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Fair Fighting

When faced with conflict, an individual’s underlying beliefs and assumptions are associated with different patterns of thinking and behaving. Some people may act aggressively in order to ‘win’, meaning that constructive solutions and compromise are difficult to find. Others may ‘shy away’ or withdraw from conflicts because they anticipate some form of unfair fighting, and in doing so they may not express or satisfy their needs. Teaching ‘fair fighting’ strategies is a way to help people to effectively manage their interpersonal relationships.

To best understand fair fighting rules, it is helpful to contrast them with ‘unfair fighting’ and the kinds of behaviours many people recognize as unproductive. These include:

  • Blaming (“It’s your fault that everything is so messed up”).

  • Bad timing (“We need to talk about this right now, even if we are both tired”).

  • Making impossible demands (“You must change!”).

  • Conflating multiple problems (“You never listen to me, you’re always making a mess at home, and you’re always looking at your phone when I want to talk ...”).

  • Insulting the other person (“You’re so stupid!”).

  • Emotional escalation that can result in shouting, swearing, aggression or violence.

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