We can live without fighting if we become conscious of what we fight about, why we fight, and how to stop.
What we fight about
We fight over our identities—who we think we are. We fight over our needs—how they may conflict with another person’s needs. And we fight over our behaviors.
We each have ideas about who we are. For example, I think I’m honest, smart, conscientious, and loyal. If you challenge those ideas by suggesting that I’m not honest, smart, conscientious, and loyal—I’m likely to fight with you. Or at least I would have before I learned this cool new stuff called Live Conscious. If you want to learn about it you can watch our free video: How NOT to Fight.
We all have many needs—different needs. I may have a need for you to listen to me, to be respectful of me, and to do the things you tell me you’ll do. If you don’t meet those needs, I’ll let you know. I can do that in various ways. One way is to blame you and that’s almost certain to lead to a fight.
We each behave in our own unique ways. If you don’t like the way I behave and you point it out to me, I’m likely to defend myself, and this too will lead to a fight.
So . . . those are the three primary things we fight over: our identities, our needs, and our behaviors.
Why we fight
- We fight to be right
- We fight to feel powerful
- We fight to be punitive
- We fight—oddly enough—to connect with someone
I’ll address these in the reverse order. Fighting as a means to connect may not be that damaging, it’s just that there are better ways to connect. When you see a couple who’ve been together a long time and they continuously squabble with one another, to some degree, that’s how they connect. If you realize you do this—use fighting as a way to connect—you can consciously choose to connect in other ways.
People who fight to be punitive often don’t admit that’s what they’re doing. Most of us don’t want to admit that we are trying to punish or hurt another person, yet we all do it. And what’s awful is that we do it to the people we say we love.
Fighting to feel powerful is common and in some cases it’s functional, but there are healthier ways of feeling powerful. Typically we do this when we feel like a victim; we feel we’re being treated unfairly, or unjustly. It’s a way to regain our power, but what we don’t usually realize is that we’re the ones who gave our power away in the first place.
Finally, there is the all too common fighting to be right. This is the bread-and-butter of fighting. It happens ALL the time. It happens over silly things such as fighting about who was supposed to buy the kitty litter. And it happens over really serious things, for example, fighting over infidels and infidelity.
I’ve asked audiences from all over, “Please raise your hand if you’ve gone through an entire day of interacting with other people without trying to prove you’re right about something,” and no one has ever raised their hand. To some degree we might say it’s human nature, but largely it has to do with how we too often frame things as being right or wrong. And if I’m right, that makes you wrong. I win, you lose.
How to stop fighting
There are three fundamental decisions you need to make if you want to stop fighting:
First, decide if you want to be more conscious.
Second, decide if you believe the other person is fundamentally honest; otherwise there is no point in proceeding.
Third, decide if you want to connect or be right.
If you decide that the other person is fundamentally honest and you are seeking to connect with them, then the following guidelines can eliminate the need to fight.
- Take the time to consider that the other person’s point of view is valid to them
- Eliminate blaming another person for your behaviors or your needs
- Talk about your point of view rather than tell the other person about them
- Talk about what you need or want in the present moment
If you want to learn more about these four steps, check out this previously recorded webinar.