Fight Fire with Fire…or Not?

When fighting fire with fire, remember that firemen use water. When I first read this truism, I thought, “That’s funny.” But, then I thought about the deeper meaning of it, the life application.

fire1Let me tell you a story. About 24 years ago, my husband and I were living in an apartment shortly after we moved to DFW. We thought the apartments were really nice and that they were be very safe. The apartment manager had told us that they would shortly be adding security gates at the entrances. Another boost for security is that we were located directly behind the police station. How much safer can you get? Apparently a lot more. One night, six vehicles were broken into and our truck with $3000 worth of work equipment was one of them.

To say I was angry would have been an understatement. I stormed into the apartment complex office and let that manager have it. They were, in my mind, partially to blame because they had never carried through on their promise to install the security gates. After I vented for a minute or two, she calmly responded to me noting that I must be feeling very violated. With that simple response, all of my hot air suddenly deflated.

In arguments or disagreements, it is so tempting, and so very easy, to jab right back. You see a jab coming and you parry and land an upper cut. To use a different metaphor, how many times have you felt the flames of rage coming right at you and you pull out your own flame thrower and fire away?! Fighting fire with fire only spreads the fire.

Emotional responding is all about responding to the emotion of the other person. I don’t remember the exact response from the apartment manager but I remember the one word: violated. In one word, she connected with what I was feeling. In one word, she connected with me by understanding and naming what I was feeling. With one word, she threw water on the fire. From there, we could come to mutual understanding and resolution.

If you find yourself consistently fighting fire with fire and you want to learn a better way to communicate, please contact the Rush Creek Counseling Center at 817-704-6991 or

Written by:
Audra Dahl, MA, LPC-S
Professional Counselor