No matter how good we are at avoiding it, from time to time, all of us will find ourselves right in the middle of a conflict. Some enjoy these times while most find them extremely uncomfortable. Either way, you view conflict, we know that if not resolved, it can have a huge negative impact on our relationships and on our emotional wellbeing.
Unfortunately, the answer is not to completely avoid conflict. We can’t always turn and run the other way. There are times when clashes are necessary and even appropriate. You cannot sacrifice your integrity or risk the wellbeing of someone else in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation. The key is to engage in conflict when appropriate and then work hard to resolve the issue.
When a negative engagement occurs, here are 4 things you can do to work through the issues to find a resolution:
Find the Pride
Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise. Proverbs 13:10 (NLT)
In each conflict, you will find pride. It is usually easy to spot when looking at the other person, but it’s a little harder to see in ourselves. Conflict challenges us. It challenges our intellect, resolve, or emotional commitment. We don’t want to be perceive as weak in any of these areas so it is natural for us to push back. Sometimes we are in the right, sometimes we are not. We must recognize our portion of the responsibility no matter how big or small it is. Once we have zeroed in on the pride that fills the conflict, then we must bring it to light to rob it of its power. I have often had to say something like: “I really don’t like to be wrong, but let’s talk through this and let me see it from your point of view.” A statement like that exposes the pride component that fuels the conflict and provides a step in the direction of resolution. Honestly, listen to each perspective. Then, once you have listened, you have created a space where you can now share your point of view as well.
Focus on the Vertical Relationship
When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7 (NASB)
Start preparing for tough situations well before they even begin. Take time every day and focus on your relationship with God. This will do two things during a conflict. The first is that the more time you spend with someone, the more mannerisms and patterns of speech you pick up from them. This happens as you spend time with God as well. The more time you spend relationally with God, the more His character rubs off on you. Everything about how you handle a tough situation is improved when you have a vibrant vertical relationship. Secondly, it will give you motivation during a conflict to seek an appropriate resolution. There is a lot more at stake once we realize that we are ambassadors of God’s grace and mercy to those who need to see it displayed.
Freeze Negative Comments
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 (NASB)
We all know that words have power and this is especially true during a conflict. As situations get heated, our speech begins to mimic our emotional energy. If we pour out our frustrations through our words, it will fuel all the wrong elements of a tough situation and soon a little spark will turn into an inferno of negative emotion. Instead, as the situation gets more heated, we must intentional freeze our comments. Keep cool and under control at all times. Instead of raising our voices, we must purposely keep them at a normal tone and pace. Keep your end goal in mind as you choose your words. Choose language that will help you achieve resolution. Stay on topic and don’t drag irrelevant issues into the current conversation. There are times when the other person in the conflict will continue to rage, but a majority of the time, people respond to kind conversation. It defuses the emotional content and allows for an honest discussion.
Fuel your Humility
An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. Proverbs 28:25 (NASB)
Humility is a characteristic with huge implications for our lives. In the context of conflict, humility requires us to take the focus off of ourselves and ask the question: “what is the best outcome.” We constantly feel this pressure to look out for ourselves. Humility trusts that God knows what is best and then we sacrifice our will for His will. What we find in doing this is that we serve an amazing God. God’s best is much better than we could ever imagine on our own. He understands what we need on an internal level and we trust Him to meet those needs. Instead of causing or increasing conflict by focusing on what we want, we become sensitive to what God is doing and become part of His plan.
Sometimes conflict is inevitable. When you have to engage in it, fight fair and become a peacemaker.