7400.362 - Family Life Management
School of Family and Consumer Sciences
Instructor: David D. Witt, Ph.D.

Arguing Effectively: How to stop fighting and learn positive conflict resolution techniques* or *-
Interpersonal Conflict Management for Dummies - after Michael Crichton

If you want to stop arguing altogether, and never have another fight with your sweetie pie - here's what you do:
Leave your sweetheart and never - ever go back.

On the other hand, if you want to preserve your marriage, make it work better, and be happy more than you are sad, then here's some tips on how to fight hard, fight fair, and win!!!!

That is:
 1. if you are right, and
 2. if both you and your opponent are truthful with each other and yourselves.
Verbal fighting is like physical combat.  It requires skill.  It requires knowledge of human nature, the ability to strategize, and a sense of fair play. Think of it as a survival skill. Not very many people are good at arguing, although most people think they are great at it.

One can become very good at it, although almost nobody is, because almost 
Most people just jump into a domestic fight, adopting the fighting style of their parents.
If this approach is working for you, then you don't need information.

But if you find that you are coming off badly in your fights
     - if you are uncomfortable fighting,
     - if you avoid fights or dread them,
     - if you are afraid of seriously hurting your opponent

There are some BIG DIFFERENCES in the way men and women approach life and understand themselves.

Big Difference #1 - When in a relationship, Women believe that as long as a couple is talking about their problems, then the relationship is working just fine, while Men believe that whenever a couple is talking about their problems, then the relationship is tetering on the brink of destruction.

This Difference is highly correlated to:

Big Difference #2 - When it comes to perception, Women tend to see the world as a series of ongoing processes that change shape and function over time, while Men tend to see the world as a series of events, each one  finite and having definite beginnings, middles, and ends.

Finally - Big Difference #3 - Men and Women are almost completely ignorant of these  basic differences between them.

Keeping these differences in mind throughout the reminder of my talk will help in your understanding of how fighting can actually make a relationship a better one.

On to Fighting in several steps:

The first rule of domestic fighting is:

1. RESPOND TO THE CHALLENGE - Most people make fatal errors in the first 30 seconds because they opt for the time-honored strategy of not taking their partner seriously:

 --"Here he comes SPOILING for a fight" you say to yourself.
 -- Exasperated, you turn to him and say with a sigh, "What is it now? "Do we have to talk about this right now?"
 The fight is over - you just lost. Do yourself a favor when you see a fight coming: deal with it right then and there.
 Stop whatever you are doing at the time and deal with this angry person.  Take YOUR PARTNER SERIOUSLY!

2. PAY ATTENTION! - In a domestic quarrel, battle lines constantly, from moment to moment, and they take every ounce of energy and intelligence you have, so don't be glancing through the newspaper or watching television.  Put it down, turn it off and stay on your toes.  Pay attention as if you were driving 200 mph into the urn at the Indianapolis 500.

3. Find out what kind of fight are you having?


 At one end of the spectrum there's a disagreement about action.   "You want to go out for the evening - she wants to stay home."  or "you want kids - She doesn't"
At the other end there's disagreements about feelings.  She feels neglected, you feel overworked.  You feel slighted, she feels pressure.  You want closeness, she wants elbow room.

Most fights are a blend of the two extremes.

Disputes about action are best resolved by acknowledging the injured feelings.
You say, "I'm sorry you feel that way",
and the fight is over - You won.
There isn't anything to do, and sometimes we make the mistake of trying to do something anyway.
This only irritates the injured one, so don't try to do much.

Disputes about action eventually require concrete action solutions.  If she want's to move to a new apartment, your being sorry she feels that way doesn't solve anything.   Now you do something.

4. Decide whether or not you want to fight now, postpone it, or avoid fighting altogether.
    - 97% of late night fights never make it to the following morning (feelings fights).
        So if the fight starts late at night -> make arrangements to come to work late the next morning and fight then.
    - Make a rule that no fighting can take place if any drugs or alcohol has been consumed by either person.
    - Negotiated rules are great for keeping down violence and making things follow a sort of logic.

If he responds to your plea for postponement with, "Like hell, I'm mad now!"  Then we fight - > but You have one advantage  because he's insisting on fighting and is brushing off one of your couple rules about fighting.
He's irrational and out of control and can't win.

Avoiding the fight - because you are tired, busy or just don't want to fight:
    - Don't match emotions - just because she's mad mean you are too.  For example:

    She walks into the room and says furiously, "Why didn't you call today like  you said you would?"
    Your understanding of the situation is that you said you'd TRY to call, but you got busy and COULDN'T call.
    Besides I sent her flowers last week and I say I love you in front of other people -> What is this b. s. now?

Here are some options to guarantee a fight:
  -"I can do without this now"            -fight
  -"I didn't say I'd call"                -fight
  -"I only said I'd try to call"          -fight
  -"What is the big deal                  -fight
  -"I do a lot for you - miss one call?"  -fight

Avoid the fight by FORGETTING WHO IS RIGHT You may know in your heart you are right.  You clearly remember that you EXPLICITLY did not promise to call.  In FACT -> you told her you had a busy, unpredictable day ahead and you'd try to call.  So she's off base about your not calling and her anger is unwarranted.  She's accused you unjustly and you'd like to set her straight.

