Are you in a relationship with a human being? If you are, you must have fought with each other at some point. Despite the purposeful bad grammar in the title, there is a right way and a wrong way to fight…and just for you blockheads out there, I don’t mean physically, I mean verbally. Stop being nit-pickers…more on that in a minute.

A fight typically arises out of mismatched expectations around the big three: sex, money, and kids. That’s another article by itself, but I would also like to list other less discussed sticking points: timing, quality time, jealousy, in-laws/family, romance, chores, and pet peeves. All of these things tend to rear their ugly heads from time to time and when stress is introduced in the mix, boom – we have a fight. The anatomy of a fight is multi-layered and incredibly nuanced, often containing sidebars and diversions that throw off the fight from being productive. We can’t avoid fights, but we can fight BETTER. The first 3-5 seconds are crucial to making sure that the verbal swords stay in their sheathes. Before it’s too late, you need to pop the AAA Pill.

  1. Acknowledge – One of my favorite moves, because I can be a jackass sometimes, is to say the line, “This isn’t a fight,” when in all actuality, it is. Don’t do that. If it’s a fight, just own it and acknowledge it because it’s normal.
  2. Ask – Ask yourself, “What is the goal of this disagreement?” Is it to prove that the other person is wrong and that I’m right? (my personal favorite) Is it to lash out because you feel bad about something else going on in your life and you need a “win”? Is it because you like control? Steer clear of using language that attacks the other person because you can’t have those words back. Instead, focus on using language that talks about your feelings, rather than your perceptions.
  3. Accept – Accept the fact that fights in any relationship are not about winning or losing. This by far the hardest technique of the three because no one wants to do it. Who doesn’t like winning? Don’t nit-pick words or emotions…it’s time to be real, not right. The goal of any fight should be to work through an idea, not beat the other person into agreement.

The AAA Pill works every time, but you have to remember to take it. The outside of the pill is coated with empathy because that is the only way the other ingredients will work. If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you begin to look at the fight from an entirely different perspective. Taking the AAA Pill can be helpful, but let’s see how this plays out in a “real life” situation:

First, without the AAA Pill:

Sally: Ted, what’s this charge to Amazon for $49.99?
Ted: Oh yeah, I got this singing Billy Bass thing for my office…it’s really funny.
Sally: I thought we said we weren’t going to spend any money outside of the budget for this month?
Ted: I know, but I had a prospect who made a reference to that bass the other day and he’s coming back on Friday, so if I have that in there, I might land him as a client. Is $1,000 more than $49.99?
Sally: Don’t be a smart ass. You got on my case for buying coffee yesterday.
Ted: Is coffee going to further your career?
Sally: So it’s all about career, Ted? It’s a f#$king bass…why didn’t you land him on Monday when he was in your office the first time? You need a singing bass to make a sale now?
Ted: What would you know about making a sale? Let’s poll the audience (humming game show song) Oh that’s right…nothing.
Then a full blown back and forth shouting match happens and there’s no coming back from it.

And now, with a dose of AAA:

Sally: Ted, what’s this charge to Amazon for $49.99?
Ted: Oh yeah, I got this singing Billy Bass thing for my office…it’s really funny.
Sally: I thought we said we weren’t going to spend any money outside of the budget for this month?
Ted: You know what, I shouldn’t have done it but I had a big wig prospect that made a reference to Billy Bass and I thought it might make him laugh on Friday when he comes back. I should have texted you before I got it because I know we literally just talked about budgeting. Sorry, Sally.
Sally: Ted, it better be one hell of a bass for $49.99. Just give me a heads up next time because I know your crazy ideas usually end up working. You couldn’t have gotten like the $10 knock off Bobby Batfish?
Ted: Haha Sally, you’re the best. Let’s stay together forever and live a happy and fulfilling life based on mutual respect and affirmation.

Now I realize that these examples are very simplified, but the spirit is more important than the exact situation itself. Slowing down and taking the time to Acknowledge, Ask, and Accept will always pay dividends in your relationship. Fighting is normal and can be productive when we do it the right way.

Stay tuned, I’m not done yet…