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Guidelines to Dealing with Conflict

by | Wed, May 22 2019

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Workplace conflict resolution

Whenever there are people together there is a good chance that, sooner or later, there will be conflict of some kind. It is not the end of the world; it is a sign of our “humanness”.

The issue is not that there is conflict but whether the conflict is resolved and how it is resolved. We need to look at the resolution of conflict as a growth opportunity both in our character and in our relationships. Unresolved conflict has the potential to become offence which can be a cancer in our lives and in our relationships.

There are two aspects of conflict resolution to explore and discuss.

  1. When we find ourselves in conflict with another person.
  2. When we are asked to be involved in the resolution of a conflict between two other people.

When we find ourselves in conflict with another person there is a number of steps and considerations towards a resolution.

1. Commit to owning the values of Matthew 18:15-17

    • “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
      But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or more witnesses every word may be established.’

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

  • While this instruction was directed by Jesus to a company of believers, the principles are applicable in a secular setting.
  • The critical and essential element is a determined commitment to the resolution of the conflict rather than a tendency towards seeing the conflict prolonged in the pursuit of a personal advantage.
  • Proverbs 26:20-21 – Where there is no wood, the fire goes out. And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood is to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

2. Monitor yourself

  • 1 Timothy 4:16 – Take heed to yourself and to your doctrine.
  • Watch your own life closely. Self-awareness is a great asset for a leader – the capacity to recognise and identify personal weaknesses and strengths.
  • Learn to discern which issues you cannot let be covered by sheer grace. If not dealt with, they can become rooted in your spirit and they must be addressed.
  • There are some issues that are not worth going to war about.
  • Proverbs 19:11 – The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger. And his glory is to overlook a transgression.
  • Proverbs 17:9 – He who covers a transgression seeks love. But he who repeats a matter separates friends.
Conflict resolution steps

3. Know how to confront

  • There is a difference between being willing and able to confront and resolve the issue and being confrontational.
  • Pray first and ask for God’s wisdom and an accurate picture of the issue. The problem may be with you.
  • Choose a good time. It is better to “let the dust settle” and allow the heat to go out of the situation. We often say things when we are angry that we regret later.
  • Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • The spoken word is like a sped arrow. Once loosed from the bow it cannot be returned to the quiver.
  • Don’t draw blood along the way with your words.
  • Consider how your response will impact on the other person.
  • Go gently. Most people defend against an attack.
  • Affirm the relationship. “We have known one another for a long time.”
  • Don’t assume infallibility. “I could be wrong on my perception.”

4. Be solution oriented

  • The goal is resolution and reconciliation not retribution or retaliation.
  • Try to get agreement on a desired outcome and then reach agreement on a strategy or a process to deal with the issue.

5. Focus on the issue, not the person

  • Don’t attack the person; deal with the issue. As previously stated, most people react defensively against an attack.
  • Deal with one issue at a time.
  • Don’t switch issues on the other person.
  • Make sure “the issue stays the issue”.

6. Use the “mirror technique”

  • Reflect back – “Is what you’re saying……….?”
  • We often hear one another through the filters of our life experience, pain and previous conflict.

7. Listen!

  • Listen! Listen! Listen!
  • Listen to understand what the other person is hearing from us.
  • Communication is not what I say: it is what you hear.
  • Too often we are impatient for the other person to finish talking so that we can have our say.

8. Be open to agree to disagree

  • Some disputes are not a matter of sin or righteousness; just a different opinion or perspective or a matter of personal taste.
  • There is not always a right or wrong; it is possible to have “and” rather than “either/or”.
  • Be willing to disagree and leave it.

9. Remember – You cannot “out logic” emotion

  • People sometimes have such a high level of emotional involvement in a situation that they are unlikely to respond in a logical or reasonable way.
  • It is better to walk away and approach the situation at another time. When the level of emotion is not so high.

10. Respect and preserve people’s dignity

  • Always leave the door open for future contact.
  • It is possible to win the fight and lose a friend.

11. Be gracious when others confront you

  • Don’t let defensiveness be your default.
  • That is not a licence for people to vent on you or abuse you or your relationship.
  • Let people say what is on their heart.

12. Be committed to follow-up

  • Some conflicts cut deeply.
  • Be intentional about investing time to rebuild relationship.
  • Forgiveness is the first step but trust takes time to rebuild.

If asked to help in the resolution of a conflict involving other people, the following might be useful.

1. Redirect others

  • If a person comes to you with a conflict, ask them if they have approached the offender.
  • If not, encourage them to do so. (Matthew 18 principle).
  • Don’t be tempted to be flattered or feel important if asked to help in conflict resolution.

2. Identify the issues

  • Get the facts if you are asked to be involved.
  • Do not jump to conclusions or make hasty judgments.
  • Proverbs 18:17 – The first to plead his case seems right until his neighbour comes and examines him.
  • Even when all the information is presented, it is important to not take sides.
  • Pray that justice and equity may prevail.

In conclusion, we benefit from considering the words of 1 Peter 2:21-23 – For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”, who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.