How to Stop Fighting the Fights You Are Tired of?

Noemi J. Mullins

You promised you would never again hear the same argument. But here you are. It is time to fight smarter. Fighting is not always a bad thing. There are many strong but volatile couples, friends and colleagues. You mustn’t cross any lines and repair them. You must validate the other person’s feelings and accept that they may experience things differently from you.

Most people are unaware that your fight is not about money, commitment, or who does the housework. You’re fighting for affection, respect and power, or a combination of all three.

The Form Fights Take

It doesn’t matter how you fight. You would see the same patterns repeated repeatedly from a group of people fighting on their courtyard balconies.

This is the first dynamic. You gather evidence that supports your beliefs and ignore evidence that challenges them. This is called confirmation bias. Because I don’t matter, you deliberately didn’t call yesterday. Even if I said that you didn’t know not calling you would make me feel this way, I would still prove you wrong. This is how insane it all is. I would rather have my confirmation bias proved than be relieved to hear it’s false.

This is because confirmation bias gives us an order to our emotions, and we would rather have a messy order than none.

Instead of accepting that another person has a different perspective and is experiencing the same issue, you believe that you are the only person who can be right. This leads to a standoff.

Negative attribution theory is the second dynamic in an argument. Negative attribution theory is the second dynamic at play in an argument. It’s not because you are bad at relationships that you treat me poorly. This is the belief that my experience is tied with a particular situation. However, yours is based upon your character and is about who you are as a person.

The negative escalation loop is the third. This is when we encourage a person to do the exact opposite of what we want. This predictability can bring us defeating certainty even though it is the opposite of what our hearts desire. For example, I will talk until you scream and then I’ll say that you are a screamer and that I can’t get through to your heart.

These dynamics do not produce any good results as they only lead to more old arguments. We blame our friends, coworkers, and partners for exacerbating the conflict and fail to recognize how much we contribute to our misery.

The Biggest Mistakes Everybody Makes

Many people believe that when someone says something in conflict, it is absolute truth and not reflecting on an experience. This includes friends, coworkers, and couples.

It must feel true if it is something I feel. If I feel that you don’t care about my feelings, it is because you don’t care about mine.

The use of the words always or never can also lead to a flurry of fights. You never do the work/I always do the work. The other person is left with no choice but to deny what you have just said, to stonewall or to attack you for your crimes. What is the alternative? They are a horrible person. Nobody likes being defined by another person.

Chronic criticism is another mistake. This refers to constant criticism, where you constantly criticize other people and leave them feeling incapable of doing anything right. This is how contempt builds up, which can be fatal to a relationship. Criticism is often a disguised wish. It’s not what I mean when I say, “You never do the dishes,” but I do it because it makes me vulnerable. If I say that I would love this and you don’t do it, I must assume you don’t care.

How to Break?

The traditional way to help is to stop reacting and start reflecting. If you disagree, tell the other person what you heard instead of disagreeing.

Research has shown that you can only repeat what the other person said for 10 seconds when you disagree. Then, you can either refute or just tune out. They must hear the same thing again so that they feel heard.

“I hear you saying that you feel X when you do this in these moments.”

John Gottman, a relationship scholar, and his colleagues developed the XYZ statement. It states that you feel Z when you do X in a Y situation.

“When I’m out with friends (or at a meeting), and you cut me off it makes me feel down.”

I am not saying that you should do what I am doing. I’m just telling you what I feel. You can disagree with the way someone defines you, but not with their feelings. This helps to defuse any escalating arguments because it forces one to slow down and reflect on what you are trying to say. Then the other person must repeat it.

Next is validating and empathizing.

People fight because they feel they are valued and respected by others. It is very validating to say that you can understand your point of view.

You feel calmer when you acknowledge your experience.

You don’t have to agree with each other, but you must acknowledge that another person experiences the event differently than you.

“It is understandable that you would feel unappreciated when you perceive my chronic tardiness to be a lack in investment or as a sign that I take you for granted. If I had taken my actions in that light, I could have felt the same way. However, that wasn’t where I was coming from.

You stop arguing. This is not the same thing as agreeing to disagree. It creates a disconnect that can lead to a dead end. While you are still true to yourself, you can acknowledge that another person may interpret the same event differently.

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