the fight cannot be held. This takes the heat out of the immediate situation and allows both parties to calm down, think and prepare for the ensuing fight.
The second rule of fight club – fight alone
When holding your fair fight it is important to do it alone. Third parties can often take sides, making it difficult to find common ground. Also, who wants to listen to two people arguing anyway?
The third rule of fight club – Select a time and venue wisely
Even constructive fair fighting is going to be emotionally draining. With this in mind it is important to ensure that both partners are feeling strong emotionally. It is also important that you are feeling comfortable with your surroundings and that you are not going to be disturbed.
The final rule of fight club – Evaluate
Having a fight of any type, including a pre-arranged fair fight, is going to be a very difficult task. Emotions will run high, and it will take a lot of experience, understanding and reflective listening skills to get it right. With this in mind it is vitally important to hold an evaluation session after each fair fight. What went wrong? What could we improve upon? Did we reach a mutually satisfying agreement?
Do you hold fair fights in your relationships? If so please share them.
The inspiration for this blog post has come from the book People Skills by Robert Bolton and also my own life. When I have an argument with someone I can become quite dominating. I also pick my battles wisely and generally end up in situations where it is far easier for me to dominate. All I have transpired to do is to hurt people’s feelings as they walk away from me feeling unheard and devalued.
I believe becoming a member of fight club, and finding a partner who will be willing to participate in fair fighting is a wonderful thing for a relationship. It allows you to get through the inevitable disagreements and keeps the levels of love always one step ahead of resentment and anger.