You have probably had to deal with conflict at some time or another in your life. It isn’t pleasant. We all have different ways of responding to conflict. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself: “How do I respond when there is a conflict?” And “Does my response help resolve the conflict?” In this article I am going to be sharing with you some tools to help you effectively and respectfully resolve conflict. When entering a conflict it is good to remember the advice given us in James 1:19, 20: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Steps to Conflict Resolution:
Calm down. Be slow to anger. Don’t tackle conflict resolution until both parties are calm. When you are upset it is hard to think clearly and make wise choices. You can’t act rationally when your emotions are raging and you definitely can’t be a peacemaker when you feel anything but peace in your own heart.
Keep your mouth closed. Be slow to speak. Do not talk while your emotions are raging and you might say something that you will regret.
Think first – while you keep your mouth shut remember to “Think first”. You need to bring your frontal lobe into action by analyzing the situation. There are two things to remember at this time: (1) I can’t control the actions of another, and (2) I can control myself and my environment (by walking away if necessary). Ask yourself: “What is the best thing to do in this situation?”
Should I move away and give this person and/or myself some space?
Do I need to go get some help from someone I trust? (sometimes it is necessary or helpful to get another person involved to help resolve the problem).
Does the other person feel heard and understood?
Listen. Be swift to hear. Ask the other individual if they feel heard and understood? If not, let them share and don’t interrupt them. When they feel they have adequately shared their point of view then repeat back to them what you understand them to be saying. “I understand that you see it this way… and feel this way… etc. Do you feel that I have heard you and understand you?” Stating what you have heard them say doesn’t mean that you agree with them, you are merely acknowledging that you have heard and understand what they have shared with you.
Speak up respectfully by following these guidelines:
Calm Voice – Don’t speak unless you can with a calm voice.
Requests – make requests of the individual instead of demands.
Use “I feel” statements to express yourself instead of “You always do this…” or “You never do that…” or “you make me feel…”. Using an “I feel” statement helps the other person be more receptive to understanding your point of view. It also encourages them to be more empathetic. There are 3 parts to an “I feel statement”
I feel _________
when you ________.
I wish _________
Example: “I feel frustrated when you leave your dirty clothes on the floor because it makes our room look messy and I feel that I need to pick it up. I wish you would put your dirty clothes in the laundry hamper.”
So far we have covered what to do when we are in the heat of the moment and either we know we have wronged someone or we are struggling with strong negative feelings towards them. But there are times when we will recognize that someone has something against us but we are not sure what we have done to offend them. We may be tempted to say, “If they have something against me then it is their responsibility to come to me” but what does Jesus say we should do?
Matthew 5:23, 24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar (or praying) and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
When going to the individual who has something against you the first thing we want to do is say something like this, “I noticed that you have not been talking to me… (or fill in the blank). Have I done anything to offend you?” Stating what you have observed about their behavior towards you helps the person understand why you are coming to them or why you would be asking “have I done anything to offend you?”. It also gives them the opportunity to explain their actions if they had nothing to do with ill feelings towards you. How do you think the person would feel if you were to say, “You seem to be offended by me. What have I done to make you feel that way?” This tends to put them on the defensive. It comes across as I am better than you and I am pointing out your problem -you are offended by me. Also, I know it all and I know how you are feeling and why. Sometimes our impressions can be wrong. It may be that there are other things going on in that person’s life that have made them treat you with indifference, or whatever way that you have interpreted as holding something against you. It is always best to not assume what someone’s thoughts or motives are and the best way to do this is by asking questions.
God made us for healthy relationships with each other. It takes effort to learn the skills required to navigate through conflicts. I pray that God will help us all determine to learn healthy communication skills so that we can grow closer together and have healthier relationships.