Anger is an emotion that is useful and necessary as well as harmful. We teach anger management skills as well as interventions for resolving the underlying reasons for an individual’s anger
RULES FOR FAIR INTIMATE FIGHTING AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Use of these suggestions can help you to gain a sense of control when becoming angry or when confronted by an angry attack. At the very least, they will enable you to develop skills that will allow you to avoid becoming entangled in a “no-win” argument. Continued practice will provide you with the potential ability to defuse the other person’s verbal assault and convert a potentially destructive encounter into an opportunity for a healthy exchange of feelings and the creative resolution of interpersonal conflict. Armed with these tips to guide your responses, you can let go of the no-win situation into a win-win one.
1. Acknowledge that you get angry when you have angry feelings. You are entitled to get angry. Learn to speak up. Do not deny the fact that you are personally angry.
2. Remember that your hyper-arousal is the enemy and not your partner. Take a “time-out” when you feel overwhelmed.
3. Fighting between husbands and wives is natural, as well as between parents and children. Do not be ashamed of fighting with your mate or with your children.
4. Don’t run away from the angry feelings of your partner or child. He or she has a right to be angry, too. Respect their anger and do not smile or laugh at them. Do not limit other peoples’ anger. If you shout, others have a right to shout back. Mutual anger expressed diffuses your need to control.
5. State why you are angry. Ask for an explanation before you become angry.
6. No ambushes. Make an appointment to talk: (a) for a certain time and place, (b) for a certain issue.
7. Present your argument sensibly. As preparation for the discussion, work out for yourself exactly what you want, and the reasons why you want it. Organize your arguments. Be sure that what you are asking for is really what you desire.
8. Listen and keep listening (creative listening). Paraphrase what another is saying, and check on perceptions so you understand what he or she is saying and thinking. Every time your partner makes a point, restate the point in your own words to make sure you understand exactly what your opponent means. Before you respond to any point, check to be sure that you understand how your partner feels. Ask questions.
9. Be sure you have a legitimate issue or position to present. Make sure your anger is justified. Displaced anger is unfair. Shift your aggression from personal attack to the issue. Attack the problem, not each other. Keep your comments focused on the subject, not on the person.
10. Avoid knocking your partner down (putting him down). He/she gets more and more defensive and gets harder and harder to reach. By the time a couple has spent some time together, each knows the sensitive areas of the other. They know just the area in which the other can be hurt. Attacking these areas is “foul.” This assures that the belt-line is not dishonestly set higher than need be.
11. Don’t overreact. While it is certainly appropriate and necessary to fight about relatively minor issues so that they don’t build up, do not fight with more force than the issue warrants. Are you hiding larger feelings behind something trivial?
12. Agree on what kind of behavior is acceptable. This needs to be negotiated between the couple. Some possibilities are acceptable posture, (e.g. standing or sitting), tone of voice, etc.
13. Learn to recognize when you are merely letting off steam. Don’t fight when a partner is letting off steam. It is not meant for you.
14. Don’t be an injury, injustice, or grievance collector. Do not overload your partner with grievances. To do so makes him or her feel hopeless and suggests that you have either been hoarding complaints or have not thought through what really troubles you.
15. Don’t hit below the belt, or throw back information given in trust. Don’t bring up past mistakes or skeletons.
16. Don’t handicap your fighting form. Don’t try to solve problems when tired or sleepy, hungry, drunk or unstable.
17. Meditate. Take time to consult your real thoughts and feelings before speaking. Your surface reactions may mask something deeper and more important. Don’t be afraid to close your eyes and think.
18. Remember that there is never a single winner in an honest, intimate fight. Both either win more intimacy, or lose it.
19. Be specific when you introduce a gripe. Don’t just complain. Ask for a reasonable change that will relieve the gripe.
20. Ask for and give feedback about the major points, to make sure you are heard and to assure your partner that you understand what he or she wants.
21. Confine yourself to one issue at a time. Otherwise, without professional guidance, you may skip back and forth, evading the hard issues. Fight about no more than two related issues at a time. If side issues are raised, these must be laid aside for another fight. Past history is nearly always irrelevant. Don’t pin labels or attributes on your partner. (“You’re always…”)
22. Do not be glib or intolerant. Be open to your own feelings, and equally open to your partner’s.
23. Always consider compromise. Remember, your partner’s view of reality may be just as real as yours, even though you may differ. There are not many totally objective realities.
24. Do not allow counter-demands to enter the picture until the original demands are clearly understood and there has been a clear-cut response to them.
25. Never assume that you know what your partner is thinking until you have checked out the assumption in plain language; don’t assume or predict how he or she will react or what he or she will accept or reject. Crystal gazing is not for pairing.
26. Don’t mind-read. Ask. Do not correct a partner’s statement of his own feelings. Do not tell a partner what he should know or do or feel.
27. Never put labels on a partner. Don’t call him or her a coward, neurotic, or a child. If you really believed that he or she was incompetent or suffered from some hopeless basic flaw, you probably would not be with him or her. Do not make sweeping, labeling judgments about his or her feelings, especially about whether or not they are real or important.
28. Sarcasm is dirty fighting. Avoid making threats.
29. Forget the past and stay with the here-and-now. What either of you did last year, or last month, or that morning is not as important as what you are doing and feeling now.
30. The changes you ask cannot possibly be retroactive. Hurts, grievances and irritations should be brought up at the very earliest moment, or the partner has the right to suspect that they have been saved carefully as weapons.
31. If the situation is settled, do not continue your anger.
32. If you can’t settle the issues, table them for a later, specific and agreed upon time.
33. Often a complicated issue cannot be resolved in one setting. A temporary truce can often be helpful in rethinking one’s own position, cooling off, or simply recovering from fatigue. Time and place to resume the discussion should be agreed upon.
34. If you later are dissatisfied with the decision, you must make an appointment for another discussion.
35. Last, but probably most important, is be mature enough to admit that you are wrong even though it is embarrassing and painful. It is necessary for your growth.
**Taken from PAIRING by Dr. George Bach and Ronald Deutsch
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