Tag Archives: conflict

The I’s Have It

7 Sep

Most conflict isn’t of the relationship-ending sort. It’s more often about who cooks and who washes the dishes. However, even small-unresolved conflict causes stress and wears on relationships.

I once taught peer mediation to 4th-8th graders. Even kindergarteners were able to settle disputes with the help of a mediator. I realized anyone could learn simple mediation skills. These skills pertain to parent/child, siblings, roommates, business associates, spouses, and more.

That was huge for me. As a people pleaser, I hated conflict. My heart and prayer is that we become problem solvers even without a mediator. Here are some tips.

An “I Message” can be a handy communication tool during conflict. It allows us to acknowledge our responsibility, emotions, and needs without blaming. It contains three simple parts.

I feel ______, because (when you) ______. I want (need you to) ______.

The goal isn’t to spew out pent up frustration. Instead, let’s problem solve. Give yourself time to think. “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” (Proverbs 15:28 NIV). The prodigal son rehearsed exactly what he would say to his father (Luke 15). Let’s plan and practice.

Suppose roommates (Cici and Didi) disagree over cleaning. If Cici says, “You make me furious because you won’t carry your load,” she’s inviting defensiveness. Instead, Cici might say, “It seems unfair that I work fulltime and still have to do most of the cleaning. I want to divide the chores evenly.” Notice Cici covered the three parts of an I Message, but didn’t use the exact words.

Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others (NLT).

Didi, in a perfect world and after practice, resists the urge to explain and summarizes, “You feel I’m not doing my fair share of chores and you want to divide them differently.” Notice it’s a paraphrase as she absorbs Cici’s meaning. (See last week’s post.) Since Didi got it, it’s her turn. “Sure, I only work part time, but I’ve got school and studying. If I do more chores, my grades will drop.”

After both feel understood, it’s time to brainstorm for solutions. Write down each proposed solution without judgment. Cici might say, “You can pay me $15 an hour to do your part of the cleaning.” Incorrectly done, Didi might say, “Are you crazy? Where do you think I’m going to come up with $15 an hour?” More helpful—she’d offer another solution. “We can divide chores according to my class schedule.”

Cross off all ideas except solutions both consider workable. Discuss possible implications and consequences for each. Select the best alternative and agree on a timed trial. Each person writes how she’ll keep her part of the agreement. It might look like this.

“We agree to meet Sunday afternoon and make a list of chores and times we’ll do them. Cici promises not to nag, remind, or complain about chores. Didi promises to complete her jobs on time. We will meet again in one week to determine our success.”

(Signed) Cici             Didi

In a week, chores or times may need tweaking. If that solution doesn’t work, choose another and try again.

“Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble. Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8–9 NET).

Say Yes to Confrontation

24 Aug

Recently, I’ve prayed for several people in conflict. Some situations are heart-rending. Others are frustrating or irritating. None of these people enjoyed conflict or desired confrontation. Here are some reasons used to avoid confrontation.

  1. Christians are supposed to be self-sacrificing. Confrontation seems selfish.
  2. He won’t listen anyway.
  3. She will get mad.
  4. They might not come back to visit.
  5. I’m afraid I’ll lose her love.
  6. I don’t know how to confront. I’ll only make things worse.

As a recovering people pleaser, I understand how dreading confrontation can immobilize us. Jesus says staying in biblical truth sets us free (John 8:31–32), so for the next few posts we will renew our mind regarding conflict and confrontation.

First, let’s be specific about terms using the Encarta Dictionary. Conflict is “a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people.” Confrontation is “a face-to-face meeting or encounter, especially a challenging or hostile one.” It’s often necessary to confront someone regarding a conflict.

The Bible has much to say about conflict because it’s unavoidable. We’re not clones or cookie cutter Christians; neither are we perfect. Since we can’t avoid disagreement, God wants us to utilize His way of managing conflict.

I believed all six reasons above, so I “handled” conflict by rolling over and playing dead. Experience taught me some hard truths.

