Reframing Fighting

by Reid on March 2, 2015

Unhappy couple arguing at therapy session in therapists officeHow Can You Reframe Fighting For A Better Outcome?

Join Cathy Vartuli from and Reid Mihalko from

Reid: Hi, I’m Reid Mihalko from

Cathy: I’m Cathy Vartuli from the

Reid: Yeah, and today we’re going to talk about reframing fighting.

Cathy: It’s really powerful because in our society, we do have a tendency …

Reid: Whatever.

Cathy: To have discussions that are … one of us has to win and I’m going to beat him up until he gives in or his going to give me the cold shoulder.  It’s about one of us winning, one of us being on top …

Reid: I’m right, you’re wrong.

Cathy: That’s not a really great way to build intimacy and connection.

Reid: No.  It’s a horrible idea.  It’s kind of the anti-way of building connection.

Cathy: Yes.  Reid just released, a new online program and in it and in light of, which I’m very excited about.  In the videos, he released a free videos to help people learn about it, he gives a lot of really powerful information about how to upgrade relationships.  One of the things he talks about is reframing fighting.

Reid: Yeah.

Cathy: Could you explain?

Reid: Yeah, the easiest thing to understand is that for some people fighting is a way for them to get close again, like they push each other away so that they can prove that they still love each other and then for some people it’s all about the makeup sex, right?

Cathy: The big struggle and the crying and you burn off some stuff that you don’t know how to do otherwise.

Reid: You release all this pressure and then you come back together and you re-bond and it doesn’t have to be that way.  Reframing fighting from the underpinnings of what is the cycle that you guys are getting caught in.  Did you inherit that bad habit, that communication bad habit from your parents or from your partner’s parents?  Where did you pick that up?  And getting clear about why it is … what you are trying to communicate and what’s the actual intention?  You can reframe fighting to basically discussions or arguments, productive arguments, where you guys are voicing with passion what your needs are.  That’s one way to start reframing it because fighting usually only ends with a loser.  There’s a winner or  a loser.

Cathy: Yes.

Reid: It’s not what some people would call an infinite game, where the infinite game is to stay connected and get to know each other better and also get to figure out what people need.  Because ultimately when we’re fighting there’s something that I’m trying to communicate that I’m probably not feeling listened or seen or heard by you on.  A lot of people, the only way, and this is another bad habit that we’ve picked up, the only way I know how to try to get my needs met when I feel unheard is to raise my voice and whenever you find you’re in an argument with somebody and they keep repeating themselves, it’s usually because they don’t feel heard.

Take exactly what they just … what they are repeating, if you can like if you’re not so triggered that you’re repeating yourself and hone in on exactly what they are saying and just try to recreate it, “Like I hear you keep repeating this piece so this is what I’m hearing you say.  What’s your need around it?”  What’s underneath it and you being present with people and trying to leave them feeling seen and heard will start to change the conversation because when I feel heard, I will move on to the next point that I need to talk about.

You actually by being present and leaving people feeling seen and heard, you change what comes out of their mouth.  They don’t repeat, they move on to the next piece and they start getting present with you.  The biggest challenge is you get triggered, the fight starts.  I get triggered that we’re fighting.  Now that we’re both fighting, neither one of us can leave the other one feeling seen or heard.

Cathy: Right.  In addition to repeating and helping your partner feel seen and heard, if you find yourself saying things like, “You always, you never”.  There’s usually some kind of cycle in there or blame cycle and it’s very common.  Humans do this all the time but if you start saying, “You’re doing, you’re not doing”.  What is the actual need under that?  If you can share that, it’s a lot easier for the other person to hear rather than the blame being dumped on them.  If you can say, “You never take out the trash and you never …”  It’s really easy to get into that mindset where that’s modeled for us all the time, in TV and around us.

If you could say, “Hmm, what do I really need?  Oh, I need to feel supported, I need to feel like my … the house that we’re living in together is important to you too.”  If you can share that the person may still not want to take out the trash and it may not be a yes for them, maybe you have to negotiate something there.

Reid: There may be other ways for them to leave you feeling supported and the fight’s usually actually not about the trash.  It’s a symptom of something underneath that’s not being communicated.  For some of you, non-violent communication is a really great framework to start learning how to start communicating what your needs are so you can Google NVC or non-violent communication.  For those of you who already started to use your I statements like, “I feel this” rather than “You did this to me”.  Beware that some of us get very clever and we blame in I statements.

Cathy: I feel like you’re an ass.

Reid: That’s funny, I feel like you’re being an ass too.  Some of these tools are amazingly powerful and they take a little bit of practice.  Don’t start trying to integrate these tools and then blaming the other person for being like, “How dare you not use your I statements”.  It’s a process, it doesn’t happen overnight and like with our 10x, the online course, you take things in little baby steps.  It’s possible to reframe fighting, kind of like Jiu Jitsu it into we’re arguing constructively and then once you get the hang of it, it’s kind of fun to fight.

One other tip I’ll drop in, you can make fighting more fun by making it sillier.  There’s a couple of friends of a friend, who made the agreement that if they were going to fight, they were allowed to blame as long as they did it in opera singing.  This couple was hilarious because they would be like, “I think you’re a fucking asshole, right now.”  It was hard for them to take the “fighting” seriously …

Cathy: Because they’re …

Reid: It started interrupting the bad habit patterns that they had and reframing that they could be silly and not taking the argument so “personally” or upping the stakes so high.

Cathy: This is a complex learning how to discuss and learning how to fight in a fun productive way or even in a non-fun productive way, it can be challenging.  Getting some help, being in a support group, reading a good book together or do something like read Reid’s Relationship 10x program, where someone walks you through and reinforces it.  Our brain doesn’t necessarily get something the first time we hear it and we can kind of struggle and spin our wheels.  Whereas if we have someone to hold our hands and say, “Do this now, practice this now.  Good job” that can really anchor it and spending a little bit of time now can transform your relationship for your entire life.

Reid: Cool, let’s know what you think.  What are some silly ways you could drop into your relationships to make fighting more fun and productive?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: