Interpersonal relationships are beyond yourself but not above your influence. You can build habits that tend to help the growth of healthy relationships. One habit to cultivate is how you conduct yourself when chaos occurs and you find yourself in a heated argument.

How to fight fair

No matter how knowledgeable you are, you are bound to find yourself in a heated situation that results in an argument. An argument is a condition where at least two communication cycles are incomplete. The first communication cycle that failed to complete caused an irritation, and now the second one causes anger. Now, if both people are angry, you have a fight on your hands.

In any fight, you have a choice - - win at any cost, or resolve the incomplete communication cycles. Obviously, most people, if the choice were arbitrary, would choose to complete the missing cycles. People attempt the win at any cost for any of the following four reasons:

  1. Activated past memories are interfering with reality. Activated past memories can leave a person in a completely reactive state with a feeling of not having any real choice. To deal with this, assume for now that you or they have a real choice which is only hidden and has yet to present itself. This will temporally free up the reactive situation. This is only a short term fix. (We will study the reactive mind shortly, but for now lets learn how to fight fair.)
  2. You or they feel that the outcome of the fight will determine survival. To deal with this situation you need to build some trust that survival is not at stake. Work together to safely direct the energy that is being generated. For example, take a walk together around the block.
  3. People will attempt to win at any cost if they feel that someone else is watching that is more important. Your solution is to arrange to talk to the person in private.
  4. Winning is important if they don't think they have anything better. This is either a lack of knowledge, or lack of confidence. Television teaches us to be talking heads. Point and Counterpoint, with no time delay for reflection. Often talking at the same time and projecting through the non listener to the rolling cameras. To deal with this you must lead by example. Always fight fair so that it becomes a habit you don't have to think about. Further ask the other person - after the heat of the moment is long gone - if what you do or did was fair to them. Use that discussion to agree to your own set of custom rules unique to the two of you.

What does it mean to fight fair? Isn't the subject a contradiction - an oxy-moron? How can someone fight - without being wrong? Yes the other was right. Yes you too were right. There exists a misunderstanding between two people. Both people are honest and both were seeking the real truth, but they have misinformation or a lack of knowledge between them. It is the state of their relationship. It is not a situation about absolute knowledge, but a situation about relative knowledge. Knowledge is gathered from experiences, and all of us have a separate path of experience. People can and often do harbor real issues of truth and honesty that need to be spoken. Real misunderstanding is much more common than most people think. It comes from our unique individuality and our gift of self awareness. So what does it mean to fight fair? First of all, it is just the opposite of fighting to win at any cost.

To win at any cost, you must pile point after point, and constantly keep your opponent off balance by changing the subject. Don't let them interrupt you by insisting on their composure while you speak. After you score enough points, your opponent will go silent on you. This means you win. You score a point when your opponent's mouth drops open, or eyes glaze over, or otherwise loses his or her concentration. People who are good at winning at any cost are often lawyers. They, of course, are playing to a jury, even when the jury is missing. They are just practicing their profession. For them, it's a living, nothing personal. (This of course is a conversational stereotype, used to make a point about the quality of human interaction. Not all lawyers are this way.)

If you want people to trust you, you must fight fair. This is not easy to learn, since you are sometimes very angry. Fighting fair can be easy, once you learn, consider the following six Lemmas.

Lemma #5: To fight fair, allow the subject some time to resolve.

In order to persuade the other person to fight fair, you need to build up trust in them that you will not pull a bait and switch. You will leave the subject on the table long enough for him or her to really finish with it. You must use your judgment to know when you can safely change the subject. If your partner shows concern, back up to the last subject.

Lemma #6: To fight fair, speak as if only one person can hear.

If there are three people in a conversation, there is a temptation to face the person who agrees with you and to talk to the person who disagrees. This is a manipulation, that will cause more problems than it solves. If you want the person who disagrees with you, to trust you, you must speak to that person, as if the other person, the one who agrees, were not listening.

Lemma #7: To fight fair, act but don't re-act.

To maintain your integrity, you need to base your communications on long-term goals. If you allow yourself to only respond in the moment you will tend to feed re-stimulated past memories. Re-stimulated past memories is the domain of the mind, which we will shortly address and study. Suffice it for now that if you activate the mind, it will tend to take over. This is especially true if you react to the mind. This is not to say that you are not to be responsive to what the other person presence. You must make your contact real, and not phony. At the same time, you must choose a straight path toward a long-term goal. The person who is automatically reacting feels a lack of freedom and a loss of joy. If you can not separate them from their reactive mind, you will make it more difficult for them to separate from that reactivity and see that they have more choices. Again real understanding requires your leadership. You won't have it yourself unless you can freely give it away to others.

Lemma #8: To fight fair, allow a complete cycle on the other persons issue.

You can act to help the other person gain confidence that the current problem will be resolved. You can do this by paraphrasing in your own words what the other person is asking you, or what his or her position is. Further, do not move on until the other person agrees that you understand him or her. What this allows is that you can slip a complete communication cycle, within the existing argument. This builds trust to help calm the panic. In this process, you are not misrepresenting your position; you are not manipulating the situation. All you are doing is being a good listener and letting people know they have been heard. The fact of being a good listener will help without being manipulative, since the progress is real and not phony.

Lemma #9: To fight fair, take ownership for your feelings.

Rather than tell other people how they are acting or doing, tell them how you are feeling. Avoid blame structured language and use instead you and your feelings. This is not easy, and to do this you must avoid unleashing your anger. If you restrict yourself to what you know about yourself, you will reach them with the real information and they will not be instantly offended. Your feelings are a subject that only you are fully qualified to be an expert on. They, on the other hand, may be better qualified to know their own actions. This is not an easy approach to communication, since we don't see it on TV. Television has language that quickly and easy develops plot lines of blame and are easily resolved by violence. In spite of a general lack of examples, taking personally about your feelings does work, and it works well.

Lemma #10: Use acknowledgment to really mean you understand - not to control the conversation.

Understanding is a truth issue not a control issue. If you don't understand someone, don't lie to them and tell them that you do. They can feel when you understand and when you don't - so you will only be lying to yourself. If you are really listening to them, and you don't understand - they won't be offended if you express your confusion and give them a real chance to better explain what they are really saying. It is very harmful to the quality of a relationship to be saying "yes I understand" only to get control of the conversation. They know it is a lie, and furthermore you are subverting the direction of the conversation - by inserting incomplete communication cycles. Now you have a lie making things worse.

We have lightly touched on the idea that some functions you need to survive are beyond your direct control. When issues are beyond your direct control you need to negotiate and build your reciprocity with others. There are also times when you might get angry, and again feel like things are beyond your control. To help you negotiate when you are angry, think about the process of fighting fair. To fight fair is to have good habits, based on long-term goals of real understanding. Both of these processes - - reciprocity and fair fight habits, will help you to gain more confidence and therefore more patience when dealing with other people.

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