Strategies for Successful Relationships: Managing Conflict
If you are a living, breathing human being, you will have conflict. If you have an opinion on anything, you will disagree with someone and engage in conflict. Conflict is an inevitable part of life, work and relationships. What happens when you face conflicts with your friends, family or co-workers?
What if a friend doesn’t show up for a dinner engagement or fails to complete a responsibility on a combined project? How do you handle it when a friend asks you to do something unethical? What is your reaction when someone falsely accuses you of making a hurtful comment? Do you tend to hold your tongue? Do you wait to see what will happen? Or do you confront, defend and blowup?
Facing conflict in relationships is difficult. We all want peace, co-operation, harmony and resolution. Conflict can result in either problem-solving and resolution, or an all-out war! Conflictual scenarios can prevent collaboration and cause relationship breakdown unless you have the skills to manage it. How you approach conflict greatly impacts the outcome.
Every book of the Bible contains examples of conflict. A godly attitude, response and prayer can make a huge difference in how the process unfolds.
Gideon had a remarkable gift for defusing conflict. In Judges 8:1-3 the Ephraimites accused and criticized him sharply. Gideon’s response was truthful, gentle and complimentary. This caused their resentment and anger towards him to subside, proving the principle found in Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Prayer is essential. Pray that your attitude will be loving and that God will provide you with His wisdom and insight to work through the issue. Paul exhorts us to: “always keep on praying” and to “do everything in love.” in 1Thessalonians 5:17 (TLB) and 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NIV).
Practical strategies for managing conflict
- When you clash or disagree with someone, one way to prevent escalation is to take a time-out to consider the issues and your response. Don’t feel pressured to resolve the situation immediately.
- Sum up what the other person says by paraphrasing their demands, viewpoints and comments. This will clarify the issue and provide you the opportunity to reply. Most people don’t listen well and tend to react defensively when engaged in conflict. Summarizing what someone says demonstrates that you are listening, you care and are trying to understand. Replaying what you hear doesn’t equate to agreement with their opinion or request. Here are some ways to help you sum up what the speaker is saying: “In other words, you were not able to make the dinner appointment and thought I should have called you to confirm the date beforehand?” or “What I hear you saying is that you want me to tell our friends that you were sick when you really weren’t?”
- Communicate your need, viewpoint and request graciously but firmly. “I was hurt when you didn’t show up for dinner because I thought the date was set. I would really appreciate it if in the future you could call me and let me know you can’t make it. That way I won’t be sitting in the restaurant worried about you.” or “I prefer to tell our friends the truth about what happened or would ask that you tell them. I want to be forth-right and honest about the situation.”
Write out a scenario when you experienced conflict in a relationship with a friend. Envision how you could respond by using the time-out, sum-up skills and communicating your viewpoint.
Why not discover how you can better manage conflict and prevent relationship breakdown? Using conflict resolution skills along with prayer and God’s wisdom will give you greater opportunity for success in your friendships, family and the workplace.
Do you need God’s wisdom for the relationships in your life right now? Listen to His promise from James 1:5,6 — “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
Why not pray this prayer in faith and trust God to guide you by His Holy Spirit:
Dear Father, I need You. I acknowledge that I have sinned against You by directing my own life and my own relationships. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. Grant me the wisdom to deal with the conflict in my life. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Amen.