Keep the Peace This Holiday Season: Rules for Fair Fighting

Things can get tense among couples and family members during the Holidays. Keep these rules for fair fighting in mind to keep the peace in your family!

1. Start gently! -- If you go on the attack, you will get met with resistance or defensiveness. Examples of how to soften start up:

* “Honey, something’s been bothering me. Can we talk for a moment?”
* “I know when we’ve talked about this in the past it hasn’t gone well, but I’d like it to be different this time.”
* “Hey, is now a good time to bring something up? I’ve been bothered about something and just thought we should clear the air.”

2. Try making a repair in the middle of the conversation if you see the conversation is not going in the right direction. Repairs might be something like:
- “Oh! I didn’t mean to say it that way, can I start again?”
- “Wow, I really messed that up right now. I’m really sorry.”
- “I don’t like how this is going. I’m afraid we’re going to start yelling like we always do.
- Can we start over more calmly?”
- Humor or gentle teasing (especially poking fun at yourself) is a great way to ease tension.

3. Shift complaints into requests. Instead of, “I hate it when you don’t wipe down the stove when cleaning up the kitchen” say, “Honey, will you wipe down the stove? I’d appreciate it.”

4. Don’t criticize, say something that manipulates their fears/feelings of shame or intentionally trigger them. For example, don’t say, “Why do you always….” Or “You never…” or “God, you’re so….” If you do, try making an immediate repair.

5. Don’t resist when your partner is sharing a concern or complaint. If you resist, it persists!! You won’t allow your partner to get over his/her frustration or feel heard if you keep resisting what s/he is saying (by being defensive, criticizing in return, withdrawing from the conversation, etc.). You don’t have to agree with them, but it goes a long way to validate what they’re saying. Examples of ways to validate and not resist:
• “Okay, I can see what you mean…”
• “Okay, I really got what you said and how you feel about that… You feel this…”
• “I know, I see your point...”
• “Yes, I know, I do that sometimes”
• “It must be hard feeling that way…”

6. Listen more than you talk. If you find yourselves feeling like you’re on two different planets when you talk, it’s probably because you’re not really listening to each other. You may be lost in your own head or planning what you want to say next. Remember, PRESENCE is what is most needed for good communication.

7. Learn to ask directly for what you want and need. Stop wishing s/he would just “get it” and start asking for what you want to have happen. Say things like, “I want you to hug me right now.”; “I would like you to tell me you appreciate how hard I work.”; “I want you to start planning more dates.”

8. Don’t talk when you’re moderately to extremely upset or angry. While it’s completely normal and healthy to get upset with each other, it does no good to talk about your issues when you’re too upset to talk well.

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