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6 Fair Fighting Rules

The intrasquad “Green and White” game has been a tradition of the Michigan State University football team for years, but when Bobby Williams became head coach, he initiated a few changes. To avoid the injuries that had occurred in the past, the quarterbacks weren’t hit and the special team players weren’t tackled. The first string “White” team earned six points per touchdown; the “Green” team earned 12 points per touchdown. After all, at the end of the game they would still be on the same team! This reminds me of conflict with family and friends – sometimes we forget that we are on the same team. When we find ourselves fighting against those we love, we want to make sure that we don’t inflict injury. There are steps we can take to fight fair:

(1) Set up your ground rules before conflict arises. When we become angry, we get set to defend ourselves and our bodies prepare to fight or flee. So, schedule a time to talk about fighting before tempers flare. Choose a setting that offers privacy – walk through the park, find a quiet corner in a coffee shop, or go to your favorite restaurant.

(2) Express your hurt and anger in a way that will lead to a solution. If we are told, “You always do that,” it may be true but we aren’t likely to admit it. In fact, we may look for reasons to defend our action because we feel attacked. When we hear, “I felt frustrated and hurt when ... ” then the situation doesn’t escalate.

(3) Stick to one fight at a time. Psychologists study how our current moods help us to recall particular memories and it is amazing how quickly these old memories can be triggered. You’ve probably had the experience in which a song pulls back memories from long ago – emotions do the same thing. So when you are angry it is likely that you will remember other times that you’ve had conflicts with this person. Try to stay focused on the issue at hand instead of dredging up the past.

It seems rather odd to set up a football game in which one team earns double the points of the other for each touchdown. But compromise is an effective approach in dealing with conflict:

(1) State what you want to happen at this point in time. We don’t have the power to change our past actions, but we can choose different paths for the future. Given the current situation, what do you see as the best solution?

(2) Listen carefully when a solution is offered. Keep in mind that you are on the same team when the other person is speaking. In the “Green and White” game, MSU is always going to win! The solution to a conflict needs to be one in which the relationship is the winner.

(3) Allow time to be creative in your conflict resolution. It may be a good idea to mull things over for a while. Make sure that the other person knows that you have listened and that you understand the problem that must be negotiated. Decide on a time frame for solving this problem: “I understand what you need and I’d like to mull it over until tomorrow. What time would be good for working this through?”

There is an old saying, “Choose your battles.” Decide what is worth fighting for and what is not. In the Second Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul writes, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Are you fighting the “good fight?” Ask God for guidance when difficulties arise and it may be possible for your relationships to grow healthier as conflicts are resolved.

by Dr. Cathleen McGreal

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