Some will argue that there are no winners, only losers, in a fight. When we hear people talk about fights, we generally think negatively about it. But is this right? Can there be real winners in a fight, and if so, how?
Let’s start by first acknowledging that we teach people how to treat us and that it DOES NOT always take two to tango.
In the world of teaching people how to treat us, it would behoove us to stand our ground in a situation where someone is consistently berating us, tearing into us, bullying us. I have long heard people argue that it takes two to tango, this to create the appearance that both parties had something to do with, and are responsible for, the fight. Hogwash! One person started it and depending on the frequency, severity, and casualties, the other very much deserves to finish it.
Here is a phrase I very much believe in: We are not products of our environment, we are products of how we respond to our environment. It is the response, four of them to be exact, that I would like to talk about.
1. Listen to understand. This is such a simplistic and yet underutilized tool in our emotional intelligence toolbox. We tend to listen to respond and naturally, things go South. When someone has chosen to pick a fight, we are prone to ready, fire, and aim. It’s as though we know what they are going to say or the tone that they are going to use and we immediately respond to it, sometimes before they even finish. This puts us at the same level of immaturity as them. Instead, breathe, take a pause, and respond to their words, actions, and what you know to be true.
They can continue to spew like children and you will be the adult in the matter, dialogue and all.
2. Focus on the present and future. Why oh why do we talk so much about what happened, what ‘he’ did, how surprised and upset we were with the unforeseen divorce papers, etc.? I am sorry to say, but women are especially prone to this tactic and the why is simple: It is a defense mechanism to the shenanigans of their ex. But what are women defending? In nearly every situation, they are responding to something ‘he’ said in the moment, something that set her off. Let’s say that traffic was really bad and Mandy is fifteen minutes late dropping off Sam to his father (Eric). Eric may see this as a prime opportunity to pounce on Mandy, even if she is rarely, if ever, late. Mandy, instead of responding to the situation at hand, decides to remind Eric how poorly he treated her and the kids when they were married. This has nothing to do with what occurred in the moment and Eric will rightly accuse her of avoiding the ‘real’ topic. As well, he will surely escalate the situation.
Focus on what matters, what you can still influence or control.
3. Find yourself, your confidence or take a moment. It is not uncommon for men to quickly become the heavy in a disagreement. Unfortunately, their sheer physical presence and tone can create an uneven environment by which to discuss a matter. It is of dire importance that women find their confidence, their own footing in a situation that is or appears to be, turning into a fight. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I need a moment” or, “I’d like to talk about this later” until you find yourself on equal ground.
The alternative to this is not pretty. When we feel overwhelmed our outmatched by the person on the other side, we become scared, scattered, and easily taken advantage of. In some cases, it’s even worse as women fight fire with fire quickly bouncing from fear to irrationality to anger.
4. Repeat back, and then respond. When your ex says something that is hurtful or untrue, you will want to respond quickly. This is true even if you follow rule number one, ‘Listen to Understand’. Instead, take a moment and repeat back what your partner said back to them. Example: What I heard you say is that “I’ve never agreed to swap weekends with you”. You know this is not true and they likely do as well but repeating it back allows them to rethink what they said, shows them that you are tuned in, and lets them know that you have the patience and emotional intelligence to remain calm. They will likely retract or restate their words but more importantly, they’ve lost some of the control that they had, that they crave.
If a fight is going to be a fight, it better be a fair one. You have some control over whether it is fair or not. Use it.