How much do you hate conflict?
Many of us tend to avoid conflict like the plague. We don’t want to be made uncomfortable, we are afraid to be in the wrong, and we want our relationships to go undamaged. It makes sense. We aren’t built to like conflict.
But conflict happens whether we want it to or not.
After reading Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People years ago, I have been someone who is quick to address even a hint of conflict. When I do find myself in conflict, my tendency is always to pursue what Covey lays out as the win-win situation. After all, why should anyone lose if everybody can win?
Well, I found out recently that where my ego is concerned, I don’t always want to go for the win-win. Sometimes I hope for the “I’m 100% right-You’re 100% wrong-Apologize now because you hurt me” conflict resolution style.
Here’s the story…
I was at a retreat center in the Rocky Mountains recently and I desperately needed time alone with Jesus to relax. Then a wrench was thrown into the mix.
As soon as I arrived, I saw someone I didn’t want to see. It was someone who hated me, had slandered my name, and poisoned the well in some circles when it came to my name and reputation. My heart sank to the floor. This was the absolute last thing I needed.
After a full 24 hours of trying to ignore the person, God convicted me to be an adult and address the situation by approaching this guy. After morning worship, he and I made a beeline for each other. It seems God had convicted him as well.
Long story short, we talked things out over a twenty minute conversation. For the first time, the two of us sat face to face and had a conversation about our situations and what was and wasn’t said. And you know what I found out?
He didn’t hate me.
He hadn’t slandered my name.
He hadn’t poisoned any wells.
Everything I had heard was false.
I walked away from our conversation relieved and feeling more than a little foolish. This perceived problem had been going on for three years. I got some alone time with Jesus and he saw fit to turn it all into a teaching moment.
Here are 5 truths that invaded my heart that morning:
1. The first word is always the hardest.
Just getting over that hurdle of actually talking about a problem is one of the hardest pieces of conflict resolution.
2. Drama only increases the longer the conflict is ignored.
For each day conflict is ignored, the situation only grows. It can grow in size, grow in separating the parties involved, grow in pettiness, whatever. Anger and bitterness grow, too. The conflict also likely becomes larger than it actually is in our imagination.
3. Our imagination becomes overrun by insecurities and our egos.
When we replay in our minds certain sleights or ways we’ve been mistreated, things get added. We begin to imagine something was said in a tone that wasn’t used in the first place or we convince ourselves something was said with a smirk on someone’s face. Your ego also partners with your imagination and convinces you that you’re the victim even when you’re not.
4. Your side of the story is never the whole picture.
If we’ve been wronged, then it’s easier to feel that we’re 100% in the right. But get this: it is just as easy to be misunderstood as it is to misunderstand someone else.
In any conflict we all bring our insecurities and past experiences into play. When that happens, we’re never going to completely see what’s going on with someone else. This is why I’m a big believer in the adage “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
5. Most people want peace and resolution just like you do.
We’re made to be in relationship with each other and to be known for who we really are. As a point of pride, many will live with unresolved conflict pretending they aren’t bothered my a frayed relationship. Ridiculous.
I found that the person I was in conflict with was just as eager to bury the hatchet as I was. Before I talked with him, I assumed he was too prideful to even entertain a conversation. Shame on me. He wanted peace and understanding just like I did.
Conflict doesn’t have to be difficult, but we often choose for it to be so.
What insights into conflict have helped you overcome it in your relationships?