Go ahead -> But it will result in a fight, because explaining how dumb she is will just make her feelings worse.
Now she'll feel Angry and Stupid.  She'll have no place to put these feelings EXCEPT ON YOU.

5. KISS THE HURT -> 80% of what an angry, wounded person wants is acknowledgment and sympathy. Some variation of, "I see you're angry and I am sorry you are upset."  Some variation of kissing the hurt and making it all better.

See the situation from the other persons point of view. Whatever you actually said this morning, she went away thinking that you were going to call her -> looking forward to your call -> and when it never came, she felt slighted and angry.

Kiss the hurt and make it better. It will sound weak and unmanly at first, and will sound like you are accepting blame but just do it!

"Honey, I'm sorry you felt disappointed.  I'd never want you to feel that way.  I guess we misunderstood each other this morning.  I thought I only said I'd try to call, but I know how bad it feels to wait all day for something that happens.  It feels lousy.  I'm sorry it happened.

Notice you are being sympathetic to her position without ever accepting blame for it. Good Deal.  This approach has stunning power.


He: "I'm sorry you feel so bad, honey."
 She: "Don't call me honey!"
He: "I'm sorry you feel so bad, Jennifer."
 She: "No, you're not!"
He: "Yes, I am.  It must have felt terrible"
 She: "Yes it did"
He: "Jen. I'd never want you to feel that way.  I'm really sorry it happened."
 She: "Well, I was waiting and waiting ... putting my life on hold."
If you keep expressing your sympathy in a genuine, honest way, it's unlikely that she can press onward to a fight ...
Unless you also want to have a fight:

Let's suppose it is time for a fight, a fight about something tangible.   Anything that gets the fighters to deal with the real point of the relationship is a good thing.

Here's the rules:

You won't feel this way in a few hours, so don't express the feelings now. Expressing these views will inflame your opponent and, therefore, obscure the  fight.

 4. Don't Get Mad.  FIND A WAY NOT TO BE ANGRY. Detach a little.

 5. Admit to minor accusations.  You will be inclined to deny everything in the attempt to survive the slightest blow:

 She: You are so fussy about your clothes.
  He:  I am not
 She: Yes you are, you think you are Gods gift to the fashion business.
  He: NO I don't - FIGHT

 She: You are so fussy about your clothes.
  He: Yes, I am. So what? I like to feel well dressed. It's true, I enjoy feeling well dressed.

Also, minor accusations are just the precursor of what the impending fight is really about.  Make it hard for your opponent to get angry too.  Get down to it and the fight will not last as long.

Admissions also help when your opponent is characterizing you:
He: "You are so stupid and you have no self control, and You don't appreciate anything I do for you."
She: "That's right, I don't.  Right now, I don't appreciate anything about you. 
    Because we are having this fight.  Can we get on with it?"

6. Don't Threaten. -> Threats are evasions of the true issue.
Threats are like time outs - in the course of a fight, one says, If you don't stop I'm leaving - How dare you threaten to leave me after all we've been through!!!   They argue about the threat for a while -> then return to the original fight.
Threats are a waste of time and effort. Don't make them and DON'T RESPOND TO THEM.

7. Don't leave the fight without permission. NOT IN THOUGHT -> WORD -> OR DEED.
 Stay in there!  and if you have to leave -> make it clear when you'll be back to finish.

8. Pay attention to subtext -> The important truth about fighting is that we don't always know what we are angry about.  Sometimes we use the fight to find out.

9. Restate positions during the fight.
 It is common to feel that the other isn't listening, so you keep repeating the same point until your opponent get angrier

"I heard you, darn it! I'm not a child!"
 Okay -> if you heard me, tell me what I just said. Say it back to me.
Without sarcasm or mocking tone of voice.
When he does, correct any errors (if he wasn't listening) and ask him to say it again.
If he was listening -> say your are sorry, but this stuff is really important to me.

You can volunteer to restate her position , "Let me get this straight ..."  as honestly and sincerely as possible.
Chances are, if you play back her accusations without inflammatory remarks or inflection - she might see any real weaknesses in her own logic and she'll make some adjustments.

10. Ask for outcomes: "What can we do about this problem now."
 Keep alert for your tendency to give in too quick, or to give up too much for the sake of ending the fight.
 If you can get her to tell you what she wants, and then get a hug and a kiss -> you are really done with the fight.

11. Fight clean Set your intention in a fight and know your limits.  Keep on track.  Talk about yourself (how it makes you feel to fight)  Tell her how you feel at the moment.

And Tell the Truth (as far as it is relevant to this fight).

 "Yes, I do look at other women sometimes." - Her problem now
 "I promised to call but I just forgot" - her problem
 "I don't want to move, I like it here" - her problem
 Don't expect to win -> Expect to get things out in the open.

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