Sometimes when we grow up in conflict, we avoid it at all costs. I’ll never forget the day I realized that conflict isn’t a bad thing.
That conflict is normal.
Really. Seriously. Normal people have conflict. Normal situations produce conflict. It’s something that we all face.
It’s how we handle it that is key.
How we handle conflict has the power to change the direction of a conversation. It can deepen or weaken a relationship. It can resolve or repair a problem, or it can ruin any chances of compromise or resolution.
Are you struggling with conflict today?
Here are three things that have the power to turn unhealthy conflict to healthy resolution.
Determine the motivation
Is this malicious or a misunderstanding?
What is their side of this issue?
Why do they feel the way they do?
Have I truly listened?
What are they trying to say?
If it’s malicious, then I don’t engage. It won’t help. Walking away is a healthy response. You can’t make someone else play nice. You have no control over anything, but your response. If it’s a mistake or a misunderstanding, you have an opportunity to work it through until you understand, or are able to work through a compromise.
Do listen. Do sort through what was said. Do clarify what you believe they said. Do ask if there is a workable solution or compromise.
Find power in the pause
Wait for a moment — or two — before responding.
Pray about it. Invite God in the midst of your hurt or anger.
The power of the pause allows your brain to catch up with your emotions. It helps you to see the person standing in front of you. It allows you to pray.
It doesn’t have to be a lot of words. “God, help me,” is a powerful whisper when you don’t know what to do.
Keep it in the “fair” zone
Don’t accuse — you always, you never, you don’t, you make me. . .
Don’t say hurtful things that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Consider the “fair” zone as a place where real dialogue can take place. Instead of “you always,” the words might be, “I feel hurt when.” This allows you to explain in a way that shares your heart, not the heat of your anger.
Consider the “fair” zone as a place where the good is not overlooked.
Affirm, even as you work through conflict. Instead of, “You are the world’s worst,” the words might be, “I love how you do this and it makes me feel safe, but when this happens it hurts. What can we do together to make this better?”
Oh, Suzie, who says that?
Place yourself in their shoes for a moment. Hear the words as if spoken to you. Which would you rather hear? Which allows you the opportunity to respond rather than react?
Consider the “fair” zone as a place where you might not see it the same way. Maybe you’ve listened. You’ve talked it through, and you still both see it differently. Is it okay to love each other and see things differently on a few issues? Is there room for respect for a difference of opinion?
When you disagree on the big stuff, you may have to continue to work through until you find compromise. You might even need an impartial and godly counselor to give you some great tools. But on the little stuff, or the stuff that seems big but really isn’t in the overall picture, there are times when you aren’t going to see it the same way and that’s okay.
Over the years I learned not to be afraid of conflict, but to walk into it with a heart to find peace with those I love. Sometimes it’s a little messy as we figure it all out. Sometimes I grow through it as I see another person’s perspective. And then there are those times that it leads us to a deeper relationship because we’ve worked through the hard stuff to really listen to each other.
I’d love to pray with you if you are in the midst of conflict. I don’t promise to have all the answers (because I don’t), but I can absolutely join you in asking the One who does to help.