How to Fight With Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

For the record: I hate fighting with people. I really hate it. But lately I’ve been thinking about fighting, because I’ve realized it can be really positive when you care about the person you are fighting with. My ultimate inspiration? The beautiful, graceful arguing I have seen between my current favorite TV show couple: Coach Eric Taylor and Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights. They get it done, y’all.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to fight; but the reality is we need to deal with misunderstandings, hurt feelings, broken promises and little white lies. It is especially important with people we care about. Fighting has negative connotations, but it can be quite constructive when done properly. It’s important to distinguish between destructive and constructive fighting, as the former is one to avoid and the latter is good for you and your relationships.

Destructive fighting feels good in the moment – letting it all out and saying nasty things can be quite a release. One actually wants to be fighting at the time and the only thing that matters is “winning”. If you yell “I hate you” at any point, chances are you are having a destructive fight. As it seems to be with all things that feel good, destructive fighting can be bad for you. It can result in broken relationships, grudges, feelings of guilt and regret. Avoid it whenever possible, especially with those close to you personally or professionally.

On the flip side, constructive fighting is worth the effort. This is what you do with people you care about. Working through a disagreement or misunderstanding is the ultimate sign that you care, if you think about it. When we care about people, we want to work on our problems. We don’t want to dismiss people we love from our lives. Constructive fighting feels like work; you just want to get it over with and move on. It feels like exercise; difficult and painful, you are sore afterward, but it makes you stronger and healthier. This, my friends, is how Eric and Tami Taylor do it.

Here are some tips from what I’ve learned from my own experiences and of course, Friday Night Lights:

1. Pick your battles

Some things are worth it, others not so much. There are multiple things to consider, but the ultimate question is, “Will arguing about this change things for the better”? If yes, go for it. If no, think about what you are trying to achieve. If you think you will just feel worse about the situation, or make someone else feel terrible; think twice about bringing it up.

2. Remember why you are fighting

Stick to issue at hand. It isn’t fair to bring up old fights or unrelated things that annoy you, that is how things get ugly. Avoid insults and sarcasm. I say this even though it is extremely difficult for me – sometimes the things going on in my head are downright horrible. Just keep on filtering yourself. Trust me, never bring up ex-girlfriends/boyfriends as much as you want to during any fight. It never, ever goes well.

3. Figure out an end goal

What is the point of this fight? Do you just need to be heard? Do you need to be understood? Do you need an apology? Figure out what you need so you can aim for that; or better yet, explain yourself and things will go more smoothly.

4. Remember that this is someone you care about

If you focus on this, you won’t want to fight. You will be motivated to figure things out in a calm and caring manner. Chances are the more upset you are, the more you care. Remember that. Remember how nice it is to get along.

5. Try to use humor if appropriate

This is an advanced maneuver, as if you are a smart ass you can really send things into a tailspin. Assess the situation and, if appropriate, lightly poke fun at what’s going on in an objective way. It seldom hurts to lighten the mood. I cannot emphasize enough that this is a sensitive, advanced maneuver; it can blow up in your face (trust me, I know).

6. Take time to cool off

If things are in a deadlock, just explain you need a little time to think and walk away for a bit. Think about what you are trying to say and what you need to hear. Re-center yourself, take some deep breaths, count to ten (or a million), go shopping… Whatever it takes to get back to a level head, do it.

7. Try not to go to bed angry

People always say this and I’m not sure exactly why. I sort of think it is to just impose a deadline for resolving a conflict. But also, if you are like me, it’s really crazy hard to sleep when you haven’t worked out a problem with someone.

8. Try not to FUI (Fight Under the Influence)

Alcohol and fighting? Not a good combination. Rain check. If you only have the confidence to bring up touchy subjects when you are drinking, then you are being unfair to the ones you love. Gather up your confidence and work it out when reason, calm, and emotional control are all easier (this is not after a bottle of wine, my darlings).

9. Talk about fights afterward

As corny as it is, it helps to go over how you argued with someone. A little recap, if you will. It is important to identify what worked and what didn’t, and everyone can learn and grow (And hold hands, braid hair, sing, and cry about rainbows).

Have you all seen Friday Night Lights? Aren’t Eric and Tami brilliant when they disagree? How do you deal with conflict with the ones you love?

Image via Netflix screen capture