Practicing Fair Fighting | Center for Growth Therapy

TIPs

Practicing Fair Fighting

Alex Robboy

CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & Executive Director

Practicing Fair Fighting Techniques: a technique to reduce marital problems used at TCFG in couples counseling

Step one:

After listening to your partner’s position, summarize what she said. In your summary, withhold your perspective. To help you do a better summary, start off by saying “What I heard you saying is . . . “ Do not include your opinion. Your opinion comes later. When you are done summarizing her perspective, ask her to rate your summary for the degree of accuracy on a scale of 1 – 100. If you earned anything less than 100% ask her to share with you what is missing. Sometimes your lack of ability to summarize is a reflection of

1) not remembering everything she said
2) not understanding what she meant
3) not listening because you got too caught up in trying to develop the perfect rebuttal
4) your partner having made too many good points all at one time, thus making it hard to actually hear everything. If this is the case, encourage her to be more succinct. And lastly
5) what she thought she said, isn’t what she said, thus she might have given your summary a poor score, even though it was her who made the mistake. Regardless of why you failed to accurately summarize her point, thank her for the clarifications and move on. What counts is that you heard all of her points. Do not get lost in the details of who said what and how. You heard her point, now move on.

  • Respond to what she said. This is your opportunity to tell her about how you see things. Or, tell her how she is wrong. When you are done talking, ask her to summarize what you said. Then rate her summary on a scale of 1-100. Add any point(s) that she missed.
  • Ask her to respond to you. When she is done talking, summarize what she said. Ask her to rate your summary


The advanced version of Practicing Fair Fighting Techniques Step One:

  • Instead of simply summarizing what she said, try taking it one step further by saying “What I imagine you are feeling is X, which has led you to share with me Y (paraphrase what she said). Ask her to rate the feelings you added for accuracy and your summary of what she said on a scale of 1-100.
  • Repeat steps 2 & 3 from above.
  • At the end of the entire conversation, summarize what each of your initial positions were, and the points that the two of you made while dialoguing about it, and then what resolutions, if any the two of you came up with. Then ask your partner to rate your summary of the entire conversation. A perfect score means the two of you have excellent dialoguing technique.

Useful Hints - Practicing Fair Fighting Techniques:

  • When dialoguing, stick to the issue. Keep focused. If you find your partner starting to discuss a different topic, simply ask her how point A is related to point B. Help her make the connection, then continue responding to point A. Do not let yourself get sidetracked.
  • Keep the issue specific. Do not let yourself or your partner generalize. For example, if you are upset that you partner was 20 minutes late, focus on how you felt in that instance. Do not talk about all the other times your partner was late.
  • Tell your partner when she has made a good point.


Realistic Expectations - Practicing Fair Fighting Techniques: This exercise is intended as a tool to facilitate communication. In some couples, simply communicating an idea is not enough. Each person truly has different ideas about what needs to happen. Thus, the issue is not communication, but rather differences in desires.


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