1. Be clear about the exact issue you wish to talk about or are angry about. Stick to only this issue in the course of your discussion. If there are several issues to be resolved, it might be best to arrange separate times to deal with each. If you bring in too many issues, you will be unlikely to resolve any of them.
2. Choose a time which suits both of you. Agree about how long you will go on for and stick to the deadline. Do not start a discussion when one of you has something important to do; for example putting children to bed, or when one of you has just returned home from work.
3. If possible, choose a suitable place where you can be private and undisturbed. You may wish to unplug the phone or switch on the answer phone.
4. Take it turns to talk and really listen to each other, and give each other an equal amount of time. Shouting across each other may be satisfying in the short term, however it will not lead to a successful resolution of the issues.
5. Make statements rather than ask questions. Speak without accusations or judgements. Ask permission before you make an emotionally loaded statement. Avoid generalisations for example "you always" or "you never" etc. When the other person has finished speaking, try to accept their statements without becoming defensive. Before you express your own viewpoint, repeat their thoughts and feelings back to them so that you are both clear that you have understood.
6. DO NOT DRAG UP THE PAST. Stick to the particular issue that you have both decided is the subject of the fight. Although very tempting, if you bring up a catalogue of past "sins" or misdemeanours it will only cloud the issue.
7. Express any anger you may feel, but DO NOT resort to abuse such as name calling, blaming or worst of all violence. These tactics are not only dismissive and disrespectful, in the worst case are likely to lead to the courts or worse. An agreement not to harm the other person, you or the environment is a good starting point.
8. Stop if you can't keep the communication straight; stop if you feel that the fight is no longer related to the specific issue; stop if either of you become abusive.
9. Take your share of responsibility for what has happened. Be prepared to apologise for any error which is identified on your part, and be prepared to hear and accept an apology from the other person. Both can be very difficult.
10. You may not be able to reach an agreement. It is ok to agree to differ and work out a compromise together.
11. Agree to discuss a compromise; often what is required is a creative compromise. Remember the goal is not to have a "winner" and "loser"; healthy relationships are "win-win".
The content is for general information only and may or may not relate to your individual situation. If this article raises concerns please speak to a professional in your area.