Get over a fight fast

Move past family squabbles before they become full-blown feuds.

Relationship advice

Handle conflict constructively and keep your cool to keep the peace:

1. Focus on your feelings: Calmly explain how the person’s actions make you feel. For example, when your husband comes home late, say something like, “When you don’t tell me that you’ll be out for dinner, it makes me feel like my time isn’t as valuable as yours.” That’s more effective than, “I hate it when you come home late! You have no respect for me!” Try not to raise your voice—the louder you get, the less you probably will be heard.

2. Close the laptop: E-mail is fast and efficient, which is why people love it, but it can muddle emotional communication. If you receive an upsetting e-mail message, write back and say, “I must be reading this wrong. Can we talk in person?” Expressing yourself face-to-face can ease anger.

3. Tune in to body language: Pay attention to your posture and expression when arguing. Your voice might be saying, “I’m listening and I want to work this out,” but your body could be indicating the opposite. Don’t tap your feet, cross your arms or furrow your brow; maintain eye contact while you’re hashing out your feelings.

4. Call a time-out: If you and your partner are talking in circles or you feel like an explosion is inevitable, take a break. Say something like, “I feel as if we aren’t getting anywhere. But I really care about solving this problem, so let’s take a few minutes, make a cup of tea, then talk later.” A walk around the block can help you organize your thoughts and return in a calmer state of mind.

5. Play the referee: During a fight, it can be hard to listen to the other person’s words, because you’re busy finding fault with his or her argument or thinking about what you want to say next. Follow the disagreement as an outside observer and try to see the other person’s point of view. If you were mediating, you would listen to both sides carefully, then make an informed decision. Take this approach and consider what your husband (or child) is saying.

6. Meet in the middle: At an impasse? Shift your focus and try to compromise. Let’s say you want to visit your parents during spring break, but your husband insists on taking the kids to Disney World. Instead of bickering, suggest stopping at an amusement park on the way to Grandma and Grandpa’s.