OP: About Fighting, Arguing & Negotiating

All too often a person will write in about the fact that "we are always fighting" or that "we argue a lot".
What follows is some information and some tools for having a happier more satisfying more peaceful life.

EEK > Stop arguing; yes this will be difficult but you MUST not argue.

Do you argue a lot? Yes? No? What are the intensities of these confrontations?

Why do you argue?
* Is it to get your point across?
* That you or your partner want to be right about a problem or issue?
* That whatever the solution it is to be my way or else?
* That you want to be "heard"?

Arguing is certainly better than fighting, however, there are some rules to follow.

1. No personal attacks, maintain civility
2. State your case once and do not keep repeating your position or the main concerns.
3. Ask your partner to tell you what s/he heard you say. Do not be surprised if it is not
what you stated. People have a unique ability to either hear what they want, or, to interpret
and "translate" incorrectly as you are speaking. If this should happen, clarify what was said
4. Give your partner time to think about what was presented
5. It is fine to disagree, however, learn what the other person believes is important
6. This brings us to the how to of problem solving--negotiating
a. give the other person as much of what they want as you can without giving up the core of what you want
b. do not be a "right fighter", meaning "I" am right, "you" are wrong
Find common ground in which you both get the most of what you want and then can embrace your plan and go forward

Fighting is rarely if ever a good thing to do. It is also immature behavior IMHO. Arguing is generally less verbally combative and usually comes about because one or the other person wants to make a point or convince the other person to move to their side of the disagreement. Whatever the problem, do not let your frustrations escalate into physical contact! Do this and you lose. Do this and you demonstrate that you know of no other way to get your point across. Do this and you show blatent disregard for your partner. Do this and you lose all credibility.

Make certain you debate issues, not topics. As an example: if you are arguing about always doing what he wants to do yet the real heart of the matter is that he never listens to you and your wants and needs, then you are not going about this in the correct way. Stick to the issues.

A relationship is all about balance and meeting each other's needs. Each person is going to have preferences or not; desires, as well as hard and fast wants that are important or possibly deal breakers. It is important therefore that the two people work together for the common good and this means negotiating and perhaps doing a bit of compromising.

As has been said: state your case, once and then drop it. Discuss the matter, learn what each of you find important and why, then work out a plan that both of you can embrace and live with. If you fight then there has to be a winner and a loser. Do either of you want your partner to be a loser? Think about what this means and the ramifications, particularly if one of you must always be "right".

All this takes practice so do not expect that it will be easy. Learning new behaviors and replacing the old ways often is--although it is worth it in the long run.

7. Focus on only one issue at a time
8. Be a good listener. Do not interrupt; take turns speaking
a. You cannot hear the other person if you are speaking over them
b. Listen and learn, then comment
c. Give each other equal time
9. Do not bitch, moan, or always complain. Offer solutions
10. "Wear" each other's position for half an hour, then comment

Instead of stating "you are", "you do", "you keep", "you make", "you never"--
turn these accusatory and negative statements into positives--
Use "I am" in front of your statements about feelings

Do not yell. If you yell your words will often become lost in the intensity of how you say what you mean.

It is one thing to say what you mean and quite another to say what you do not mean. Keep to the point. Be specific, and, do not generalize actions or behaviors. Be positive. Find good things to say or compliment each other on instead of always talking down to or about the negative behaviors or attitudes.

Agree upon a time limit for discussions. (It used to be said by therapists to "never go to bed mad". Truth be told, I used to agree; now, I believe it is OK to go to bed mad because a good night's sleep can give a person a fresh perspective on things in the morning. Just hug and kiss each other before nodding off.) If the two of you are dating, then never leave the other without a hug, a kiss, a kind word.

Commit with each other to end all arguments and debates peacefully. Do not allow them to become open ended or ongoing, except for overnight.

When you negotiate a settlement to a dispute, agree to make modifications and fine tune things if necessary as time passes.

Lastly, wake up each day and ask yourself "what can I do to make his/her day better?" Then, do it.


