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10 tips to fight fair

Disagreements are inevitable in all relationships, but sometimes they can lead to hurtful arguments.

Shouting. Blaming. Interrupting. Name-calling. Reopening old wounds—words are supposed to build each other up, and yet we find ourselves using them to cut down those we love the most.

So, how do we fight in a godly manner? How do we respond, and not react? How do we minimize harm and maximize understanding?

We all have the capacity to do so, but a little encouragement never hurts. Here are 10 ways to fight fair:

1. Lower your voice

This one’s a no-brainer. Once you’ve stopped talking and started yelling, chances are you’ve lost control of the situation. Using the right tone and volume can change the entire complexion of an argument. Remember: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

2. Dig beneath the anger for the true emotion

Using “I feel,” instead of “you are,” is a simple way to both minimize harm and express the actual reasons why you’re upset—not just that you’re upset.

3. Listen actively (and don’t interrupt)

Be cognizant of the hurt your partner may be feeling, and seek to understand before being understood. If you’re only ever planning what you’re going to say next, you’ll miss the chance to truly understand your partner….and in turn, prolong the argument.

4. Never fight on an empty stomach

No, seriously. It’s nearly impossible to fight productively while hangry. Discuss with your partner a good time for both of you to engage in a calm discussion.

5. Be careful not to put words in your partner’s mouth

Allow your partner to speak for themselves. If you want clarity on something they said, try to repeat their exact phrasing—rather than what you felt they implied.

6. Curb the sarcasm

There’s a time and a place for everything. Spare the snarky quips. Using sarcasm during an argument will only exacerbate the issue. Be honest. Be straightforward. It’s the clearest and quickest path to understanding each other.

7. Stay present

Don’t use this fight to rehash earlier issues and disagreements. Reciting a litany of your partner’s mistakes dating back to the summer of ‘05 won’t get you anywhere. Limit the discussion to the single issue that is the root of the conflict.

8. Avoid absolutes

Be realistic. Does anyone always or never do anything?

9. Apologize first

When we humbly seek forgiveness, we eliminate the space for blame. Put your pride in check. Suck it up, and say “I’m sorry” first. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

10. Remember the bigger picture

Ask yourself, “How much does winning this argument really matter to me?” And can you really “win” an argument against your teammate? When you play for the same team, you rise and fall together. When you build your partner up, you both win.

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Jared McKiernan

Jared McKiernan is a freelance writer based in California.