Did you see yourself in any of the conflict styles I described last week? If you are honest with yourself, you identified with one or two ways you tend to handle conflict. None of them were very healthy, and the reality is, unless we work at it, we can fall into negative patterns easily. We are, after all, human!
As I mentioned, Jesus gives us a great model for better ways of confronting challenging situations. I’ve summarized His approach in a Don’t/Do scenario. Here’s what I came up with:
- Don’t assume. Do ask questions. Jesus was all knowing, yet, He chose to ask questions of people to allow them the opportunity to share how they were feeling. When Jesus was faced with adversaries who wanted to kill Him, He would turn right around and ask a question of them. He deflected rather than participated in the bait. Some people want to argue with you.
- Don’t focus on the negative. Do concentrate on the positive. Here’s a man who saw the worst of people; yet Jesus celebrated their goodness. He could have buried sinners, but He healed them physically and spiritually. We can easily pick each other apart but why not look for the good in them?
- Don’t listen to the words. Do hear what they are saying. Did you catch that difference? We can listen but never hear a person’s heart. Jesus looked deep within a person’s soul and saw their heart. Many an argument begins because one party does not feel understood. Seek first to understand and get to the heart of the matter.
- Don’t be passive or aggressive. Do be assertive. Jesus knew when to stand firm and speak up. He didn’t play games or expect others to figure out what He was thinking. Nope, He spoke directly and clearly. Getting mad at someone who doesn’t know what you want is a recipe for disaster! Prevent conflict by being assertive and voicing your concerns kindly and lovingly. NOTE: Assertive is not a bad word!
- Don’t use “you” statements. Do use “I” statements. When communicating, keep the emphasis on your thoughts and feelings. As soon as we enter the “you” phase, we begin pointing fingers of blame and accusations, heating up the discussion. Jesus repeating spoke of Himself and put attention on His side of the fence. “I am the way and the turth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV
- Don’t bring up past issues. Do focus on the issues at hand. Once we accept Jesus into our lives, He never brings up the past. He stays in the present. We would be prudent to follow His example with each other. Of course we have hurts from the past, but stick to the current discussion. Today has enough worry of its own!
- Don’t concentrate on the person. Do concentrate on the issue. Jesus dealt with people’s sin. He could condemn the behavior but still love the person. In the middle of an emotionally charged conversation, we can lose sight of the goal: resolution. We can get stuck in those unhealthy approaches to conflict. If you find yourself slipping, take a deep breath and get back on track.
- Don’t blame others. Do accept blame. In other words, own your side of the street! Conflict takes two people, and you will never resolve it if you aren’t able to see your role in it. Jesus was never concerned about how people got where they were; He simply wanted them to have freedom from their bondage through Him.
- Don’t try to win. Do go for the win-win! If you approach every conflict from a dysfunctional standpoint, you will want to conquer and defeat your enemy…win at any cost. The problem is your loved ones are NOT your enemy! You are fighting the wrong person. Satan is the great manipulator, and he can contort and pervert things beyond recognition. All of Jesus’s promises to us are win-win. He wants us all to be with Him, and when we are in a relationship with Him, He blesses us.
- Don’t fix the person. Do seek solutions. I mentioned last week how Jesus was all about solutions, but He didn’t force Himself on others. No one wants to be fixed, but everyone wants to be loved. Don’t stop at resolving the issues but strive for reconciliation. True healing and growth comes when we sincerely apologize, ask for forgiveness, and change our behavior.
Whatever your conflict style, these 10 strategies can help move you from exasperation to empathy. Remember, Jesus IS the solution to our sin, and He can help us with our conflicts. If you didn’t get a copy of my Leveraging Your Communication Style, book last week, I suggest you get one now. You can also take a complete assessment and get a comprehensive report on your communication and conflict style with a coaching session with me.