Psychology for Living

Gwen Randall-Young
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Fighting vs Problem Solving

"First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others." ~ Thomas À Kempis

No couples really like to be in conflict, but so often they get stuck in the battle and cannot get out. Over the years they collect resentments, holding on to them and firing them at the other when the conflict rages.

Their way of dealing with conflict is do to battle. They take turns cutting down the other, hurling blame, judgments and criticisms. Not unlike an actual war, both sides take hits and are slowly decimated.

The conflicts are never really resolved, though there may be periods of relative peace in between the fights. The hurtful comments have created wounds that never really heal. You can apologize, but you can never really take the memory of those words out of your partner's head.

The important point to remember is that fighting causes damage, but never creates peace or solves problems. "Fighting" and "dealing with an issue" are two distinctly different processes. Probably everyone knows how to fight, but few can count themselves as really good problem solvers or facilitators.

It strikes me as quite odd that throughout all of our schooling, and all the learning children are exposed to outside of school, we have not learned good strategies for dealing with conflict situations. We still revert to a primitive conflict/competition mode.

In order to change this process a couple of things need to happen. First, the people have to learn some strategies: ways to talk about problems, and ways to create solutions. (I have a new CD called "Conflict Resolution" that does just this.)

Secondly, both parties have to make the conscious choice not to fight. This means not taking shots at the other, not blaming, criticizing or telling the other what they think. It is really difficult for one to try to implement peacemaking strategies with one who just wants to fight.

I sometimes tell my clients that each negative comment is like sticking a knife into the other. What is to be gained from continuing such a process?

Ultimately the only ones we can control are ourselves. Even if only one of the parties makes a decision to eliminate fighting behaviours, there can be no more battle.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

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