The Fight Cards © Max St John

A map for conflict

Introducing a tool for navigating any difficult situation.

Max St John
How to fight well
Published in
5 min readFeb 27, 2023


I’m relaunching my course: How to Fight Well with a new addition — the Fight Cards. It starts 14th March and you can book a place here

I know that every conflict I face — within myself or with others — offers me invaluable insight that can radically improve my work and my life.

But I can only gain that insight if I can sit long enough to listen to what’s going on beneath the noise and tension that conflict creates, instead of avoiding it, smoothing it over or smashing my way through in anger.

This is not a ‘normal’ response. Like most people, I was never taught how to sit in conflict and dig underneath the mess, let alone unearth the gems buried in it.

It’s an area I struggled with professionally and personally and this is part of the reason I made it my life’s work to figure out how people work, when things aren’t working.

Five years ago I decided to act on an idea that had surfaced through my learning. Every leadership or communication programme I’d been on framed conflict as something to be ‘managed’ or ‘resolved’.

But my experience told me that it was through conflict that I could learn the most about myself and others.

So why try to manage or resolve it? What if we could just have ‘healthy conflict’?

Out of this idea I created How to Fight Well —a course that teaches people how to get comfortable with conflict and have the conversations that matter.

I pulled together all the most valuable elements I’d learned over three decades of training in Nonviolent Communication, leadership, mindfulness, martial arts and meditative, embodiment practices as well as running a ground-breaking, democratic organisation and being a partner and a father to growing children (the richest source of learning, if I’m honest).

I taught this course to hundreds of people over the next three years — to small groups of CEOs, mediators, consultants and parents and as part of big change programmes in pan-European organisations.

Each time I would refine the content and training to try and make it as relevant, applicable and ‘sticky’ as possible.

The feedback was great —people were finding a clarity and stability within themselves that they didn’t know they had. Clearly, we were touching on something universal and, maybe, a little bit profound.

But there was something I noticed when I reconnected with people 6–12 months later (which I make a point of doing).

While valuable learning had stuck, ingrained habits and well-worn neural pathways are powerful things and many of those I spoke to felt they had pinged back into old patterns more than they would have liked.

I recognised this from corporate programmes I’d taught and participated in.

How many times had I learned something that feels important and new, only for it to fade into the background the moment I was back in my home or work environment?

I decided I needed to address this. I teach this work because I want people to improve their lives for the long-term and maybe, in a tiny way, improve the wider mess our society is in.

If it doesn’t stick, then it’s a waste of time.

So I started prototyping a new tool — Fight Cards — a set of 12 prompts that would act as a map for navigating conflict in our daily lives.

I sent a batch of these cards out to a group of people I’d never worked with before — a coach who had a dispute with their neighbour, a parent who felt intimated at PTA meetings and a CEO who’d been tasked with turning around a troubled national institution.

They put the cards to work and I listened carefully to their experience and feedback. Over the past two years I’ve fine-tuned the cards and the course, and now I want to offer them up to a wider audience.

How it works

I’m teaching this as a four-part course in which we cover:

  • Principles and theory
  • Practice and application (or: How to use the Fight Cards)

The first two sessions cover the principles and models of healthy conflict: how to understand and identify your needs and those of others; how to shift from judging and blaming to empathy; how to recognise and let go of your default patterns; how to keep a steady emotional state under pressure. And a lot more.

This is all about getting to the heart of why everyone (and I mean everyone) thinks, feels and behaves the way they do when faced with conflict.

If we don’t understand this — *really* understand it — then no process or methodology is going to stick.

But once we have this understanding, we can move on to exploring processes and using the Fight Cards.

The 12 cards can be used as a step-by-step process for working through any conflict. Because no two situations are ever quite the same, they can be picked up in any order, used individually as prompts to reflect on when you need to ground yourself, or worked through, step-by-step. Conflict is never linear, so neither is this tool.

Some of the best feedback I got during the prototyping and testing was from someone who left them on top of their microwave and would pick one up at random as they passed so they became part of daily life.

But however you use them, the crucial thing is that they act as scaffolding — providing structure for your ongoing and cumulative learning.

You learn the principles and the theory and the cards hold it all together and teach you how to apply it, over and over again, without falling back into old habits.

Along with the cards, you’ll get a copy of my eBook “Working with Needs”, which goes into detail on the most fundamental aspect of working with conflict — getting to the core need that we are trying to meet.

By the end of the course you’ll know:

  • Why every conflict (inner or outer) comes about
  • What are the underlying drivers of every human interaction
  • How to spot the opportunities for creativity and ‘win-win’ outcomes
  • How to steady yourself to respond, not react, in challenging situations.

You’ll feel more calm and steady when conflict shows up, you’ll know what to do, and you’ll start to learn about yourself in ways that will allow you to change and grow.

When and where

I am based on a small holding in remote North Cornwall and I teach all my work via Zoom.

I’ll be offering these sessions on a Friday lunchtime, 12.30–2pm.

The first programme will run on 17th, 24th, 31st March and 14th April (as the 7th is Good Friday here in the UK). I’ll announce further dates after this run.

Each place is £180 and can book one here.

And if you have a team that you’d like to become skilled at spotting conflict before it’s a problem, or unpicking underlying conflicts that are getting in the way, I’ve run hundreds of training programmes and we can organise something that suits your organisation.

Either way, get in touch with me via



Max St John
How to fight well

I teach people how to navigate conflict and have conversations that matter.