Refusing to confront

a)      Conveys silent agreement and approval.

b)      Denies truth and the impact of the other person’s behavior.

c)      Withholds relevant information necessary for decision-making.

d)     Is disrespectful because it assumes the worst response from the other person and doesn’t give him/her the opportunity to change.

The depth of relationship determines our level of confrontation. We confront our children who exhibit poor manners in a restaurant and ignore the person at a nearby table doing the same thing. We must earn the right to offer constructive criticism.

This is probably a good time to say not every conflict is worth confrontation. Remember love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Many times a conflict isn’t a question of right or wrong; rather, it’s a question of preference or opinion. In such cases, compromise and trade-off is appropriate. Love doesn’t insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5) and in many cases we are to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). However, people sometimes behave in a way that is detrimental to the family, the community, and themselves.

Jesus didn’t avoid conflict. He went head-to-head with religious hypocrites calling them a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 18:15) and “blind guides” (Matthew 15:14). John 2:13–16 tells how Jesus drove out the moneychangers who turned the temple into a marketplace. I’d call that some pretty intense confrontation.

However, the thing that freed me from my fear of confrontation was realizing reason #1 above was incorrect. Confrontation can be the most loving response to conflict. Most people would agree that ignoring drunken chaos in the home enables the behavior to continue. Yet we overlook disrespect, irresponsibility, or verbal abuse because we don’t want to appear selfish. In fact, our silence says, “Go right ahead. I approve of your behavior.” We have to care enough to confront. It takes emotional energy and courage to confront someone we love.

I hope some of you will confront my opinion. Please respond with comments and questions. We will continue the discussion in future posts.

Relationship Repair

15 Jun

The question is not if a relationship will need repair, but when will a relationship need repair. Only superficial acquaintances avoid conflict. We can stick to subjects such as food or fashion, golf or fishing, and never have a cross word. However, if we want to go deeper than the weather, we’ll eventually find points of conflict.

We grow up with rules, spoken and spoken, in our family of origin. There are certain topics we don’t discuss, certain emotions we don’t express, and secrets we don’t acknowledge. We may think, “If you love me, you’ll never make me feel guilty. That was my father’s favorite weapon.” Then when a mate or friend has a legitimate complaint about the relationship, we feel betrayed, unloved, and angry.

The same is true of unspoken expectations. Many couples have told me, “If he/she loved me, he/she would know what I need. If I have to ask, it seems forced and artificial. What’s the point?” Asking for what we need is an important skill anyone can learn.

A healthy relationship is based on love, trust, and growth. It will offer honesty, compassion, forgiveness, respect, and mutual responsibility for maintaining the relationship. If one person walks on eggshells and the other feels free to explode in anger, the relationship may not survive.

How then can we quickly repair relationships? Repair depends on the level of offense or pain. The “secret” is our attitude. First, we can simply overlook some things, realizing fatigue, stress, or even low blood sugar can make us grouchy. Maybe it’s not that important. Love and let it go.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 quoting Prov. 10:12 NKJV).

Second, the issue or offense is irritating and important but not deeply meaningful. However, it could become a more serious problem if we don’t address it. It’s time for a simple to understand, but difficult to practice skill: The I Message. I’ve taught elementary students to use this simple, formula to express needs.

I FEEL (Use specific words to describe emotions: angry, confused, disappointed, attacked).
WHEN (Describe the upsetting behavior without character assassination or blame).
I NEED (a response from you, help with, a different tone of voice, eye contact. Be specific), please.

In a usually positive relationship, intimacy increases when we’re able to express our needs and feel heard and respected. Once again, attitude is key.
“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15NIV).

A third category is serious, painful, and threatens the relationship if ignored. It may be a flaw in the other person or touch a deeply held belief or fear resulting from a previous relationship or family of origin. This response is best thought out and, if possible, prepared in advance. Examine the source of such a powerful response and be ready to explain it. Then without blame, express your feelings, what the issue represents, and ask for compassion and understanding. The greatest success comes when both parties accept responsibility for their part and value the relationship.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4 NASB95).

With God’s help, we can repair relationships quickly.

Please share comments, questions, and/or how these tips worked for you. You can encourage and bless others with your response.