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27 Feb '12

Five mistakes to avoid in negotiating conflict

Conflict between individuals and organizations can either bring out the best or the worst in us. Too often it is the latter but that does not need to be the case. While conflict is a fact of living in a fallen world, there are ways to negotiate conflict in an honorable and God honoring way. We cannot control the behavior of the other party but we can determine ours. 


Avoid demonizing the opposing party. One of the reasons that conflict becomes so acrimonious so fast and continues to degenerate is that parties demonize the other. In doing so, they paint the other party as all bad. Once we believe that the other party is totally wrong or bad it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and rationale discussion is no longer possible. The other party may be displaying poor EQ, may be faulty in their thinking and may have poor motives but keep from making the conflict personal by demonizing them personally. 


Avoid sweeping statements. Facts matter in conflict. Stating provable and truthful facts is important. Sweeping statements that color the other party, their motives or their behaviors usually move beyond facts to our interpretation of those facts and it raises the level of conflict. If one cannot verify something, it is best not to raise the issue. Stick to what you know, can verify and avoid statements that are simply your assumptions, interpretations or exaggerations, or which go to the motives of the other party which you cannot know for certain.


Don't bring others into your conflict except to help resolve it. Involving others in conflict by rallying them to one's cause simply enlarges the conflict by enlarging the circle of individuals involved. It is like adding fuel to an existing fire and the likelihood is that additional people will be hurt. Keep the conflict between the principle parties and only bring others in to help resolve the issue.


Don't die on anthills. Choose carefully what issues really matter and must be resolved and what issues are trivial and in the end unimportant. Some people are obnoxious about needing to be right about everything. Don't be one of them. Some things just don't matter. 


Don't do it alone. Conflict, especially emotionally charged conflict, can significantly skew our own perspective. Emotions can get in the way of rationale thinking. Talk to someone you trust who can help you keep a proper perspective, counsel you on how to respond and help you avoid responses that will be unhelpful. This is not someone who will simply agree with you but someone who will give you wise counsel and who has no stake in the conflict.


Scripture talks a lot about wisdom, truth, discernment and peace. Conflict is inevitable in a fallen world. Seeking to deal with conflict in ways that honor Jesus and display the Fruit of the Spirit should be our goal.