Let’s Fight Till Six, and Then Have Dinner

My husband gave me a card on Sunday afternoon after we resolved a fight.

It read: Let's Fight Till Six, and Then Have Dinner.

Our fight the night before was over popcorn. For real, popcorn.

He Said: She Said

He said: The popcorn is about to burn!
She said, while next to the microwave: I can smell the popcorn and it’s not about to burn.
He said: There’s hardly any pops left.
She said, turning off the microwave: I know how to cook popcorn.
He said: You burn popcorn.
She said: I never burn popcorn!
He said: You do, too.
She said some not-so-nice-things as she handed him the bag of popcorn.                                                                   He said some not-so-nice things back.

We Can Get Hot Over the Seemingly Strangest Things

Might you also be experiencing equally absurd disagreements these days, personally and/or professionally?

Like you've fallen down the rabbit hole to the Mad Tea Part?

Maybe it’s about popcorn, or an abrupt e-mail, an off-handed comment from a colleague, or politics — or maybe its our perception of accumulated wrongs simmering beneath the surface.

When we are not able to address it respectfully and directly, it clings to us like saran wrap. Like when I woke up the next morning STILL miffed about the popcorn.

The whole thing seemed ridiculous; yet, I still couldn't let it go.

Have you been here as well?

Assertive Communication

Assertive Communication is our best chance at being heard and understood in conflict, and it's an essential EQ skill that most of us were not taught as kids. It's also a lifelong practice.

Here's a good article from the Mayo Clinic Being Assertive: Reduce Stress.

The key to Assertive Communication is owning our feelings (instead of blaming someone for what we feel).  It's a shift from You-Statements (you made me feel) to I-Statements (when you said, I felt) described by Tony Robbins in Changing Your Words Will Change Your Relationship:

You-statements…are phrases that begin with the pronoun "you” and imply that the listener is responsible for something. They show no ownership of emotions, but rather blame, accuse and assume the receiver. An I-statement, on the other hand, forces us to take responsibility for what we are thinking and feeling and prevents us from blaming our partners. 

You-Statements put someone on the defensive and assume their intention. They are usuallly blaming and have a sharp-edge, often arrogant tone. In contrast, I-Statements are neutral, inform the other person about their impact and make a request for what we need.

But I was still stuck. What's my I-Statement around the popcorn?

Appreciative Repair

Then I remembered a technique I use effectively with team members, business partners, board members, and anyone who's stuck in conflict.

The full technique is as follows and the ground rules are no You-Statements and no interrupting.

  • Say 3 things you appreciate about the other person.
  • State your part in the problem.
  • Say one thing you will do to fix the problem. You have 5 minutes.
  • Person Two: Repeat the process above.
  • Discussion: Each person has 3 minutes to ask questions or respond without being interrupted.

It is a communication tool and it can move mountains when facilitated safety. However, again, my problem was popcorn so I decided to go through the process internally.

I thought of three things I appreciated about him and shared them the next day.

You might think people would be suspicious to receive unbidden positive feedback. Trust me, it will be received. Next I thought of how I might be annoying, and realized there was an agreement I was not honoring - to pick up my puddles and piles aound the house.

I told him I'd be more conscious.

Turns out my puddles were really getting to him and were perceived as not being thoughtful. I got it, and on his end, he got his edgy tone and that he was speaking up using assertive communication.

Fight Till Six, and Then Break Bread

Conflicts are unavoidable and are actually a sign of healthy growth. Otherwise, we get stuck in Group Think. In terms of psychological safety, it’s part of Challenger Safety where we challenge the status quo for better outcomes and innovation.

So here's what I wish for you, and all of us:

Not only the tools to navigate conflict, but the trust and safety to know that we can fight before six, and then sit down and break bread together.

Here's to sustenance in all its forms.

Scroll to Top