03/04/2013 07:14 am ET Updated May 04, 2013

Tips for Fighting Fair

One of the most underrated skills in a relationship -- romantic or otherwise -- is how to fight fair. Argument and debate are going to happen, even in the best of partnerships, but it doesn't have to mean doomsday or that you're not compatible. In fact, I have found some conflict can actually be a stepping stone to a more honest, intimate place and can foster better communication if a conscious effort is made to be respectful, kind and considerate of each other even in the heat of an argument.

Yes, it's hard. No, it doesn't always feel natural at first -- especially for those of us who relate arguing to dark and scary outcomes. I totally understand; I had my own baggage around this topic, too, but found it is possible to unpack. These are a few tips that helped me out, and that I continue rely on in tense moments.

1. I can be right or I can be happy: Being "right" isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Arguing a point until it (and you or your counterpart) are a quivering mess isn't fun and doesn't make me more approachable or a great communicator. Plus, even if I'm "victorious," I'm not left cheerful or even content in the end. Why do that?

2. Everyone (me included) has a right to be wrong: It's not my job to correct the worlds' inaccuracies and idiots.

3. Blame stinks: I had a friend who used to say, "When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you." It also makes people want to avoid me like the plague. The best way I've found to avoid blaming is to consciously make "I" statements when participating in a tense or fraught situation. It keeps me on my accountability toes and ensures I don't start making accusations -- intended or not.

4. Nobody likes a whiner: Complaining and criticizing others -- even if it's under the guise of being"for their own good" -- really just puts negative energy out there, it can get back to that person and start a vicious cycle. The only person I have control over is me. By funneling whatever energy I would put toward attacking another's character into changing how I approach the situation or circumstance, I spend my time more effectively and progress can actually be made.

5. Stick to the issue at hand: Bringing up what happened two Tuesdays ago, especially when it has nothing to do with what is currently being discussed/debated, derails and prolongs the discomfort. In addition, it is an opportunity to start a new resentment. If it's really an issue, I find it's best to bring it up at another time -- and who knows, by then it may not be an issue after all.

6. Know when to ask for forgiveness: This may seem like a no-brainer, but for me it hasn't always been. I've learned a true apology has multiple parts:
  • Knowing what I'm apologizing for is very important -- the random "I'm sorry" doesn't usually cut the mustard if I can't articulate why I'm contrite.
  • Don't do it again, and by this, I mean make a concerted effort not to -- nobody is perfect.

7. Forgive freely: As important as it is to be willing and able to ask for forgiveness, it is important to be able to forgive when asked -- free of strings, guilt and dredging up the past.

For more by Juliana Stock, click here.

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