We too face confrontation of one kind or another in our daily lives. Such arguments are not only inevitable; they can make for even better relationships. Yes, an argument or conflict can be an opportunity to clear the air, to set things on course, to strengthen a relationship.
Some people think nice people don’t get angry, happy couples don’t argue. Really? Today, we realize that arguments can be constructive. Let me highlight some “rules” for arguing fairly:
When we have a bone to pick with someone, set up a time to settle the matter as soon as possible. Why? We don’t want to bottle up angry feelings indefinitely. Setting an agreeable time and a quiet place allows us to cool off and sort out the issue.
Define carefully the particular behavior we object to. Many arguments get sidetracked because people don’t address the real issue. We might ask ourselves: What do I really object to? Am I overreacting? Is it worth arguing?
For example, when I have to pick up other people’s messes in the kitchen, it’s more work for me. Always make “I” statements. “I” statements avoid name calling (like “You’re inconsiderate”), generalizations (“You” never think of anyone else) and abusive language (“You airhead”).
And it’s ok to agree to disagree. Express your feelings. A wife whose husband was always late for dinner without texting showed her annoyance one night by leaving him a plate of dog food to eat.
Disguising feelings can be dangerous. Just as aches and pain in our bodies alert us to physical problems, feelings alert us to problems in our relationships. There’s nothing wrong with expressing your feelings honestly and calmly. I know, some of you are thinking, if only it were that easy. Well, you can make it better.
Come up with creative solutions. You may have a specific request that will resolve the issue, e.g., how about playing your drums or trombone some time other than midnight. Brainstorm for solutions. The important thing is that both sides work together.
There are other rules for fighting fairly: actively listening, staying calm, agreeing to disagree.
St. Paul wrote centuries ago, “Love does not brood over injuries.” All of us must be willing to forgive, forget, apologize and move on with our lives.
If we have fun together and communicate regularly, we create a climate of love, respect and trust that will foster a constructive future. If we work every day to have good relationships, This of course is a two-way street.
And when all else fails, turn to Chapter 6 in the Gospel according to Luke:
“Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged;
do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Pardon and you will be pardoned.”