While there is a “science” to managing conflict effectively, one can also see that there’s an “art” to it as well. Certainly every situation is different, and no amount of experience in this area guarantees your efforts will be free from setbacks. Resolving conflict effectively requires the best efforts of both parties—and God’s help as well. For this reason, each step should be pursued prayerfully and with a humble spirit.
1. Prepare yourself
Before you engage confrontation of any kind, take time to evaluate your own emotions and attitudes. While we can benefit from understanding the hurts and insecurities the other individual may be facing, we are not immune from such realities either. Many leaders have created large problems for themselves by not taking time to evaluate their own insecurities and past hurts.
Preparing yourself starts by exploring your emotions with questions like, “How do I feel about this person?” and “What has this situation caused me to feel about myself?” if we allow ourselves to be blind to the baggage we may be bringing into the situation, we will likely also be blind-sided by the result.
2. Meet together
After time of self-evaluation and preparation, meet with the individual as soon as possible. Remember that delay can allow conflict to grow into its deeper stages so don’t put off the need to meet together.
On occasion, the other party may not be ready for such a meeting. They may not want to speak to you. In such cases, clearly communicate your desire to meet when they are ready, and reiterate that desire consistently. Help them understand that allowing the conflict to linger isn’t healthy for either of you, your relationship, and the ministry you both serve or are involved in.
Don’t allow other people to handle your conflicts and don’t “gunny sack” them (stuff them inside your heart and allow them to continue growing over time). Deal with issues directly and in a timely manner. This habit will also teach others to do the same, as many people have unhealthy habits for dealing with other conflicts in their own lives.
3. Outline the issue
When you meet, describe your perception of the issue and allow the other party to do the same. You may discover that your conflict is primarily contained in a different view of what happened.
Take responsibility for your own feelings. Avoid judgment words like “You made me feel” or other ways of disassociating responsibility. When you take appropriate responsibility for your attitudes and actions, you encourage the other individual to do the same.
4. Encourage response
Once you have clearly communicated your view of the situation and your “terms” for resolution, give the other individual the opportunity to do the same. Be a good listener. Don’t be content with “saying your piece” and then ending the conversation. Good conflict resolution often requires careful and deliberate conversation.
If the other individual isn’t communicating their feelings or contributing to the discussion, reiterate the importance of resolution, both to you and to others who are affected by your conflict. Be patient but be determined to work things out.
5. Speak the truth with love and gentleness
When the other individual has failed in some way, identify the issue clearly, but without condemnation. Speaking in love means putting resolution and relationship ahead of victory. If you are harsh, you may discover that it’s possible to be right and still lose a relationship.
6. Write the action to be taken
In many cases, providing a written summary of the resolution can be helpful, particularly if one or both parties have agreed to take certain steps in that resolution. Certainly not every conflict requires a written understanding, but leaders should consider this option in settings where it can further cement their agreed upon action and behavior.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984 BY INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY®.
“Managing Conflict” is published by the National Women’s Department at www.women.ag.org. ©2020. Permission to reproduce is limited to personal use or within a teaching setting. All other forms of use are prohibited.