A sex ed blog with more
Arguments are tricky. It is important that during a discussion all parties feel as though they have been acknowledged, heard, listened to, and that some kind of solution has been reached. Since this is a sex blog, it is likely that most of you are thinking that these tips will help with romantic relationships. However, fighting fairly and having arguments are universal no matter the kind of relationship – be it romantic, platonic, familiar, or what have you.
When I first saw the headline for this article http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/11/this-couple-broadcasts-their-fights-on-twitter.html I thought maybe this is a strategy to help with their arguments. You know, if we display all of these little and/or big things to the world, maybe we will be more aware of it and less willing to be so silly or take an extra few seconds to think about how we are feeling before flying off the handle. Turns out I was wrong, but it got me thinking: there are many of us who have disagreements all the time. There has to be a good way to deal with them.
So, here are some tips that I have garnered, being that I am someone who appreciates confrontation:
1. Eye contact: a lot of us avoid it for any number of reasons. I suppose that during a fight, if we are embarrassed, ashamed, nervous, or frightened, we are less likely to look someone in the eye. When we keep eye contact, it means that we are paying attention, listening, and that we want to make a difference – we want to resolve the issue at hand and do something differently or better.
2. Yelling: don’t do it. And if you start, check yo self before you wreck yo self. Some strategies that I have for trying not to raise my voice to a yell include taking a deep breath, closing my eyes for 5 or 10 seconds, and sitting down. This last one helps me stay calmer and less agitated; along with raising my voice, raising my physical stature amplifies my feeling of power and the feeling that whatever I have to say is more important than what someone else has to say.
3. Get it all out; lay all your emotion on the table. Sometimes, I will say ‘I need to scream for a quick sec to get this out of me’ so I just yell at the top of my lungs rather than yelling at someone. And because I’ve just got out this huge burst of energy and sound, I no longer feel the need to yell at the person that I’m having the argument with. I know that yelling leads to someone being defensive.
4. No swearing: use language that is accessible. It allows us to show our intelligence because swearing is often a filler – this happens when we don’t know what else to say or are not giving our brains a chance to think of anything better to say. Though, sometimes swearing can be used for emphasis but saying something like “You fucking did this” or “You fucking said this” does not lead to a productive discussion.
5. Stay for the duration of the conversation. Walking away is unproductive and can lead to further hurt feelings. The only time that it is okay to step away is if you have communicated something along the lines of “Okay, I need a quick breather. I will be back in 2 minutes once I have calmed down.” A little addition could be “I’m getting tea, would you like some?”
6. Empathy is an incredible strategy: humans have this amazing ability to feel what someone else is feeling, or step in someone else’s shoes, or see things from someone else’s perspective. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to agree, but simply realizing another person’s point of view is important. When we’re really upset, it’s very easy to think that it’s all about us. We need to remember that if there’s an argument, there are at least two people involved.
7. Keep it present: bringing up something you’ve been holding on to for months or weeks means that you’ve been carrying a grudge and you’ve been unhappy without communicating it. Unless you are asked to provide numerous specific examples, keep it to something recent. It is awful to hear ‘Oh, so you’ve just been holding on to this for weeks, resenting how you feel like I treated you and hanging onto it instead of talking about it.” The more we hang on to things, the bigger an issue can get. If we deal with an issue as it happens, we don’t have to worry about resentment, negative feelings, and residual negative feelings.
8. Have examples ready in case they are requested. Without an example, most people will not have a clue what we may be referring to. A bad idea is to offer up examples without being asked for them. This can feel like an attack i.e. “You’ve done A, B, and C, and I’ve felt terrible about all of them.”
9. Use ‘I feel’ statements: I feel hurt when … I feel frustrated when … I feel anxious when I see that the dishes have not been done. This makes it about us rather than who we are arguing with. It is about how I feel rather than ‘you made me feel…’
10. Take responsibility: if you’re going to complain, have an action plan to do something about it. To use the example above, ‘I feel anxious when I see that the dishes have not been done. I suggest that we have a 24 hour dish rule, to ensure that dishes are cleaned within 24 hours of using them or each of us takes turn doing 30 minutes of dishes. So I’ll do them Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and you do them Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.’ Make it a team effort. You are thus all in control, have taken responsibility, and feel ownership. A relationship is something that you need to work on. You need to put time and effort into making it work.
11. Actively listen: rather than thinking about what you are going to say next, hear what the other person is saying, and either respond to that particular point or repeat it in a different way so that you all know that everyone has understood the thoughts and feelings that were expressed.
12. Finish the argument: A lot of the time if we don’t finish one disagreement, we will continue to disagree on very small issues and there will be one massive fight a few days later that is numerous fights all rolled into one. This will be because one or more of you is still frustrated with the original issue that was not settled.
13. Don’t go to bed angry: As above, finish having the argument if possible. If not, remember to hug it out, or kiss, or laugh, to make sure that you are still in it and that the feelings have not diminished despite an argument. For romantic relationships, I like to always kiss goodnight. It keeps me connected. Sometimes sleeping on an idea allows for time to think about what it is that we really want to say or digest our feelings.
So there you have it, 13 ways to fight fairly. Any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments!