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Archive for September, 2011

1. Commitment – We begin with a commitment to the relationship. We’ve agreed that it’s worth fighting for, literally. That means we’re willing to go through some hard times, and willing to struggle to resolve seemingly intractable conflicts. Any individual fight is not so dire, not so severe. We agree in advance to keep trying.

2. Fighting is an Art – Fighting is a creative act. It is part of the architecture of relationships, as individual as the two people involved. It is an intimate and passionate activity that individuals must practice and learn to do well together.

3. Fighting is Problem-Solving – A fight starts with someone’s pain. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the fight, the fact that either person is hurt and/or angry means that there is a problem to be solved, often healing wanting to happen.

4. No One Loses – The only way to build long term relationships is to fight for win/win solutions. If one person “loses” the fight, their pain will just turn up in the next fight, wanting to be resolved. Solutions to problems have to be found that work for both people.

5. No One Walks Away Forever – We agree to talk until we’re done, and we’re not done until both of us feel resolved. And we may take breaks as needed.

6. There Are Always Options – It’s easy to get boxed in by two bad alternatives. We can take the time to step back and bring our creativity to the conflict.

7. Go for the Heart – Whatever starts the fight may not be at the heart of the conflict. Half of a fight is often taken up with getting down to the real issues. We try to speak from our own feelings, and to speak as truthfully as possible about what has hurt us. Every statement that is deep and true is a gift to the other person. The real issues are easier to resolve than the false ones.

8. Listen Hard – When we’re hurt and angry it’s hard to listen. Every time we miss something important, some deep and true statement, it adds another layer of hurt, anger and confusion to the fight. Learning to listen well the first time is hard and takes lots of practice.

9. Agreements – Resolving a fight often involves first really listening to the other person’s pain, then apologizing if that is appropriate, and finally, making some kind of agreement that we will keep the situation from happening again. It is through these kinds of interactions that we build workable lives together. We may try out any number of ideas, some will fail, but it’s the process, the willingness to look for solutions, to try again, that secures the confidence to face future problems optimistically.

10. The Best of Ourselves – During a fight, we keep asking ourselves questions: Am I being honest? Am I getting hysterical? Am I being fair? Am I fighting about what really matters? Resolving a fight almost always calls on us to look at problems evenly, to think clearly, to bring imagination and humor into play. It is the testing ground of our honesty and compassion, the growing tip of our best selves.

Sarah Randolph, Whole Earth Review, Spring, 1993

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