Have you ever initiated a conversation to work through a conflict with someone? How did it go?
Summary: Initially it is best to approach a person with whom you’re having conflict one-on-one (Matthew 18:15-18). If you’re aware that someone is angry with you, you should take the initiative to resolve the conflict (Matthew 5:21-26). This session will give you a strategy for talking to someone with whom you’re having a conflict.
There are wise and effective ways to confront others.
Go over the facts:
- Always start by stating the relevant facts.
- Don’t express how you interpret anything or how you feel about it (yet).
- It’s usually best to address a pattern of behavior with someone rather than a one-time, isolated incident. We all have low moments, and we should seek to believe the best about others.
- Example: “Hey, do you have a few minutes to talk? Earlier today you said you would email the group by 5pm, but that didn’t happen, right?
- Don’t use words like “always” and “never” (“You always do this!”). Instead, be as specific as you can, “You’ve done this five times in the last few days.”
Explain how you interpret the facts:
- With the facts agreed upon, share your interpretation of the facts, and then clearly communicate the problem.
- Be careful to not judge the motives behind someone’s statements or actions. This can be quite hurtful. Don’t say, “I think you’re looking me in the eye and lying to my face!”
- Example: “There seems to be a pattern of you not following through on the things you say you will do. This makes it hard for me to take you at your word and trust what you say.”
Share how you feel about what happened:
- Once the facts are stated, and they know how you interpret the facts, and they know the problem you have, you can now share how you feel about what happened.
- Use I statements: “I felt insulted when you said I was a fool.”
- Example: “That’s really frustrating, because I’m counting on you to do these things. I feel disrespected and I don’t observe that it bothers you when you don’t follow through.”
Seek to understand what happened and why:
- This can’t be a monologue. You must hear from the other person and seek to understand what has happened and why it happened.
- Seeking to understand makes the conversation easier and helps you to have an open mind to other perspectives on what has happened.
- It can take a lot of the tension and anger out of the conversation.
- Example: “I want to understand why these things aren’t getting done. Why you will say something will be done by a certain time, and then it doesn’t happen. I want to know if this bothers you or if you see a problem with it.”
Express your desire:
- Make it clear what you wish were true. Offer specific actions for the future. What are you asking the person to do? What are you pledging to do?
- If appropriate, you may also want to discuss consequences if nothing changes.
- Sometimes people just aren’t going to change. It’s healthy to be able to accept that someone may never be who you want them to be or do what you want them to do. Conflict resolution isn’t about trying to control and manipulate others.
- Example: “I didn’t realize you had a family emergency this afternoon. Next time I’d like you to let me know when you need help. What do you think about getting together to see if there are some things we can put in place to help you stay focused?”
Respond graciously when others confront you.
- Listen and be open to what others tell you.
- Don’t be in a hurry to get out of the conversation.
- Don’t be defensive.
- Don’t take this conversation as an opportunity to bring up a complaint you have about them. You can do that after this conflict is resolved, unless your unresolved conflict is contributing to this specific conflict.
- Example: “Thank you for having the courage to bring this up with me. Is there anything else that’s bothering you?”
- You may not have intended to upset or hurt someone, but they’ve felt it, so it is valid and real.
- Be humble. The goal isn’t to be right. The goal is to experience unity and love.
- Example: “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I didn’t intend to, but I did. Will you forgive me?”
Seek to understand:
- Seek to understand what caused the perceived conflict.
- Example: “How can I help you feel more respected and loved? What is your love language?”
Seek to grow:
- No matter how much you feel you haven’t done anything wrong, assume that there is always some truth in what is shared with you. Ask others who know you what they think, but not as a means to gossip or justify yourself.
- Pray and ask God to help you take away at least one way you can grow in love, responsibility, unity and humility.
- If appropriate, offer to be held accountable.
Discuss: What do you like about these principles and what do you find difficult or confusing?
Role Play: Take a few minutes and have two people take turns role playing a conversation about a conflict of your choosing. Debrief the conversation after each pair has their turn.
Pray: In light of what we’ve discussed, how can we pray for each other right now?
Since we last met, what happened as a result of expressing Christ’s love to others?
If you know of someone who is angry with you, talk to them this week and see if you can resolve the conflict. (Remember you can’t make others forgive you. If you sincerely try to resolve a conflict but they are still angry with you, you have still fulfilled Romans 12:18.)
If you are angry with someone and the conflict needs to be resolved, talk with them this week and seek to resolve your conflict.