Conflict is something I’ve never enjoyed (contrary to what some may think). There are times when I think, “If I just ignore it, it will solve itself and go away.” That hardly ever happens! In fact, it usually gets worse! Why? Because conflict has so much to do with communication and giving it more time increases the chances of more confusion and frustration.
My problem is that, too often, I view conflict as confrontation rather than clarification. Here are five principles that can help us bring clarity to conflicts.
- Start with yourself. Yes, you may be wrong! Jesus warns us about the log in our own eyes, while we try to get the speck out of someone else’s eye (Matthew 7). To assume you are not part of the problem is part of the problem. Begin by examining your own attitudes and actions.
- See it from their perspective. Conflict stems from a difference of opinion. We all have our own take on the issue. That’s why it is helpful to see it from their point of view as much as you can. Someone said to ask yourself, “What is it like to be on the other side of you?”
- Set an appointment. Don’t talk yourself into delaying a meeting. It’s hard to face conflict and it is easy to tell ourselves it is not the “right time.” But delaying the meeting is often what leads to getting caught talking about someone rather than talking to someone! Going to that person is the right thing to do and the right time is as soon as possible! (See Matthew 18:15 and Ephesians 4:26).
- Seek the facts. I have two terrible tendencies: To blame and to assume the worst; both sabotage understanding. Focus on explaining, not blaming. Ask questions, rather than defend your position. Listen. Find out the facts. Rather than thinking they have “evil” intentions, give people grace! Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to “speak the truth in love.” Be careful how you come across.
- Stay friends. Even if you agree to disagree, stay in relationship. I know there are times when that isn’t possible. Those should be exceptions, not the pattern. I love Paul’s words when he says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18 (ESV).
BEFORE YOU GO
What other ways can we bring clarity to conflict? How are you handling conflict in your life?