5 Ways to Fight Smarter

01/31/2013

Couple-bed-facing-away
All couples fight. Maybe not knock-down, drag-out fights, but at least heated disagreements. When couples have tense moments of conflict, it can sometimes seem like finding a resolution is hopeless. And in trying to find one, you or your partner may inadvertently say hurtful things. Here are five tips for handling conflict, based on negotiation research, which can help you effectively solve even the most difficult disagreements.
  1. See The Bigger Picture. Couples so often get focused on a singular problem, such as who will do the dishes or where to go for date night. Great negotiators see multiple issues at once, which give them far more flexibility to find resolutions. So, instead of trying to fight about just the dishes or date night, maybe one partner can compromise on the dishes and the other on date night.
  2. Prioritize. Even if one partner “wins” most negotiations, they lose in the long-run because the “loser” begins to feel resentful. When it comes to love, it’s important to remember that you can’t win them all.
  3. Silence Can Be Golden. When a company told my friend during a contract negotiation, “Let’s discuss salary,” he calmly endured an awkward silence while waiting for them to make the first offer. The other party started the salary negotiation at $20,000 more than he wanted in the first place. This can work in your personal life, too. When asking your partner to wash the dishes, ask him how he'd like to contribute to the chores. You may be surprised by the answer!
  4. Listen. The main reason for occasionally being quiet is so that you can really try to hear what your partner is saying. This is easier said than done, because if you really listen, you will probably hear some great points that are counter to your viewpoint.
  5. Find Out Why They Want What They Want. Too often partners focus on the concrete disagreements and never stop to ask “why?”

The benefits of asking “why” are cleverly illustrated in a tale about two sisters bickering over who gets the last orange. Their parent wisely intervenes and asks why they want the orange. One sister says she wants to make orange juice and the other wants the peel for baking a cake. In the end, each sister gets 100% of what they wanted because asking “why” allowed them to see the bigger picture, prioritize, and listen to what the other really wanted.

More on Relationships:

10 Ways to Have a More Intimate Relationship

How to Communicate with Your Partner

Build Your Communication Skills


Ty Tashiro is the author of The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love, an entertaining look at why modern dating is so challenging, why people can easily make bad partner choices, and how science can help us make smart decisions in the search for enduring love. It's available on Amazon, Indie Bound and Barnes & Noble. Dr. Ty received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota. His research has appeared in top academic journals and he has been an award-winning professor at the University of Maryland and University of Colorado. Follow him on facebook and twitter.
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