Fighting Fair - Conflict Resolution

In all relationships between two people there will be times or circumstances when different attitudes or points of view emerge which may lead to discord between them. A fight between partners, or any two people, has the purpose of clearing the air, expressing deep feelings, and clarifying individual and shared goals. But it has to be done in the right way.

1. As soon as you are aware of a perceived conflict or concern, request and arrange for an opportunity to discuss it. Leaving it, or hanging on to it only creates a hidden "charge" of negative energy that will build so that when the matter is eventually raised it is impossible to share what you are thinking and feeling without it sounding like complaining, nagging or an attack. This can lead to the other person getting defensive and possibly withdrawing or going into a counter-attacking response that may then escalate the argument.

2. Fight by mutual consent. Don't insist on a fight at a time when one of you can't handle this type of strain. A good fight demands two ready participants.

3. Ask for what you want. Don't demand it. e.g. "May I make a request?", "I need to talk to you about ....".

4. Stick to the subject. Limit this fight to this subject. Don't bring other problems into it. Deal with different issues another time.

5. Don't hit below the belt. In your lives together you discover each other's sensitive areas - don't throw them at each other.

6. Don't quit. Work it out. Bring the fight to a mutually agreed conclusion. This may mean accepting that the other person has a different and equally valid point of view. Seek and find your common ground. If a mutually agreed conclusion cannot be reached the same fight can recur again and again.

7. Don't try to win EVER. If one wins the other loses. This will create resentment and the loser will feel disempowered in the relationship.

8. Respect crying. It is a valid response and a release of pent up emotion e.g sadness or anger.

9. No violence or abuse. Physical, emotional or mental abuse violate all the above rules for fighting by mutual consent. Ensure there is enough space between you for both of you to feel safe. This may mean standing or sitting several metres apart throughout the argument.

a. Physical abuse includes - threatening to or actually hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, spitting, pushing or standing over the other, confining the other's movements e.g. locking them in or out, cornering or restraining them.

b. Emotional abuse includes - shouting down, aggressive name-calling, blaming, using anger or rage to control by frightening the other into submission, using silence as a passive-aggressive form of control.

c. Mental abuse includes - verbal put-downs e.g "You're hopeless!", sexist remarks, insults, sarcasm, making a joke at the other's expense, using patronising remarks or vocal tone.

10. If the fight escalates into a shouting match stop the fight and retreat into separate spaces for at least 20 minutes to enable both parties to calm down. (The brain needs this long to settle the emotions) Once apart, be willing to consider what contribution you have made to the fight escalating. When you feel calm enough to resume the discussion be willing to own up to your contribution towards the situation getting heated.

© Jonathan Kester 2016

Useful Reading -

People Skills. How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflicts
Robert Bolton.
Simon & Shuster. 1986 - 1997.

Self Esteem
Gael Lindenfield.
Thorsons 1995. Chapter 5. Strategies for Self-Protection. Pages 65 - 97.

Beyond Codependency And Getting Better All The Time.
Melody Beattie.
Collins Dove 1989. Chapter 17. Negotiating Conflicts. Pages 191 - 207.

Steve Biddulph.
Finch 1995. Relating With Respect. Pages 244 - 246

Jonathan lives in Perth Western Australia. He works in Fremantle as well as from his home office in Mahogany Creek. He also uses Skype and phone links for country and overseas clients. He is married and has one adult son and three adult stepchildren.

Professional Memberships

Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia
PACFA Clinical Reg. 21147
Licentiate of the College of Speech Therapists (London)

Jonathan has written articles on the following topics:

Staying Connected In Your Relationships
Fighting Fair
Men's Issues
Ageing and Retirement

To contact Jonathan:

Phone: 08 9298 9915
Mobile: 0438 929 899

Fremantle Psychology, Health and Wellbeing
17 South Street
Fremantle WA 6160


145 Brooking Road
Mahogany Creek WA 6072

Receipts are made out to Communication Skills Consultation and may be claimable as a tax deduction.


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