The last couple of weeks, in my coaching and personal interactions with various people, I have heard about lots of personal and team conflicts going on that are causing a fair amount of pain and disruption to fruitful ministry.
Author Patrick Lencioni says, “The bottom line is having a team which can demonstrate trust, engage in conflict, commit to group decisions, hold their peers accountable, and focus on the results of the team, not their own egos. I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real.”
Knowing how to deal openly and honestly with conflict with coworkers, friends and family is critical to good leadership.
Here are a few practical ideas in dealing with conflict:
1. Do It Now
The single hardest thing to do in dealing with conflict is to do it now. You can always convince yourself that now is not the right time. When it comes to dealing with a conflict no time ever seems to be the right time, so you can procrastinate forever. There are people who have not spoken to each other in years due to a conflict that was swept under the proverbial carpet. Don’t wait! Do it now. Time does not automatically heal things and waiting too long to take the initiative and act can actually increase the chances of bitterness and resentment that can fester for years
2. Do It With Research
He who jumps to conclusions has a bad landing. Do your homework. Think about what you have seen or heard. Pray. Let scripture speak into your thought processes. Seek godly counsel. Don’t rush to judgment. Be ready to be wrong and eat humble pie if it becomes clear you have been in error or have incomplete or inaccurate information. Take your time--but don’t take too much time!
3. Do It With Courage
“Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT)
I think this verse is telling us to go with our convictions given to us by the Holy Spirit by being courageous and strong in a loving way (we’ll get to the loving part in a minute) as you deal with people over a conflict you are experiencing. I don’t know about you, but I need Holy Spirit empowered courage to confront people when it is called for and not run from it. Running is my natural/sinful default mode.
4. Do It With Honesty
Don’t dance around the issue. Don’t soft-peddle it or water it down. Speak the honest truth, the whole truth--even the parts that may hurt. Honesty is still the best policy. My responsibility is to tell the truth as I perceive it, not to hide the truth or white-wash it in the name of “love.” Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to “speak the truth in love.” Let’s not be so truthful that we are unloving and not so loving that we are untruthful, but truthful and loving. It’s not easy, but it is essential.
5. Do It With Humility
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
This verse speaks to me of humility in confronting another person with whom you are in conflict over something that has been said or done. Coming into conflict resolution talk with a deep sense of humility surely helps, but doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, and a sense of pride surely hurts the prospects of a positive outcome. Thinking about what Jesus did for you and me by resolving the conflict created by our sin should keep us humble as we approach others with whom we are in conflict.
6. Do It With Love
The bottom line in trying to resolve a conflict with people is the fact that you really and genuinely love them and desire the best for them. Your actions must come from a heart of love, not a heart of anger, a heart of hurt or a heart of revenge. It’s true that God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way. This should be our attitude toward those God has put in our world: By his grace we love them as they are, but we love them too much to leave them that way.
Back to 1 Corinthians 16:13: “…and everything you do must be done with love.” It’s love that should motivate us to move toward the difficult conversation. It’s not really love that motivates us to run from the difficult conversation.
Fellow leader, honestly, how are you doing? Is there someone in your team, in your circle of friends or in your family that you need to approach and have a courageous, honest, loving and humble conversation with?