This past week I took a week intensive course over “Managing Conflict, Transition, and Change.” What this means is that I sat in class from Monday to Friday from 8 o’clock in the morning to 5 in the evening. Bleh. But, there was a lot of great material to gain from this course. It was full of great discussion of how people negotiate and minister to those experiencing conflict in their lives.
These following points come from a mixture of our class’s discussion and Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Stone & Patton. When in the midst of conflict, or talking others through it, keep some of these in mind.
1. Understand “Your Story.” First, recognize why this conflict matters so much to you. Be aware of what you think about it AND how it makes you feel. The more you analyze these things, the more likely you are to realize that what you have conflict with is justifiable or not. Some important questions to ask may be: “Why does this conflict matter to me?” and “How does it make me feel?”
2. Understand “Their Story.” We don’t know how someone is feeling or what they are going through unless we ask them their story. During conflict, it’s important not to imply your own version of events or assume how others feel. Empathy is obtained when one inquires, listens, and acknowledges the other person(s). Avoid threatening questions like, “Surely you would agree I’m right?” or “Were you trying to hit me?” Be curious and always ask questions that seek genuine understanding.
3. Be Empathetic. “…people almost never change without first feeling understood.” You shouldn’t expect to persuade someone or find a compromise if you’re not willing to take the first step. When hearing someone speak, actively listen and make sure to provide feedback. Doing this creates a safe and encouraging atmosphere for resolution.
Conflict can be a bridge towards a deeper understanding and relationship with others. It is important to be aware of yourself and the other person(s) in conflict. Remember that…
-We all make mistakes
-Our intentions are always complex
-Everyone contributes something to conflict