Posted: 08 Oct 21:00


"Instead of stating "you are", "you do", "you keep", "you make", "you never"--
turn these accusatory and negative statements into positives--
Use "I am" in front of your statements about feelings"

Awsome way of looking at arguments vs fights!
As I was reading this article I began feeling quite prould of my relationship with my girlfriend! We very rarly fight, i think we have broken out into an actual fight twice in over a year. Our arguments happen much much more frequently but they are alot less frequent than most couples I know.
When my girlfriend and I argue we usually use almost all the pointers in your post. We NEVER name call, wich I beleive to be the top prioroty, and NEVER curse AT each other (with the exception of one time wich was entirly my fault)
I have found that our arguments are very constructive and that we always resolve them peacfully. I do think that somtimes we go about it the wrong way and it seems that nothing gets resolved, so we just agree that we both love eachother and end it:) These arguments, I think would work out better if we used some simple techniques such as using "I's" instead of "You's".
Thanks for the post Doc!!


Posted: 08 Oct 21:00

My SO can get really mean when she wants to and try to take it out on me. This is because she came from a rich family and is a spoiled brat and is used to getting her way all the time. I just walk out the door and drive away, leaving the mobile phone on the table where she can see it, when she gets like that. I let her cool down, then come back to finish the discussion.

The problem with fighting is that it is like dueling, or warring. In fights, duels and wars -- someone's got to lose. We have no losers in our relationship. We look out for each other and help each other win and be successful. We don't beat each other into submission or compromise about what we want. Instead, we beat up others who get in our way and help each other get everything we want.

Shouting and screaming at each other is violence. We don't do violence on each other. On the rare occasion she feels she's gotten rubbed the wrong way, has her undies in a knot and wants to shout and start in on me, like I said, I just get out until it all blows over.


Posted: 08 Oct 21:01

Let me start by saying that I do not have many good experiences with fighting: I come from a family that is, or has grown to be, one in which the members verbally bash each others heads in when in serious conflict. As in: hurt the other with every power you've got, let him/her "feel" how hurt you really are! And they feel "it works"; letting the beast out, getting into a full blown clash, cry together and then you can settle down and be friends again... In my opinion: the condition to every conversation is love and respect for each other. Also those conversations in which you disagree and feel hurt. This does not mean I'm perfect. Everyone says a foul word sometimes, everyone has anger that comes out inappropriately, everyone does things that you need to apologize for... But in my opinion: you don't top it like that and even make it sound like "it was for the best". Personally: I couldn't even if I tried! Because I couldn't take part in the clash, I never got to the friends again-part either...

Now, on the other end of the scale as my family is the guy I am in a relationship with; he NEVER fights. And I like to communicate and debate, instead of fighting. So the first 2 years of our relationship there was no problem; we talked a lot, exchanged views and arguments and came to agreements, and we settled disagreements without ever needing to fight over it. But since we communicate less (despite my trying), uneasy stuff lingers and at a certain point: I do get upset. And while I'm trying to explain in the best words and tone of voice that I can; his primary response is shut down. If there is anything that remotely resembles to fighting; he does this. He doesn't do anything; he doesn't argue, he doesn't leave, he just sits there and doesn't say a word... Only in his bodylanguage he becomes very very small (though certainly not crying).

So: I talk and ask for response asking how he feels about it... am quiet... explain myself a bit more and ask if he understands.... remain silent... and ultimately I'm just quiet and wait and look at him as calm as I can for as long as it takes... till finally he speaks and most of the time I get a question in return, such as: "what do you want me to say?" I'll start feeling guilty and try to hoist him back up again... Apologizing for being so angry with him. Leaving the issue unresolved. He does take it home with him. Sometimes he simply and unexpectedly does the thing I asked for. Sometimes he comes back and apologizes. Sometimes it just lies there waiting until I'll bring it up again in a few months... (yep, patience is my key asset ;)) He never comes back to me with something like: "Hun, I've thought about it and I think..." or "I feel that the conversation was unfinished and I'd like to continue it now".

So; before we never fought, now we never fight "in theory". Don't get me wrong; I really do not like fights at all! So I'm more into preventing through proper communication. Not to mention I get nervous over fights... But at certain times a "proper fight" is really not a weird thing to do, esp when other means have failed... Any advice on how to prevent him from going into shut down?


