7 Steps to Fight Fairly: aka Reframe the Fight to Make it Right

Does the relationship game need to include fighting, battling, and arguing?  Those aren’t great ways to build trust.

As coaches, we regularly receive inquiries such as (taken directly from emails):

  • “We need to learn to fight fair.”
  • “We’re struggling with the battles.”
  • “How can we fight and get the best outcome?”

A phrase rushes through my mind, “Reframe the fight to make it right.

We all know that words evoke feelings.  Words such as love, peace, and joy tend to help me to feel relaxed, peaceful, and loving in my mind and body.

Words such as busy, overwhelmed, and worried tend to cause me to feel different less-than-desirable emotions.

What do you feel when you think of fighting with your partner, or anyone else?

I don’t know about you, but for me, the thought of fighting has me crawling out of my skin, looking for a place to hide.  UNLESS I’m RIGHT (or not wrong)!!  In that case, let’s put on our boxing gloves, and get this match started.

Reframe the fight to make it right.

For Carol and me, simply taking a few seconds to consciously reframe the word has made a huge positive difference.  We never fight anymore.  We have differences of opinions.  We see a situation differently.  Our solutions for a challenge don’t match.  Our feelings don’t align on a subject.

Using those words, it puts us in a different frame of mind.  Whenever either of us gets a feeling that something is “off” we are totally honest with each other and start a conversation.  The conversation is always about how we can work together to come up with a solution or agreement that is better than either of us had considered.

We see our relationship as a team effort.  I know that I am much stronger and more effective when we work together. Carol said almost exactly the same thing last night.  We are committed to  succeed together.

We also talk about, and look at our differences as data, or information.  Somehow those words allow us to set our emotions aside, or at least temper them.

What are the steps to Reframe the Fight to Make it Right?

**Caveat: Both people must want to work together for a better outcome.  If one, or both are attached to their own right way, or are not willing to explore for better alternatives, this process is useless.  This would also indicate that there are much deeper issues in the relationship that require coaching or counselling.

This 7- step process has worked well for us, and it seems to work for anyone with whom we’ve shared it.  It may seem a bit procedural, yet it will become habitual with practice.

  1. Identify that there is a difference of opinion that has one person, or both, feeling a bit “off”. You probably know exactly the feeling, just prior to lashing out or running away. For me, it’s a tenseness in my jaw, and scowling.
  2. As soon as you notice that feeling, be willing to ask for time for a conversation, using words such as, “I’m feeling that we have a difference of opinion about                (fill in the blank).  I want to work together with you on this.  When can we talk about this?”
  3. Agree to a time and location where you both feel safe, comfortable, and focused. Ensure you have the necessary technology: pens, paper, and a stopwatch.
  4. Listening activity:
    1. One person takes 5 minutes to share their opinion of the situation (what you think, see, how you heard it). This person speaks accountably, using the words, “I,” “me,”, “my.”  If this person has possible solutions, share them.
    2. The other person LISTENS only for 5 full minutes (not a word). This person listens to understand, rather than to rebut. This person holds a curious attitude, and maintains a neutral facial expression and body posture. Be inviting – to gather as much data as possible.
    3. When exactly 5 minutes has passed (use the stopwatch), pause for a moment while both people take a deep breath or two.
    4. Reverse roles for a full 5 minutes.
    5. If there is silence, let it be. Each person gets exactly 5 minutes.  This ensures a deepening of trust and respect.
  5. Enter into a 2-way dialogue, starting with the data that both people agree to. List the things/data that are common and that both want.
  6. Negotiate out from there to come up with an agreement, or a solution that both people feel good about. This is not compromise; it is win/win.
  7. Celebrate your success (a hug, high-five, shake hands, etc).

Reframe the fight to make it right

Here’s my stand.  Fighting tends to create resentment, fear, anger and destroys trust in a relationship.  There is never a good reason to fight.

There are many good reasons to share differences of opinion and different viewpoints.  When differences are handled effectively and respectively, the conversations invite innovation and creativity.  Trust grows and relationships thrive.

Reframe the fight to make it right

If you see it a different way, I’m happy to engage in a conversation with you. We may come up with something even better.


Linda Maul

Reframe the fight to make it right is such a solid message for all of us Dan….personally and professionally. We’re going to start practicing that model at our house – will let you know the results. Thanks for sharing! We will always have differences – that’s part of the attraction so why aren’t we celebrating them.


Thanks for the comment, Linda. Why aren’t we celebrating our differences? Good question for another article. Thanks.


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