As I begin this series on resolving conflict I would like to make an important point. Conflict is a natural, and life-giving part of life. It should be seen as valuable, and something to be desired! I hope this encourages you. Look forward to conflict because new life will come from the successful resolution of your differences.
Most of us are afraid of unresolved conflicts, and the pain that often comes from fighting with loved ones. Fighting is not conflict resolution, and so I will not be giving you “Fighting Skills.” You probably know more than you need to know about how to defend yourself.
Conflict resolution is a loving, caring process where two persons difference of opinion can come together in a creative way. Politeness and respect are fundamental to this process and we’ll begin there.
The first conflict resolution skill is: Set a time and place to have a meeting.
I base my process on politeness and respect and nothing shows more respect for another than honoring their time. Ask “What is a good time for you to have a discussion with me?”
Often conflict is not resolved because we choose a poor time and place. See if this scene is familiar: It’s 10:30 pm, the kids are in bed and you decide to have that talk with your spouse. They whisper “not now, I have an important meeting in the morning and I need my sleep.” But you’ve gotten your courage up and so need to get this out. It just can’t wait! Off you go, in hushed angry whispers, trying not to wake the children, until finally one or the other says “OK, fine, we’ll do it your way! Now can I go to bed?”
You have arrived at a “solution” but the likelihood of this solution being life-giving to the relationship is slim or none. All too many relationships go through this cycle.
Another hurtful way to deal with the inevitability of conflict is to attempt to avoid it. Ignore feelings, stuff them down, hope or pray that the conflict goes away, are all attempts to avoid. This will not work, it only shuts down relational growth.
The skill then to use is to be polite and respectful to the other. Look forward to conflict with them, realizing that only through working out the differences of perspective will new, creative avenues appear.
Being polite and respectful means setting an appointment. When and where can you meet together, when both of you are well rested, alert, and comfortable? Where is a good place to meet, a place where you will have privacy and yet will allow the focus to remain on resolving conflict. The living room, kitchen table, outside patio may be possibilities. Discuss this with your partner, then write down the appointment. I recommend at least 30 minutes for this discussion, but no more than 45. I’ll go into further detail about this in future posts.
If this discussion is on track for you, please leave a comment.