Welcome back. Did you manage to reduce the FAIR FIGHTING foibles you used last month? Last month I discovered that we often miscommunicate in so many different ways; it took 2 blogs to exhaust myself on the topic. We previously discussed the following foibles: interrupting, displacing, you, rehashing, timing, excuse-making, stop listening and denying/minimizing. I have 8 more to consider this month.

Sarcasm This quickly leads to defensiveness and posturing. This is the one of the least effective ways to reach a common consensus, or even a mutual ‘agree to disagree”. It is also an ineffective mask and insecure delivery of what may be a very valid and important point.

Tit for Tat Great if the desired outcome is one-upmanship or deflection. Not effective in problem solving for solutions and healthy change. Comparing and contrasting each other’s past wrongs doesn’t resolve the real challenge on the table today. Using the others past foibles as weapons only distracts and stagnates the discussion and avoids what can still be managed—the future and good change.

Forever Really?!? Forever is a very long time and this is unrealistic. Holding someone to promises of Forever is absurd. Things, times, stressors, strengths and people all change over time. It’s necessary and real. No one can make a realistic promise holding the timeframe ‘forever” as a standard. Keep expectations and commitments realistic and attainable.

Never/Always These are hot button words and a common foible sure to infuriate. No one ALWAYS does something negative, no one NEVER does the desired behavior. Avoiding these hot words and replacing them with more realistic and accurate “Sometimes…” will help fair fighting more forward productively.

Body Language Hands on hip, head movements, eye rolling, puffing and posturing, arm crossing, jerking movements, slamming items/doors, glaring and glowering….all examples of body lingo that says ‘let’s rumble’. Try to stay aware of the subtle (and no so subtle) messages our body is sending during conflict. Often, actions to speak louder than words…and body language speaks volumes.

Hurtful and pointless Shooting arrows that aren’t even on the target is just pointless and mean. Teasing, ridiculing, humiliating, demeaning or commenting on another’s physical or emotional self is below the belt and immature. This not only denies opportunity to ‘fix’ the original conflict, but causes long, long term damage to another’s psyche, soul and the relationship. Keep on task. Character assassination only feels anger and resentment and leaves both parties bereft. This is when relationships are at risk of ending.

Chasing and Running Fight or flight. This is a common dynamic. One person leaves, the other follows. One slams a door; the other pushes it back open to continue the conflict. Very little has can be resolved when fight or flight is the prevailing reaction. This is a great opportunity to establish rules of agreed upon time out. Respectful time out will save much time and energy in the long run. Making time out rules will help eliminate the toxic chasing and running dynamic and will allow both partners to feel free to breathe without feeling trapped.

Silence/Shut Down A healthy time out is a good thing-especially if you know you (or the argument) have turned unproductive. Time out is a respectful, agreed upon and temporary period to cool off and regroup. This feels different and is received differently than giving silent treatment or shutting down discussion. Shut down and silence is the death of conflict resolution and solution.

Time outs are respectful, mutual, relationship preserving and mean that the topic is only tabled for the moment (while cooler heads prevail) and the original problem or conflict is not avoided or dropped. It means going back to the table without foibles.

I think we’ve covered most of the main fighting foibles. Of course each of us develops our own special fighting foibles that are special just to us. We each need to identify and be alert for our own special flavor and style of conflict exacerbation. This is not an exhaustive listing to be sure. With awareness, consideration of our own behaviors, and mindful desire to be more effective—you can become (with practice and training of course) a champion fighter. More importantly, you and your relationships will live to fight another day!

Katrina Brock, LMSW, CAADC, CCS, is Director of Clinical & Quality Services at Wolverine Human Services. Katrina has over 16 years of direct clinical as well as administrative experience. She leads WHS’ Quality & Performance Improvement Department and is the agency lead consultant for accreditation with the Council on Accreditation. She is very proud of WHS’ new programs and evidence-based practice initiatives. On the side, Katrina enjoys doing outpatient therapy directly with clients and working with diverse populations of clients.