How to Deal with
Actions in Relationships

Everyone is guilty of passive-aggressive actions now and again. How many times have we been mad at our partner and chosen to enact the silent treatment?

Or how many times have we done something we just KNOW is going to piss them off (…without being too obvious about it)?

Unfortunately, we don’t always take the high road in our partnerships. Sometimes we engage in unfair warfare.

I’m not talking about those moments when you’re too mad to say anything and you need a little break or some space to cool off. In such a case, articulate, “I need some space,” and take a breather. Taking a quiet moment can be healthy.

I’m talking about the times when you decide to stop talking because “that’ll show her”—or those moments when you bring up something to “shame” your partner in front of others because you know he’s not in a position to fight back with an audience. Yes, these are those passive-aggressive actions, or as we like to call them: “The Hidden Middle Finger.”

Hidden Middle Fingers

We’ve all been there before: we’re no longer fighting fair and we’re not following the rules of engagement. In our new book, The Heart of the Fight, we explore 15 common couples’ fights and reveal the skills you need to navigate successful, growth-focused conflict in relationships.

When you choose to shut down and stonewall your partner, you’re not just making yourself “feel better” by “showing” him or her. These silent middle fingers to our partner send a powerful and not-so-subtle message. Unfortunately, the message isn’t one of love and engagement—it’s not a message articulating our yearnings to see and be seen, to need and be needed. Instead, it’s a way of trying to force our partner to feel bad.

Silence speaks volumes in relationships; it’s much more damaging than healthy conflict. It sounds counterintuitive, but un-hiding your “middle finger” and getting that conflict out in the open can help things move along in a more engaged, productive manner.

Available NOW on The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer.

Life = Conflict

Every relationship has conflict—friendships, marriages, parenting, and partnerships. It’s a natural part of life. Any time we interact with others, there are both expectations being met and expectations not being met. Desires are realized and broken.

Conflict comes up when two people have a different viewpoint, a different desire, or a different need. If you’re engaged, fully involved, and honest in your relationship, then conflict should be a regular occurrence. None of us is so keen at recognizing every need of our partner (or of any other human being) that we can sail through life conflict-free. We all have desires and yearnings.

The key to dealing with conflict is to recognize it can be a productive way to learn and grow within our relationships. Biologist Elisabet Sahtouris discusses how conflict is a natural and inherent part of life itself. Even cells are in a state of division and reproduction, as they split during mitosis and develop into more cells. Conflict is a natural and necessary part of growth and development.

Passive-Aggressive Act…or Honest Mistake?

When you find yourself thinking, “That’ll show him,” or, “She did [x], so I deserve to do [y],” you’re not engaging in productive discussions that move the relationship forward. Burning your husband’s steak when you know he likes it rare, or bringing home your wife’s car with an empty gas tank—these little acts can seem so small they almost become invisible.

They are all, however, small acts of warfare. Withholding our emotions and affection and ignoring the yearnings of our partner on purpose are small ways we erode the strength of our connection and the trust of our partner.

Now, perhaps you didn’t fill up the car just because it didn’t occur to you. Perhaps you lost track of what was cooking on the stove and you accidentally burned the steak. Those things happen. You are not responsible for your partner’s emotions and they aren’t responsible for yours. As long as your intentions are good, mistakes happen.

However, if you both follow the rules of engagement, you should be interacting with each other in an honest, open manner and always assuming goodwill. Passive-aggressive acts don’t fit. If you’re assuming goodwill and you and your partner are both being honest, then little acts of war won’t and can’t happen.

This means when your partner does something to really push your buttons, you have to speak up and tell them. Rather than not calling them back or being a little quieter than usual and hoping they’ll notice, you have to pipe up and say, “I don’t like this. This made me angry.”

What Are You Holding Back?

Being honest doesn’t mean always saying what makes the other person happy, or telling your partner exactly what they want to hear. It means you’re going to say some things that will make your partner angry—and that’s perfectly okay.

Flipping the silent middle finger never resolves an issue or deepens the relationship. Issues must be brought out into the open to be expressed and addressed. As your social and emotional intelligence grows within your relationship, so does your ability to communicate openly with your partner.

Just like compounding hurts and resentments can drive you apart, addressing these feelings can help bring you back together. It might be easier to just burn the steak or ignore the gas warning light, but in truth, these passive-aggressive acts mean you’re just spinning your wheels and going nowhere. Bring your feelings out in the open and make them known so you and your partner can focus on all the things that really matter and continue to grow—together.