Posted: 08 Oct 21:01

Well, you need to stop 'explaining yourself more' and say something like 'tell me what you think about x before I just start talking to stop the horrible silence." Because that's what you're doing - talking because he isn't.

It isn't that he doesn't understand - it is that he doesn't know how to respond and fears saying the 'wrong' thing and upsetting you - yes, even though he knows his silence will also annoy you. So in his view - you're going to be upset whether he talks or not and he'd rather be damned for something he DIDN'T say rather than for something he did.

Understanding this - you can see how removing the 'emotional' content of your talk becomes important - you want him to feel 'safe to talk' so put your subject onto a rational/intellectual basis. "How would the average man feel about..." "What do guys feel when..."

You say your piece and then you shutup and prepare to listen. Once he feels it is safe to talk - he will.

BTW - if a man ever walked out on me during a discussion - he'd better get used to never walking back in again. His cell phone would be on the front steps and the door locked.


Posted: 08 Oct 21:01

You're right EEK, it's exactly that :)

Let's reverse the question (after all; it's always better to start with oneself :)); how do I not be upset?

I usually do some thinking prior to talking to him, so that I'm sure what I'll be discussing. Because I want to give him a clear and calm story, not some emotional roller coaster. On a regular working day-evening, I have often gotten the answer "hunny, I'm sorry, but I'm too tired to even think". It is useless at that point to continue the conversation... So I'll wait till it's weekend. And it all too often happens those 2 days he goes into lock-down and is unreachable to anyone on the planet (unless the house is on fire). In the meanwhile, I'm walking around with this constantly, it starts to weigh down on my stomach. The next time I'll bring it up, I'll be upset... And when I'm upset, it's an emotional conversation...

I have tried writing things down for him, so that he can read it at a more appropriate time and come back to me when he is ready to talk. And... well let's say that my last letter was written in August last year. And despite my asking (after 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, stopped...) there has never been a conversation...

There are only two things that appear to work; a) catch him at the right timing and we'll have an excellent conversation like we used to have and either solve things or think of anything to make it better. b) unwillingly the heavy feeling on my stomach leads to me vomiting (or any other physical illness I'm unable to stop). He'll come over and we do get to talk. I'm too sick at that moment to really be upset. He's too worried to think about how tired he really is... I'll do anything in my power to prevent b). So I'll rather have the emotional conversation that leads to him shutting down, than me getting so sick of it...

Don't get me wrong; he's really not a bad guy! And at the moment things are being better between us. It's just that; I've asked him what we should do when he starts feeling worse. If he could reflect on it now, so that we'll have a better shot at it later. But he honestly doesn't know... The only way there seems to be is letting him lock or shut down and leave him alone. I can take that sort of behavior from him for a long time, but my patience doesn't last forever. Plus; it doesn't really solve anything.

So; I'm hoping to figure this out now that he's open to it. And perhaps with help from you guys, questions I should ask or something?, I can get to the bottom of this and help both myself and him on how to deal with it in the (near) future.


Posted: 08 Oct 21:01

Right on. Mine, too. My SO has ZERO patience. I have all the patience there is. I'm the one sitting there perfectly calm, while she's the one losing her head, usually over nothing at all.


Posted: 08 Oct 21:02

RR you two really do need to plan ahead. Your situation calls for it. Well, few of us have the courage to face our future without fear, doubt or depression - I know you understand.

It may be that he fears being abandoned by you while also not wanting to be a burden to you later on.

There's also the idea that his view of himself vis-a-vis you is being affected if he used to see himself as your protector/provider/support. His increasing ill health may change his role within the relationship and this may be bothering him unduly.

So how do you remove the emotion?
1. find the essence - the central question requiring an answer or issue that needs a solution
2. focus upon what the solution or answer would look like/need to address
3. ask questions about "how does one go about solving this?" where 'this' is specific pieces of no.s 1 and 2 above.

As if you were working on a jigsaw puzzle.


Posted: 08 Oct 21:02

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