“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
During our relationships and interactions with others, our aim is never to ‘win’, but rather to learn. Although Tzu’s theory is in the context of battle and to produce a rather different outcome than we hope for, it still holds some relevance. Knowing ourselves, and attempting to understand our loved ones is imperative when we argue or fight. If we know what triggers us, what upsets us, we can listen to ourselves.
It is quite difficult to engage in any form of interaction when we are not regulated. And often when we are upset we are not regulated. Our heart rate increases, we feel hot and sweaty, and the need to raise our voices. All of these things happen at a physiological level and are difficult to control. It is possible, however, to realise this before we react.
It’s never a good time to engage in something that may be conflicting when we are not at our usual emotional state. Yet more often than not, it is the exact time we engage in an argument or disagreement, because we feel that sense of injustice and that burning sensation, and we need to fix it!
The neuroscience behind this is quite simple. If our body is not regulated, our brain will try to repair it and bring it to a healthy space - one where we feel comfortable and calm. Rather than lashing out as we often do, we should regulate first, then attempt to engage in conversation. Below I’ve written five tips for ‘learning how to fight’.
Know yourself: From birth, we are social beings. We may have many altercations with many different people in our lives. Knowing ourselves and how we respond and to what we respond, is hugely important for our closest relationships.
Once we know what triggers us: We may still be triggered, so the key here is to recognise the feeling and take a deep breath. Recognise and regulate, before you react.
Once we can understand the certain things may trigger us, we can have a conversation about this with the people around us. This discussion leads to empathy and understanding.
Our aim is never to ‘win’: Our intention is to find common ground, negotiate, understand, empathise, and learn from each other. A relationship with two people willing to listen to each other and attempt to place themselves in another's shoes is one that can grow.
Acceptance and forgiveness: After an argument, acceptance and forgiveness are vital if we hope not to argue about the same thing more than once! If we cannot let go, we have not succeeded in ‘learning how to fight’. Often this might be because we feel unheard, or perhaps we need space and time to reflect.