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SAN DIEGO — You and your partner talk all the time, but do you really communicate? One counselor suggests that the two are separate acts.
Jeff Larsen, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Bountiful, recently was featured on CW6 Morning Show San Diego sharing his tips for “fair fighting.”Larsen, a graduate of Brigham Young University, said the No. 1 problem he sees in his private counseling practice is communication.
“There is a difference between talking and communicating,” he said. “And it’s important to know that communicating is a skill that can be acquired. When couples disagree, which is common in all relationships, there are three simple rules for conflict management that need to be followed. My rules for fair fighting and good conflict management for couples are very simple, but not easy.”
Larsen’s three rules include:
- Use “I” statements instead of blaming each other. It’s important to use sentences like, “When you _____ (describe the behavior you did not like), I feel ______ (share your feeling about the behavior)." This is more effective than blaming each other.
- Don’t mind read your spouse, and when in doubt, ask.
- Keep it current. Don’t fight about things that have happened in the past or dredge up old arguments.
Larsen said one of the problems he often sees in his counseling practice is that couples shut down and don't communicate honestly with each other because they "never feel safe." This usually stems from couples breaking rule No. 3, which is to keep it current.
Regarding his second rule, Larsen said, "You might think you know what your spouse is thinking, but we never really know for certain and it's always better to ask."
One of the things that continues to surprise Larsen in his practice is how many people consider tweeting on Twitter and sending messages through Facebook as communicating.
"Texting, tweeting and sending other electronic messages does not count as couple communication," he said.
Other fair fighting tips include:
- Never argue electronically. The most effective means of communicating are face-to-face or on the telephone.
- Never argue in front of the children, including teenagers. Present a united parenting front at all times, even if you have to fight about it first behind closed doors.
- Never fight when under the influence of alcohol. This issue causes at least half of the conflicts Larsen sees in California and outside the state of Utah. "All you have to do is tune into one of the reality shows to see where that leads," Larsen said.
“I’ve seen these tips make a marked difference in relationships. If people can take the time to consider the value in fighting fair, they can communicate much more effectively, resolve problems much quicker, and enrich and add new dimensions to their relationship," Larsen said.
Laurie Snow Turner is a writer in the Washington, D.C.area. Check out her blog at lauriesnowturner.com.