Leadership and Conflict…It’s going to happen.

Leadership and Conflict…It’s going to happen.

Rick Clapp

I know that some of you break into hives and get the shakes when you hear the word “conflict”.  When you think of someone being upset with you, your heart rate goes up, the adrenaline starts pumping and you’re on high alert.

Personally,  I don’t  mind conflict with another person. I have started to accept that it is going to be a part of my life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not pleasant to feel like there is a disconnect with my wife, friend, colleague, or child.  I am usually a happy, positive person. I like to be in surroundings where there is peace, love, and contentment.  Nonetheless, I have chosen to acknowledge that conflict is going to happen from time to time in my life.  Instead of fearing it, I am trying to get better and better at attacking it.

Because we are human, we have preferences, opinions, and a past.  All of those ingredients collide from time to time in our homes, in the work place, and definitely within leadership.  Sometimes this collision causes pain, stress, and hurt.  I found early in my life and career that I wasn’t really prepared for the heartache that comes with conflict.  I’ve since  read tons of books and try to practice genuine care in hard situations.  I haven’t always received the outcome that I had hoped for, but I hope some of these thoughts are helpful for you in your current reality.

When conflict arises, I believe it is up to the leader to lead and help others experience resolution in the relationship.

Handling conflict is experienced in two facets: principle and process.  The principle in which we handle conflict is always the same for the person of faith: Matthew 18:15-17.  If you are not a person of faith, I still believe these wisdom principles will help you in your life, friendships, and work place.

In the book of Matthew, we have been given a process on how to live out a biblical principle.  This  truth is what guides us and helps us as leaders, parents, and friends.  According to the Scripture, after we experience conflict or disagreement we:

  1. Go to the person privately and talk with them sharing our hurt and the offense.
  2. If unsuccessful in resolving the conflict one-on-one, scripture encourages us to take another person to the meeting to help, and  possibly confirm, mediate, and resolve the offense.
  3. If resolution still has not taken place, take it to the church and church leadership (in the work force this would be your supervisor, HR representative, or whatever level of leadership has been established in your place of work).
  4. If resolution still has not taken place after the above leadership has decided what is right, treat the person as a corrupt (hard-hearted, stiff-necked, or un-teachable) person. (Yikes!)

I know this sounds so simple; a cut-and-dry approach.  It may also seem harsh. But remember, it is a process based on wisdom from our Creator.

Here are some things to consider to help bring about a resolution.

Conflict is Accumulative.  That is, when a person is expressing hurt feelings, it is a compilation of many hurts from the past.  These hurts accumulate and intensify the emotions they are experiencing. Knowing this may enable you to approach the meeting with more grace towards the individual and not to take everything that has been said personally.  This also helps us have a level of trust with one another.  This perspective helps me have compassion.  Life is hard.  Sometimes we just need someone else to acknowledge our emotions.

Listen.  Listen to what they are saying by asking the question in your mind, “Why are they saying what they are saying to me?”  I have found that it is helpful to try and understand why a person is hurt. What are they trying to express through their hurt and why are they so upset?  Allow the person to be heard and understood.  Remember, conflict is accumulative. There is always more to the story, more assumptions, and more information to be revealed.  Finding out more helps fill in the blanks to understanding the why.

Think Critically.  Process in your mind what they are saying to you, how they speak to you, and how you are to speak to them.  Take time to process what is said to gain understanding on how to approach them in the future.  Thinking is somewhat of a “lost art.”  This is an opportunity for depth and growth in the relationship.  It’s a gift to be known by another human being. Take time to think critically about what is going on and understand their feelings and emotions.

Follow-up and Resolve.  Apologize when necessary and ask for forgiveness.  State the hurt and not the anger. Affirm the relationship.  Remember, resolving is not an event, but a process.  Follow-up by contacting the individual after a few days or so and affirming them and the value of the relationship that you have with them.  Trust is rebuilt as affirmation and time have taken place in the relationship.  Obviously, you may come to an impasse and “agree to disagree.” Sometimes the relationship is toxic and should no longer continue.   Use wisdom and the counsel of trusted friendships to help you navigate through what you should do.

Often, you’ll find there are three types of viewpoints to understand in resolving conflict.  Most people fall into one of these preferences.  Knowing this will guide you in the “timing” of helping yourself and others reconcile.

This topic is always entertaining for my wife and I, because (of course) we are opposites! We have to come up with a way that works for both of us, and you may need to do the same with those you work with or lead.  It’s good to know these preferences…

Instant Resolver. Those who want to resolve conflict instantly and talk about the relationship right away.  There is a need to have the relationship the way it was and at peace.  The sooner the better in finding a resolution.  There is an inability to handle ambiguity and disagreement.  They have to talk NOW.

Eventual Resolver.  Those who need time to think about what has just happened and desire to process before they communicate their thoughts or position.  There is a need to understand what has just taken place in order to resolve the relationship. The eventual resolver will eventually get around to talking about the relationship.  They can handle ambiguity and will find a time to talk when they are ready….eventually.

Never Resolver.  Those who, after conflict, will not resolve the relationship.  There is an inability to have a relationship after a disagreement or there is no care to continue the relationship.  Never resolver’s do not want the relationship anymore or are not willing to reengage.   In this case conversations cease.  The individual dissolves the relationship.  It’s unfinished and will probably never get ironed out.

In case you were wondering, in my marriage, my wife is an instant resolver and I am an eventual resolver.  You can guess how that goes if we don’t work at it….

I know it’s not  pleasant if there isn’t harmony in relationships.  I hope these thoughts help you in your leadership and in your life.

It’s my heart and passion to help leaders live out their callings and thrive.  I want to be one of those leaders too. I believe that your best days are before you.  We all need a little coaching, encouragement, wisdom, and help.  We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own.  We need each other.  It’s time to thrive.  Let’s do it together.  You are not alone.

 

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