Conflict – Why is it so difficult?
In my daily work, I get the opportunity frequently to discuss and provide counsel on conflict. Specific to my coaching and consulting business, one of the primary value adds my clients say I bring is an ability to get them to “open up and talk” and, in some cases, “have the difficult conversations”. I’ve heard comments to the effect that you’ve helped us have conversations we should have had years ago. In the business community, these conversations are normally tied to a financial impact which in many cases has been quantified to be thousands of dollars worth of impact and, in one CFO’s words, “priceless”!
Beyond business, I get the opportunity to have similar conversation with individuals having marriage challenges, teen having friend challenges, and various other relationships. Candidly, “priceless” is how I would equate many of these conversations as there is great satisfaction in aiding others in the restoration of relationships.
How do I normally approach these conversations? Well, its actually pretty simple and it’s biblical.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 ESV)
So, God’s formula for conflict resolution is:
1) go one-on-one,
2) take a friend, &
3) go to the church.
Now, not all conflict is “sinful”; however, the principles still apply. It’s also important to note that conflict is normally suppressed and the “fear of conflict” is what’s truly causing issues in the relationship.
I’m normally coming into the situation at step #2, however, what always amazes me is how few times step #1 has been completed. Yes, many will go “gossip” with their friends, colleagues, or others, however, will never approach the person upfront to discuss the issue. Or, with today’s technology, they will email or text, however, never have a face-to-face conversation. Even if they do sit face-to-face, they don’t bring authenticity and candor to the conversation. In some situations, it’s more about getting one’s point across and proving their right versus “seeking to understand” the other person. We approach these conversations as if there must be a winner and loser rather than looking for the win-win.
Another useful tool that I use with people is personality profiling. While there are several different types out there, they all normally are based fundamentally on four primary personality types. Using my wife, Lisa, and I as an example, our personality profiles are direct opposites. So, out of the gate, we’re set up to experience conflict. Early on in marriage, this causes some challenges, however, over 20+ years, we now see this as a blessing as we balance each other out. The point being, God has gifted us all differently and no one person is better than another. When we look at it through this lens, it brings a different prospective to things.
So, why is it so difficult? Well, I’m not trying to be trite and make light of serious relational challenges, however, it’s really not that difficult. It’s the two parties involved “choosing” to make it difficult versus “choosing” to work it out.
If you are one of these more challenging situation, than you do likely need to move on to step #2. However, keep in mind that all someone like myself is going to do in step #2 is help you to redo step #1 well. Now, that might come with a cost, however, as some have said, it may be “priceless”.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 ESV)