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Michelle Gottlieb Psy.D., MFT, LPCC
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How to Have a Healthy Fight

October 2014

Confrontation. Anger. Hurt. These words are often linked for many people. People are often afraid of admitting when they have an issue with someone because the fear is that everything will blow up. It is very possible to have a disagreement with someone where not only are you heard and respected, but changes are made.

Now, you might have just thought, “No way! That’s impossible!” Well, it is impossible if you do have the skill set to accomplish this. In order to have a productive discussion, some ground rules need to be put in place. First, no name calling. None. Of any kind. Also, watch your tone. You may not call your partner stupid, but your tone and body language can communicate that. It is important that you honor and respect to whomever that you are speaking.

Second, clearly state what you want. Do not state the other person’s perceived deficits. Only what you are having an issue with and what your request is. Using “I-statements”, not “You-statements”. For example, “I get frustrated that I always have to ask you to take out the trash and I would like you to take care of it without my saying anything.” As opposed to, “You never take out the trash!”

Third, listen to what your partner is saying, which means that while they are speaking, you are not thinking about what you will say when you have a chance. Fourth, do not bring up past issues, only focus on what the issue is in front of you. Fifth, if you need a time-out to calm down so that you can continue the dialogue, take one! Then come back and finish.

If you follow all of these guidelines, what you will discover is that you can have a disagreement, resolve it and probably become closer to you partner. Try it! What have you got to lose? Besides some hurt feelings?

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