To continue the conversation on engaging with others and to discover ways to bring out your best self, click here to learn more about our next More Life Training.

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Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.


A Couple’s Guide to
15 Common Fights,
What They Really Mean
& How They Can
Bring You Closer

We’re so pleased to announce the release of our new book, “The Heart of the Fight.” In the book, Judith Wright and I draw on our many years of experience, both in our own relationship (which I can tell you has quite a bit of conflict once in a while) and in the relationships of many of the couples we’ve worked with over the years.

We’ll talk about the beauty and the messiness of love. Believe me when I say: love is a lot of both. Many people have these notions that love is always going to be like it is in the movies. The reality is sometimes love is more about the knock-down, drag-out, emotional upheaval that ultimately serves as a platform for growth.

Love is both a womb that nourishes and a crucible that forges us into what we can become. It’s nourishing, but it’s also intense and deep, and the best love puts you through a lot of tests so you can come out stronger.

Conflict is Good…Really!

We’ve been raised with this idea that conflict is bad. Arguing and fighting must mean something is wrong, as in: “We’re always fighting. We just don’t get along.”

We hear it time and time again. Truth is, couples who are engaged with each other (those who go “all in”) will experience conflict. It’s inevitable. It’s a struggle over your yearnings and meeting the yearnings of the other person. It’s a struggle to be seen openly and honestly for who you are and to have the other person know you, accept you, challenge you, and bring out your best.

I worry much more about the couples who say they never fight.

If a couple cares for one another and cares about working toward common goals, they will experience conflict. Conflict means you feel. As for those couples that “never fight”? Chances are they’re just going through the motions. They’re “over” engaging with each other and working together. Maybe they’ve even given up.

It’s time to get back in the fight. By learning the rules of engagement, couples can learn to fight fairly and productively. They can learn how to work toward (and fight for) the relationship.

The 7 Rules of Engagement: Fight, Don’t War

the heart of the fight rules of engagement

The first two rules: Accentuate the positive and Minimize the negative. This doesn’t mean just blowing smoke or trying to pretend everything’s fine when it’s not. Often when we’re really angry at our partner, we get in this mode of believing that absolutely everything has gone to hell. If we step back and look at the positive aspects of our relationship (the way our partner nurtures us, the good parts, and the fun times) and minimize the negative things (the way your partner balls his socks up on the bedroom floor), we can gain a little perspective.

Next rule: No one gets more than 50% of the blame. How easy is it to blame everything on the other person? For example: “Well, I tried to say how I felt, but she didn’t listen, and now it’s all her fault…” Nope. It’s so easy to become the victim of our partner’s behavior, which causes us to fall into the drama triangle. Just like EVERYTHING isn’t entirely your fault, everything isn’t your partner’s fault either.

On the same note, the next rule is another one we’ve mentioned a few times: You are 100% responsible for your own happiness and satisfaction. It isn’t your partner’s job to rescue you or make you happy. It’s your responsibility to work toward your own happiness and it’s your partner’s responsibility to work toward theirs.

Rule #5: Express and agree with the truth, always. The truth might not be what you want to hear. In fact, the truth might be, “You’re really pissing me off right now.” This rule is about expressing the truth and being honest about what you’re feeling. When something is wrong, it’s so easy to say, “It’s fine,” and then spend the rest of the day shutting down and withholding. It’s much more difficult to express what you’re feeling. The truth is hard. The truth makes us vulnerable, and we don’t always like to be vulnerable. You must be trustworthy in your relationship.

Likewise, always Fight FOR (not against) the relationship. When a couple is working toward the relationship, it shifts the approach. You’re fighting to get on the same page. You’re fighting to make the relationship work. You’re fighting to be with each other.

The last rule: Assume good will. In all my years of meeting with couples, I’ve met very few who are actually “out to get” each other. Chances are very likely your partner doesn’t exist just to make you mad and they don’t go through their day scheming ways to make you miserable. Often in the tit-for-tat war couples engage in, a feeling of paranoia starts to build. Assuming good will helps you realize that, at heart, your partner probably wants what you want: to make things work and to learn, engage, and grow together.

As we explore these rules of engagement and get to The Heart of the Fight, we’ll also look at key skills for transformational change and consciously engaging in your transformation. You’ll start to invest in your heart and soul and in the heart and soul of your partner to keep your relationship going strong.

Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio.
Check Out Lifestyle Podcasts at BlogTalkRadio with Wright Living on BlogTalkRadio.


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Always Fighting?
Conflict is Common,
But Fight Fair

Whenever we hear someone say, “Oh, we never fight,” it always raises a few red flags. If you’re really engaging with another person, there’s going to be conflict!

Things are never going to be perfect.

Dating and relationships can reveal so many “a-ha!” moments. After all, dating is a great opportunity to learn new things about yourself and the ways you set boundaries as you engage in (or shy away from) conflict. When you go out with someone, are you panicking at the first sign of conflict? What about when you’ve reached a make-or-break moment in the relationship? Do you commit to holding your ground, or do you backslide after a few weeks and assume more than your share of the blame?

Many of us have a very difficult time with conflict—understandably, of course. We all have limiting beliefs that are comprised of sets of preconceived values, perceptions and ways of dealing with others which shape our relationships. We may catch ourselves avoiding unpleasant emotions (like hurt, sadness, fear, or anger) because they’re uncomfortable for us. However, even when our emotions make us uncomfortable, that doesn’t always need to be a negative thing.

Our emotions, even if they’re unpleasant, can be great tools for growth, as they can help us understand ourselves on a deeper level.

Assuming Fault or Passing Blame?

Often, many of us have a tendency to want to assume everything is our fault—OR to assume any disagreement is ALL the fault of the other person. When a relationship ends or when things aren’t going well, it’s usually not just because of one thing we’ve done or said; it’s really about the bigger picture and the roles each of us play within the relationship. What yearnings were expressed and met, and what yearnings were held back out of fear?

When conflict arises in your relationship, there’s a set of rules to help you and your date or partner fight fair. In our new book, The Heart of the Fight, we discuss these rules of engagement. For example, did you know that everyone is responsible for their own emotions? Here’s another great one from the book: no one takes more than 50% of the blame.

When dating, you have this great opportunity to “play” with all of these rules of engagement and really feel them out. You can meet someone and in the first few sentences you might have an immediate connection…or you might have to work to find the connection. Neither way is wrong and both give you a chance to learn new and exciting things about yourself, about another person, and about conflict.

Fighting More Frequently? Stay True to Yourself

Once you’ve been on a few dates, you might find that conflicts arise more freely. This is something to be celebrated rather than feared! When you’ve reached the point that you’re comfortable enough to be honest with yourself and tell your date how you feel, it’s a great moment in your personal growth.

Some of us find we go into a relationship ready to debate, engage in conflict, and discuss things open and honestly—but we hold back on building the emotional and softer side of our connection. It’s still a question of whether or not you’re fully engaged. Again, neither approach is wrong, but the challenge is in how you can continue to express your truth. Are you being you?

Emotions and connections make us vulnerable, which can be frightening. When we’re putting our real selves out there and being open and honest, we’re in a place where we may be rejected or hurt. And let’s face it, that doesn’t feel good. The real joy is when you can look at the situation and no matter the outcome (whether it was a great connection or a not-so-great connection) you can say you were 100% honest about who you were throughout. That’s the awakening.

When Relationships End

If you just can’t reach a give-and-take point or if you feel stagnant in your personal growth, it might be time to move on. If you feel you’re being honest and engaging with the other person but it’s just not there on a fundamental level, it can be difficult.

Breakups never feel good. They leave us questioning our actions, and wondering if we were too reactive or if we were really honest in what we wanted. We question if we held back our emotions due to fear or anger. We can question everything about ourselves.

The great news is a breakup is a great time to reevaluate and lean on your friendships and support system. It can give you a chance to work through growth and even find an eventual way to get back to sharing a friendship after a cooling-off period (assuming you WANT to continue a connection and found the friendship nourishing).

Breakups aren’t fun, but they give us a chance to sort out what we want and how we can better express our desires and yearnings. They allow us to examine the interaction, and we can rest easy knowing we were fully engaged, we didn’t shy away from conflict, and we approached the relationship with honesty and openness.

Dating and relationships can be fraught with opportunities for both awakenings and disturbances, but both can be moments of beauty and growth.

Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio.
Check Out Lifestyle Podcasts at BlogTalkRadio with Wright Living on BlogTalkRadio.

Join us every two weeks on Wednesdays at noon CST for our podcast Bring Out Your Best! where we discuss dating, relationships and being your best self. To continue the conversation on engaging with others and to discover ways to bring out your best self, click here to learn more about our next More Life Training.

