How to fight well: using the Fight Cards

Thanks for buying a set of the Fight Cards.

These simple instructions are designed to help you get started. Please read the information below, watch the videos and try out the process.

And, at the very end of this page is some further reading. I recommend making some time to take that in and see how it impacts your work with conflict.

If you have any questions, email 

About the cards

These cards are designed to help you get more comfortable with conflict so that you can express yourself more clearly and learn about others, even in the heat of an argument.

By following the numbered process you'll start practicing a new approach to tricky conversations that starts with you and leads into connecting with others.

As every conflict is different, no linear process can be 'the answer', so rather than sticking doggedly to the numbers as you find them on the cards, when you're ready, start mixing them up as you see fit.

There are a few simple rules to follow if you want to get the most out of this toolkit:

It starts with you: in conflict we often jump to wanting to fix or change others. But as soon as we do we've lost hope of making real progress, because the only person who we can really change is ourselves. By focusing on what we are thinking, feeling and doing, and how that might need to change, we take full responsibility for ourselves and with it, the power to affect what happens next.

You might not be right: when we are triggered (feeling fear, frustration or anger, for instance, at something someone else has said or done) we become convinced that our reaction is the only right one. The more triggered we are, the less able we are to see that there are many 'right answers' and only be holding ours lightly and being open to that of others, can we hope to have a healthy conflict.

Keep taking (appropriate) risks: the reason we get trapped in our relationship with conflict is because we tell ourselves that it's scary or uncomfortable, and human beings are wired to avoid these things. In reality, there is nothing actually dangerous about most conflicts, and unless you are willing to try new things, that might seem different or make you nervous, you can't expect things to change. 

Please always exercise care and responsibility - if you find yourself in situations and relationships where your physical safety is threatened, seek the appropriate help immediately.

Pause, Notice, Allow


Pause: the first thing we need to do is stop. The moment we feel ourselves reacting, giving ourselves the space to not simply act that out. This might require taking ourselves elsewhere.

Notice: once we've paused we need to just notice what's going on inside of us. What thoughts are coming up? What feelings do you notice in your body? How are you feeling urged to respond? 

Allow: just allow all those thoughts, feelings and urges to be there. Just as we don't want to act them out, we don't want to judge or label them. They are there and it's OK. Give yourself some empathy.  

Specify, Seek

Specify: once we've steadied ourselves, we need to get clear on what specifically triggered us. Use factual, inarguable language, free of your assumptions, to describe the words or actions to the other.

Seek: seek understanding of their motivations or context for what just happened. Ask them to explain it to you. You may need to share a little about why you're asking in case they become defensive.

Listen, Clarify, Reflect

Listen: When they're talking, listen deeply. It's ok if you're still reacting, mind racing, but bring your attention to their words and body language. Try and imagine what they might be thinking/feeling.

Clarify: make sure you've fully understood them by repeating back the most important points or asking them to expand on particular bits you weren't quite clear on.

Reflect: Given what you've heard, how has your understanding of the situation changed? What do you think or feel now? Is there something you're needing, or you might like to ask of them?

Share, Request, Resolve, Debrief

Share: If you haven't already, it might be helpful to let them know what was going on for you, so they learn more about who you are and how to work with you. 

Request: Is there something you'd like from them now? Understanding or consideration in future, for example? Maybe you no longer have a need. If they say 'no' and that's not ok for you, go back to 'Pause, Notice, Allow'.

Resolve: If it's done, it's done. Put it down and let it go. Be aware of the part of you that wants to hang on to it, and give that a dose of 'Pause, Notice, Allow' (take it through an internal Specify and Seek, if that helps).

Debrief: Take some time, alone or with the other, to think through what you just learned - about yourself, about the other person, about the relationship.

Further reading

These are a few, longer pieces that dive into the theory and practice behind what we're learning here. Reading these and bringing them into your conflicts will help you feel more clear, grounded and ready to engage in a healthy way. 

Why We Fight – Part One: the roots of conflict - how does it come about, how do we perpetuate it for ourselves and what's the role of judgement and blame?

Why We Fight - Part Two: how we invite others into our dramas and unwittingly step into those of other people, and why (if we're not careful), we're just playing out our past.

Conditions for Better Conversations: how three very simple ideas can transform the quality of the dialogue we have with other people.

Steadying Yourself in Conflict: how and why our fight-or-flight response affects our ability to think straight and what we can do to get grounded again.