No matter how much you like another person, at some point, conflict is likely to happen. While most conflicts are trivial (like trying to decide where to go for lunch), when left untended, any conflict can fester and grow. That’s why it’s important to resolve relationship conflicts before they have a chance to take on a life of their own.
Most folks agree on that point, but how do you go about doing that?
Start by Listening
Don’t just listen to the spoken words, but the feelings behind them, because emotions drive the conversation. By listening actively, which means pausing before asking questions or reiterating what you think the other person is saying, you let them know that what they say matters and that they’re being heard.
It’s astonishing how much conflict is nothing more than imperfect communication fueled by frustration. Is the present situation the result of a communication snafu or genuine conflict?
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey
Look for Resolution Over Being Right
In the same way that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, giving up the notion that you have to win is the beginning of reaching a solution. Conflict is not a competition. How you respond determines whether it’s a passing moment or becomes a relationship arterial bleed.
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” – Proverbs 16:7
The only true win is when everybody wins. Ask yourself this question, “What’s the kingdom truth in this situation?”
Stay In The Moment
Instead of focusing on what happened to initiate the conflict, pay attention to what’s going on right now. Now isn’t the time for blame. Be a solution seeker.
Excessive emotions prevent people from thinking clearly or processing information. When someone’s meter is stuck on FEEL, help them to free it so they’re able to listen and respond. Get that meter back to THINK.
Sometimes the right response is a small loving touch or gesture. A quick hand squeeze or offering a glass of water accompanied by silence.
Decide What’s Most Important Right Now
Pick your battles stragetically. Determine whether something is worth fighting over. Is this an issue over a minor annoyance that will be easily forgotten or is there something deeper going on that needs to be addressed?
Success in relationships, ministry, and everything else rests on getting your priorities in the right order. If you can preserve only one thing in a moment of conflict, what do you want it to be?
Before engaging in verbal battle, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and follow His lead.
It worked for King David. It’ll work for you.
How and When to Walk Away
Savvy folks know what it takes to walk away with the least dust. But before you do, try to reduce the negative energy between you. Take a step backwards physically or emotionally and give the other person room to breathe. If they mirror you, give it another try.
If not, disengage without rejecting. Maybe forgiveness is in order. Sometimes you simply need to agree to disagree. Worst case scenario? It might be time just to let the matter go entirely. Whatever the case, there’s nothing to be gained by staying in the conflict.
When you choose to walk away, leave the conflict behind.
Conflict As A Growth Opportunity
Resolving conflict in love isn’t a hard skill to learn once you conquer the toughest hurdle – your own emotions. Forgiveness is both an art and skill, and so is managing conflict so everyone walks away without injury.
By practicing these tips you’ll discover better ways to deal with conflict in every kind of relationship. Be at peace, misunderstandings don’t have to mean the end of the world. Instead look at conflict as a step toward better understanding that will, in turn, lead to better relationships in the long run.
When I think of conflict, I imagine two people sitting across a table from each other in an adversarial pose. When faced with conflict, try to find a way to sit on the same side of the table as the other person.
Seek first the kingdom of God. If you’re members of the same body, serve on the same team, and are led by the same Master, find some common ground and stand on it together.
Resolve Conflict Without Casualties
Relationships determine success. Everything is personal because God is personal. It doesn’t matter who you are, human DNA is hardwired to take conflict and criticism personally. The good news is that you aren’t a prisoner of your innate nature.
Worthy leaders develop the art of conflict resolution without casualties. Remember that the sons of God are peacemakers and what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:18,
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
If You're Plagued By Conflict Today
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“He’s gone.” The news that my friend’s beloved dog passed away from a horrible accident is devastating. More to her than me, but my heart still twists with grief for my friend and her waggly buddy. Share the news with six people who never met my friend or her dog and the news won’t inspire even one skipped heartbeat.
The world is markedly different based on one’s experience. Children of the Great Depression, of Civil Rights, and veterans of Viet Nam may share a bus, a church, and a government, but they live in different worlds. Conflicts that arise among people are not based as much on ideology as they are on feelings.