DEALING WITH CONFLICT
The Critical Factor
by Jeff E. Zhorne et al
"Blessed be the God who comforts us...that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble"
One person I knew has the habit of avoiding conflict at virtually any price. He feels anxious and uncomfortable about friction and does not want to rock the boat. Yet conflicts should be resolved, not denied or suppressed: "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed" (Prov.27:5, NKJV). There's a good reason: "Today's problems, left unresolved, often cause tomorrow's conflicts," writes Thomas Gordon, founder of a business advisory service called Effectiveness Training Inc..
Conflict not confronted can ultimately kill a relationship. Unresolved conflict allows resentment to build up, bad moods to affect others not directly involved and hostility to set in. "The critical factor in any relationship," Dr.Gordon notes, "is how the conflict gets resolved." How these conflicts are resolved, he adds, "is the most critical factor in determining whether a relationship will be healthy or unhealthy, mutually satisfying or unsatisfying, friendly or unfriendly, deep or shallow, intimate or cold." By applying biblical principles and by taking a compassionate problem-solving approach, we can resolve (or even prevent) interpersonal conflicts.
The apostle Paul summarised these principles when he wrote to the church at Thessalonica: "...be patient with all. See that noone renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all" (1 Thess.5:14-15, NKJV).
When you have to approach another person to resolve a difficulty, pray about it first and try to pick the proper moment. Then determine to listen actively. This will communicate your acceptance and understanding of his or her feelings. It will show that you are eager to solve the conflict together. Only then will the other person be willing to understand your feelings.
Try and obtain the mastery over conflict. Resolve conflict by taking a Christian approach. By doing so you will fortify your relationships with others and draw together into a closer, stronger union.
Stop Before You Start!
by George M. Kackos
"You promised to clean up the garage. Why are you watching television?" she asked? "I've been busy at work all day. You clean it up!" he retorted.
Does that sound familiar? Words like these can lead to a major argument. When it is over, little is accomplished, but alot of damage is done. Both parties feel hurt. Critical put-downs cut deeply. The garage does not get cleaned up until after the apologies.
Arguments like this can easily take place. Disagreements over responsibilities, beliefs or money can quickly erupt into arguments. Once an argument begins, it is often difficult to stop: "The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts" (Prov.17:14, NKJV).
We can see the warning signs of impending arguments and take action to avoid them. Here are some tips for preventing arguments:
Should You Intervene?
by Michael Morrison
¤ Beware of accusations. Saying something accusative or demanding can put people on the defensive and cause them to strike back. In most cases, neither demands nor accusations accomplish anything.
¤ Say something nice. During tense moments this can soften someone's angry feelings. A lot of anger can be defused by showing concern, understanding or appreciation and by apologising.
¤ Listen patiently. Letting others talk out their feelings can help them control these feelings.
¤ Remain calm and avoid being too critical. Instead, be tolerant and careful not to force your beliefs on others.
¤ Leave a hot matter for later. Taking time to cool off can create a better atmosphere for resolving differences. Getting into arguments is easy. Avoiding them takes self-control. However, it is worth the effort to try. "It is honourable for a man (or a woman) to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel" (Prov.20:3).
Some people tend to be "fixers". If they see a problem, they want to fix it. If they see a conflict, they want to referee it -- even if the quarreling people do not want them to.
These individuals may have good motives, but their intervention in the affairs of others is often foolish and ineffective.
"Getting involved in an argument that is none of your business is like going down the street and grabbing a dog by the ears" (Prov.26:17, TEV).
You cannot let go of an angry dog without being bitten. You may not be able to leave the argument without being hurt. Also you may make a new enemy.
Meddling may also cover up a problem rather than actually solve it. The out-voted side may back down because continuing in the argument seems useless. He or she is not receiving a fair and balanced hearing.
At that point, a conflict may appear to be resolved, but disagreement usually still exists in the mind and heart of the out-voted party. It will not be resolved until discussed fairly by both parties.
Although it generally is not wise to meddle, as the proverb points out, this principle is not an iron-clad law against helping others.
Quarrellers may need outside help -- perhaps to control emotions, to prevent violence or to resolve long-simmering problems. Yet outside help works best when it is requested and when it is impartial.
Real peace is only possible when quarrellers deal with hurt feelings as well as what led to those feelings. Even an outside negociator cannot do that for them.
However, a skilful counsellor can encourage quarrellers to communicate well with each other rather than talk at or about each other.
What Do You Think?
by Brynda Chalaris
When you are asked to give your opinion, how can you be honest without hurting people and causing conflict?
Before you say a word, listen to exactly what the other person is asking. The person may want:
We need to recognise the difference in such questions. For example, do not give your advice when reassurance is what is expected.
¤ To know your personal preference. (For example: "Which colour do you like best for the curtains?"
¤ Your validation or reassurance. ("What do you think of my new tie?")
¤ Your advice on something he or she has done, or a course of action. ("What do you think is the best way to handle this?")
Personal preference and validation are the easiest to offer tactfully. You can be considerate and honest at the same time.
Your preference of upholstery colour is not crucial, but may give a friend the help needed to make the final selection.
Likewise, your friend with the new tie wants to hear that you like it. Even if it is not the tie you would have chosen, perhaps you can compliment on his individual style.
However, giving an opinion when asked for advice takes more time and thought -- and demands more tact.
Think through the question. Ask yourself if you have the facts needed to offer a helpful opinion. If you need more information, ask questions. Get the facts before stating your opinion.
Think through your response. If you need more time or feel pressured, tell the person you need to think about it further.
The fact that you have taken time shows that you take the problem, and the other person, seriously. This, in itself, is tact.
Never be afraid to say you are not qualified to give an opinion if you are not.
If you have throught through the facts and have formed your opinion, then state it as specifically and constructively as possible. Do not make the other person feel foolish. Instead, be tactful, showing how and why you feel as you do.
This page was created on 15 April 1998
Last updated on 15 April 1998