Screamer? Crier? Pouter? Your fighting style might be getting in the way of a good argument

Screamer? Crier? Pouter? Your fighting style might be getting in the way of a good argument

There’s nothing like a fierce blowout to clear the air. Yet, many of us avoid argument at any cost. In relationships with your friends, your partner, your boss and your family, there will always be differences in opinions—and not all will be resolved amicably. What separates the girls from the women is how you handle them. Do you pout, yell, cry, freeze or run away just to avoid tackling the issues? Your fighting style may be doing you more harm than good.

“Many women have difficulties expressing their feelings in a direct way,” says Toronto-based psychotherapist Lori Dennis. “Rather than being celebrated or supported for their need to be assertive, women tend to be put down or criticized. They are trapped in old roles as pleasers and caregivers who dare not ask for what they really want.”

We cling to old patterns that are hard to break since they were learned on the playground. Most little girls will resort to stomping off or dissolving into tears, rather than standing up for themselves or stepping up to complain—“good” girls don’t do that. As a result, women have become adept at taking the long way around to convey emotions or simply say what’s on their mind.

Tactic: “You attempt to resolve an uncomfortable situation by placating the other person with what they want to hear,” says Dennis.
Pitfalls: “You don’t get heard and you aren’t speaking the truth,” says Dennis. “It’s a short-term solution that isn’t satisfying or meaningful in the long run [and] you’re not getting to the heart of the matter.”
A better way: Make resolution your top priority and talk about the underlying issues.
When it can work: If you’re expecting friends over for dinner soon, it’s not the time to get into a discussion with your boyfriend about his lack of help in the kitchen. Deal with it after, then discuss a mutually workable solution.

Tactic: When disagreements pop up, you retreat and yank the plug on an argument.
Pitfalls: With nothing resolved, the fight continues and even escalates.
A better way: Hang tough and fight when it matters and deal with conflict right away.
When it can work: You and your boss have opposing views about how the department should be structured. A smart strategy would be to prepare a memo and request a meeting to calmly present it to her. Ducking her in the hall could damage your relationship with the person who is integral to your career.

Tactic: An argument turns into a contest of wills between two strong-headed people.
Pitfalls: The loser will feel defeated and the result of the showdown is a damaged relationship.
A better way: Opt for a compromise that is acceptable to both parties and you’ll be a true winner.
When it can work: Unless you’re a lawyer or politician who needs to outwit and outplay the other guy with superior strategic reasoning, forget about it.

Tactic: Turning on your best offence, you amp up quickly, becoming angry and aggressive.
Pitfalls: The more you raise your voice, the more you will be tuned out.
A better way: Channel that anger into a passionate exchange where you say clearly how you feel and state what you want the outcome to be.
When it can work: If your goal is an end to your relationship, this will help to set it ablaze.

Whether it’s a friend, a work colleague, a sibling or a partner, being brave enough to fight the good fight shows you care and you feel confident in your relationship. Daring to speak up and be heard matters. And your reward for it is healthier emotional well-being.

YOU SHOULD SEE: Our fighting style quiz…

“The Art of the Hissy Fit” has been edited for FLARE.com; the complete story appears in the October 2009 issue of FLARE.