Dr. Judith Wright

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.


How to Be Awesome
at Networking

Think back to your last networking opportunity. You’re probably imagining an after-work event or party (maybe a cocktail hour), where you exchanged business cards and awkward conversation.

Maybe you felt like you were “working the room” because you handed out so many business cards or recited your elevator pitch to so many people.

I’m betting you received very few calls, if any. You probably thought, “These events are such a waste of time.”

Guess what? If you approached the room as your stage and you gave a canned elevator pitch (certainly peppered with wit) to everyone you met—then you probably missed the opportunity to really network.

To continue the conversation on engaging with others, and to discover ways to bring out your best self, join us for our next More Life Training.

The One Secret to the Real Power of Networking

Your network power is your source of personal power. It’s your squad—your personal Rolodex of numbers, names, and talents you can connect and tap into to change the world (or at the very least, to boost your business). It’s impossible to tap into your network if you haven’t really engaged with people. It’s all about the way you know them, NOT the way they know you.

What does this mean? For starters, it means going into every interaction with a host mentality. When you run into someone at the store, when you talk to someone walking his or her dog on the street, when you’re in a business meeting—embrace a host mentality. If someone comes over to your home, you ask how he or she has been, what’s new, and if can you get them anything—a glass of water, a bite to eat.

How can you meet their needs and make sure they’re having a great time?

It’s no different with any opportunity to connect with someone new. When you start conversation at an event or even just on the street, ask and listen. Approach the situation with the intention to really engage and learn about the other person. Find commonalities and values. What are your fundamental principals you have in common?

You may find you aren’t talking about yourself at all. You’re listening. A great approach is to say, “What do you hope to get out of this (meeting, event, party)?” and then simply listen. Follow up with, “Tell me more.”

Positive and Intentional Networking

In our new book, The Heart of the Fight, we discuss the rules of engagement. These don’t simply apply to your romantic relationships but to every engagement. One of the rules is “assume goodwill.”

Even if you find out the person you’re talking to happens to be your biggest competitor or diametrically opposed to your faith, politics, or the things you stand for, assume the person is approaching the situation with goodwill towards you as a fellow human being. Use that positive mentality to fuel the conversation. Yes, conflict may arise, but if it’s discussed in an honest way with respect for both the other person’s right to a different opinion and their humanity, you’ll still be able to extract something from the interaction.

In a best-case scenario, you might find someone who reframes your thinking, stretches your empathy, or gives you a chance to build a connection you previously thought was impossible. Make it your goal to learn what makes the other person tick. If you don’t understand, ask them to help you, and listen. You never know where it may lead.

I’ve had interactions with people everywhere from inside coffee shops to out on the street that have led to some of my best outcomes or have helped me lead my clients to great outcomes. It might simply lead to a great haircut or a referral to a new dentist, but those things have value as well. It’s about moving the conversation forward and hearing what the other person has to share.

What Goes Around…

Not every conversation is going to lead to an immediate outcome, but I’ve been through this rodeo enough times to tell you: every connection has value. I’m amazed at how many connections I’ve made that result in a success much further down the road.

We live in an instant gratification society. When we meet someone, we instantly try to figure out how they can help us—how we can make a sale or how we can create a new client. Instead, try to find out who they are as a person and what makes them tick. As you get to know a new person, you may find the opportunity for a deeper success and a greater outcome than a simple sale or business boost.

Your connection with someone—when they know you care about them and you see them for who they are—will create loyalty, friendship, and ultimately will lead to greater success down the road.

Many times, I’ve walked away from a first interaction where I’ve learned all about the other person and they’ve only learned my name, perhaps where I’m from, or a sentence or two about my career. The more I’ve learned about another person from an interaction, the stronger my connection to them will be. From the first moment, I’m already synthesizing their information and thinking on how this person can connect with others across my network, with my values, and within my life.

Without fail, the more I learn about another person, the greater the opportunities arise later. I could have given out my business card and droned on about myself for two minutes, and maybe they would be interested in investing their time and energy in me.

By networking with intentionality, both of us are investing our time and energy in the other person—and by doing so, we invest in ourselves long-term.


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Want to improve your sales? The Wright Sales Program is a hands-on, experiential program that provides sales professionals with an opportunity to boost their sales performance through the application of social and emotional intelligence to their selling techniques. [Learn more!]

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.