I’ve seen a lot of conflict in my life. From parents and couples in my office for counseling to employment situations where two people can’t get along. I’ve even seen a fight in the grocery store because someone thought someone else cut line. And I’ve been to more than one church business meeting gone bad. Along the way, I’ve often thought there must be better ways to approach conflict.
I’ve learned a few things about facing conflict. Primarily, I’ve observed the way one person responds often determines the way the other person responds. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
When you are backed into a corner and facing potential conflict you have a choice. You can come out fighting or you can be smart, plan your response, and help turn the situation for good.
I have concluded, therefore, that the secrets of facing the fire of conflict should be elementary.
3 elementary ways to approach conflict:
Stop and think.
- What is the best approach?
- What do you really want to accomplish?
- Based on your time to reflect – how should you respond?
The opening moments are always critical in any conflict. You can quickly back someone or yourself into a corner. Cornered people move into a self-protection mode, fail to react rationally, and the sense of what’s best is lost.
It requires practice, but take adequate time to plan the best way to approach the other party. It may require you being silent when your prone to speak, but this one step often avoids much of the unnecessary and unproductive conflict. (As an example, Jesus took time to make a whip before driving the money changers out of the temple. John 2. I shared how I do this in my book The Mythical Leader.)
Drop the right to win. That’s hard, but if you want the conflict to be resolved you have to start with the attitude that you want the best resolution – even if you don’t get everything you want in the outcome.
When you come into a potential fiery situation with a have-to-win attitude you cloud your ability to work for the best results. Self-centeredness always gets in the way of healthy conflict. Be humble and agree you are going to do what is best, even if that means you don’t get your way.
This doesn’t mean you give in to the other party, but the goal in conflict should not be to win personally, but to reach the best solution for everyone.
Roll out the best approach to the conflict. Use the appropriate strategy, skills and temperament to resolve the conflict. This means you hold your temper, watch your words, and value the other person’s viewpoint.
I realize it takes two or more people to make this happen, but when one party is willing to do the first two it makes accomplishing the best so much more likely.
Go into every potential conflict with a humble desire for the best solution to be accomplished. I believe this will help in family relationship, work environments, and even on social media.
Stop, drop and roll.
Try it next time you are facing conflict.