3 min read

How to Raise Issues Without Starting a Fight

How to Raise Issues Without Starting a Fight
Image source: Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Conflicts, disagreements, verbal altercations, misunderstandings, etc., are likely to occur in all types of relationships, from friendships to romantic partnerships. While conflict denotes tension, stress, disappointment, etc, when handled constructively, it can be a good catalyst for change and growth through reflection and introspection. When this happens, how we resolve it, what we say, and how we say it matters.

In my experience, I have noticed three common reasons conflicts arise in relationships: when expectations don't align with reality when others project their insecurity on us, and our communication style or lack thereof. To resolve it, I take the following approaches.

Address the issue, not the person.

Addressing the issue requires understanding, tactfulness, and empathy. Identifying and understanding the cause of the issue is the first step to resolving it, and how we go about it is also important. For example, if you say to a person, "You don't... or You are always..." they could withdraw and become defensive and angry because they feel criticized. However, if you say to them, “It upsets me that you don’t do any of the house chores, and it would be helpful if you assisted me in doing some of it…” in the right tone and manner, you will get their attention

Constructively raising the issue opens a window for discussion, understanding, and reaching a common ground.

Listen with empathy and talk it over.

There is a difference between "listening to respond" and "listening to understand". When you find yourself “cross-complaining,” “yes-butting,” interrupting, looking at everything except the person talking to you, etc., it shows that they don’t have your attention and you don’t care what they want to say. However, a better approach could be tucking your devices away, maintaining relaxed eye contact, letting them speak without interrupting, and answering questions that need a reply. It shows you acknowledge them and have their attention. You can also ask open-ended questions, paraphrase what they said for clarity, and try to understand where they are coming from with empathy. This also shows that you care, accept, and respect them, and most importantly, are willing to resolve the relationship.

Suggest a specific change and be open to compromise.

Now that you have successfully grabbed their attention, the next bit is offering solutions that work for everyone involved. You should also be open to seeing things from your partner’s perspective, understand where they are coming from, and identify opportunities for a compromise that favors you. You can take turns talking and expressing your feelings or exchange a note expressing how you feel with suggestions of how to move forward.

Know when to take a breather.

The best way to respond to negative behavior, whether sarcasm, anger, name-calling, etc., is by being warm, calm, or humorous to reduce the tension, especially if the conversation turns unexpectedly and becomes heated. To avoid saying or doing anything you may regret, it's best to take a breather - space or time for you both or the other person to cool off. You could say something like:

  1. “At this moment, I don’t think I’m doing justice to this conversation. So I am going to cool off, and we could talk about it when I come back if you would like.”
  2. “This isn’t going anywhere. Let’s tap out before we both say things we regret.”
  3. “Look, I am going out for some fresh air; otherwise, I will regret what I say next, and I don’t want to do that. So you need not follow me and trust that I will return.”

If you have said something or done something you regret that led to conflict, acknowledging that you are wrong and that you hurt the other person's feelings and offering a sincere apology are important steps in resolving issues. You could say something like:

  1. “I feel terrible about what I said; that was insensitive of me, and I wish I had listened more thoughtfully to your feelings. I am sorry. Is there anything I can do to make up for what I’ve done?”
  2. “You have every right to be angry and upset with me. I know we talked about this before, and I made a mess of things. I am sorry.”

Seek counselling

Constantly arguing might be a sign of a deep underlying issue, and that can take a toll on your mental health and overall well-being. Also, if you find yourself in this situation, always tensed, and can't express yourself without fear of retaliation, you may be experiencing abuse. You should speak with someone about it or visit a professional.