Resolving Conflicts and Confrontations
Conflict and Confrontation
Contrary to popular belief, conflict isn't necessarily bad. In fact, it can be a great way to strengthen relationship and solve problems. Conflict can be a painful experience because it causes us to become angry, fearful and face emotions we would rather avoid. It brings out anger, fear, and anxiety.
Conflict is a natural part of our imperfect world. For example, we even see creative constructive conflict in the Scriptures. The apostle Paul wrote many letters specifically addressing conflict in the church; without conflict, those letters of the New Testament might never have been written.
Problems can be creatively solved by merging points of view of all sides. Both sides can learn to appreciate, understand, and accept others points of view. Relationships can be strengthened as we begin to understand how to manage conflict constructively.
When we generalize our problems, people have a hard time understanding. But when we become more specific, people have something concrete to deal with. Whether others agree with you or not, being specific can help manage the level of conflict.
Rules of Confrontation
The problem most have is knowing how to differentiate major issues from minor ones. Conflict sometimes gets out of control because some tend to make mountains out of mole hills. Life is too short to be stressing out over unimportant problems.
Furthermore, when focusing on small issues, real problems are left unattended. For example, a couple get argue when the husband fails to take out the garbage. The garbage is a minor issue, and is only a symptom of the real problem. The husband may feel his wife is bullying him around by nagging about the garbage. Could it be the real issue is he feels like he's being treated like a child? He may unconsciously see his wife assuming a parental role where he becomes the child.
On the other hand, the wife harps about garbage, but never talks about the real issue. Perhaps she feels her husband doesn't value her needs. Not only in the kitchen, but in other aspects of their marriage as well. The issue isn't garbage, but ignored feelings and unmet emotional needs. Until they get in touch with the real issues, they will continue arguing over minute problems.
Groups also often get bogged down in trivial matters. Churches, businesses, and families sometimes become involved in huge arguments. Why? Because there is a hidden issue everyone fails to recognize consciously. Or because there is an issue everyone knows about, but dreads to discuss. For such conflicts to be resolved, someone must have the wisdom to recognize the real issue.
When disputes arise, confront them as soon as possible. The longer one waits, the more unmanageable it becomes. Time tends to magnify problems. In times of conflict, people want to make a strong case in their defense. They dig up past problems and character issues and the real problem never gets resolved. Often, neither side can remember what started the argument.
When trying to solve a problem don't use words such as “always” and “never.” It would have been better to say something like, “I was disappointed with the way you cleaned the garage yesterday. You left a pile of trash in the corner.” These type of generalizations can cause defenses to go up. However, if you make specific statements, people are often able to be more objective by reflecting on the issue at hand. Keep conflicts focused on issues, not personalities. Avoid behavior or comments putting others on the defensive.
Some will mask their feelings with intellectual sounding theories: “I think you are projecting your hostilities on to my behavior.” Intellectualizing is a form of denial.
Expressing our true feelings means we make ourselves vulnerable to others.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in times of conflict is being seen as patronizing and condescending, whether intended or not. Put yourself in the other person's place. If you must confront another, imagine how you would feel in the same situation. Concentrate on what they are actually saying, while also making an attempt to understand their feelings. Seek to be responsive to others issues and emotions. When someone speaks, truly listen, don't just think about a point you want to formulate. Listen reflectively by mirroring back what another says to you, restating their feelings in your own words: “I hear you saying you are angry because you feel it wasn't right to frivolously spend money when our budget is so limited.” This serves two purposes:
It helps others feel they have been heard.
It helps you to understand others thoughts and feelings.
Of course, addressing problems should never be done publicly where it could cause someone embarrassment. Seek growth, not intimidation, where both sides can be winners. In any conflict, the only real winners are those who learned how to manage conflict. When we approach conflict with courage, honesty, and love for our adversary, conflict is no longer our enemy. It becomes our ally.