When it comes to arguments with friends and family, we are all aware that there are rules of the game. What is so difficult is keeping those rules in mind in the middle of a fight. When tensions are high and we are hurt and angry, our very physiology highjacks us to a place of knee-jerk responses, a place where the only rule is survival of the fittest. We are wired this way because there was a time when our survival really did depend on “eat or be eaten”. Transcending our biology takes intentionality and practice. Adult time outs are useful, as we can “take 10” if we feel ourselves being swept away down a river of anger. Then we are able to access the rules of fighting fair, and maximize our potential for resolution, compromise, and healing. We need to stick to the point – to stay with whatever precipitated the initial argument. We must resist the temptation to justify our position with old, unresolved resentments. It’s important to take turns, to wait until the other person has finished speaking. And, while we wait, it is crucial that we listen, really listen, not just attend with half an ear as we prepare our rebuttal. Good listening involves listening with our hearts, not just our heads, and with what is called third-ear listening. We listen to our loved one’s words but also plumb for what their heart is saying within those words. For example, “You’re such a slob!” could also mean, “When you leave stuff around I think it means you don’t care about me or our life together”. Finally, taking responsibility for our own actions is an important part of maturity. No matter how wronged we feel, because we’re human, it just makes sense to approach every argument with the understanding that we may have played a part in the problem.