How to Fight Better: 7 Ways to Not Fight Like Greg and Katie
Watching last night’s After The Final Rose had me feeling really uncomfortable because of Katie and Greg’s “closure conversation”. This felt like an example of bad fighting. It was not productive at all. Katie cut Greg off many times, raised her voice at him, steamrolled a lot of what he was saying, shared social media rumors as fact, and the conversation ended without either person’s needs being met and without a clear plan on how they can move forward. I saw two hurt people poorly communicating (once again) and it was painful to watch. Woof.
After watching moments like these, I find it helpful to anchor into how I would handle the situation differently. How I might fight better.
I define fighting better to mean when the folks involved make an effort to understand where the Hurt Person* is coming from, when both parties take responsibility for their role in the fight, and when both people know how to move forward and how to handle the situation differently should it come up again in the future.
Fighting better has an overall intention of growth. Of understanding how to not repeat the same fight next time. Of continuing the unending journey of learning how to treat our loved ones the way they want to be treated.
Should you find yourself in a fight in the near future, here are my top tips for fighting better.
*To make this blog more easily understandable, I’m using the short hand of “Hurt Person” to describe the person who is expressing hurt, initiating the conversation, or is seeking something from the other person and “Receiver” to describe the person who is receiving the feedback. Often in fights, people play both Hurt Person and Receiver at different times so some of these tips are for the HPs and some are for the Rs.
#1 Keep the spotlight on the Hurt Person.
Imagine that there is a spotlight on the person expressing hurt in the conversation. Even when both folks are HPs, we shouldn’t be moving the spotlight back and forth like a strobe light. We should try to keep the light as still as possible, taking care of one person and then the other. (Simultaneous orgasms and simultaneous solutions are both not as common as we think!)
#2 Keep noticing where you are at emotionally.
It’s really difficult (and often unproductive!) to fight when emotions are really high so check in with yourself and your body especially when your emotions and/or physiology changes. Whether you are the HP or R in the fight, if you notice your heartbeat speed up or your voice get louder or your jaw clench, it could be helpful to pause to take a break from the conversation and calm your system down before saying the next thing you want to say. Fighting better often involves going slower than we think.
#3 Don’t claim your hypothesis of the situation as fact- take responsibility for the story you are telling yourself.
Last night we saw Katie say things like, “You were never here for me in the first place”, and “You are a liar” and so on. Instead of blaming and attacking the other person, stick to “I feel” statements, objective facts, and then making requests. Fighting better sounds like, “I feel really hurt and confused that you decided to leave after I didn’t reassure you in the way that you needed. I have a story in my head that that means you were never really here for me in the first place. Can you tell me what was going on for you and what made you decide to quit the show?”
#4 Take responsibility for what you did that hurt the HP, and gather data on how you could adjust that in the future.
If someone gives you feedback that the way you handled a situation was hurtful to them and you are unclear about how to handle that situation moving forward, ask them! This could sound like, “If this comes up in the future, what would you rather me say?” If they don’t know, you can always ask, “If the situation were reversed, what do you think you’d say to me?” That’s often an indication of how they want to be treated.
*Bonus points if you actually thank the Hurt Person for initiating a difficult conversation and for sharing vulnerable things with you even when it’s hard to be the Receiver!
#5 Be vigilant about not expressing defensiveness (stay on the lookout for Ego).
So often ego creeps in and we just want to be right in an argument. This is why defensiveness is not a part of fighting better. When someone is explaining that they’re hurt, our only job in that moment is to listen and take responsibility for how we can do differently in the future. Defensiveness is one of the main ways we turn the spotlight back on ourselves.
Instead of playing light board operator try saying, “I am feeling really defensive right now and need to pause this conversation to calm myself down so I can more fully listen to what you’re saying.”
#6 Apologize with specifics
Apologies are too frequently used to placate emotions versus change behavior moving forward. Fighting better involves getting rid of “I’m sorry” by itself or “I’m sorry that” and is filled with “I’m sorry for ____.” This could sound like when someone says, “I’m sorry”, following that up with a gentle and genuine “For what?”, so that all sides are clear on how things will shift moving forward in our relationships.
#7 Review what you learned
At the end of a fight this might sound like, “So what did we learn here? What are we leaving this conversation with? What is shifting moving forward?” It’s usually the Receiver(s) that summarizes what they aim to shift moving forward or what they’ll be working on in the future.
Ultimately fighting is really difficult and taxing and hard to move through, especially if we haven’t seen healthy conflict modeled for us in our lives. If this information is all new to you, go slowly. Try to implement one bullet point at a time, or follow my instagram for more support.