A Preventative Approach

by Andrew Brown, MA, LLP

Conflict is a normal part of life and living in relationship with others. As different people we will inevitably have seemingly incompatible needs and priorities.

Low-intensity conflict can…              High-intensity conflict can…

– Remove obstacles                                     – Threaten or destroy unity

– Clarify common goals                               – Inhibit productive cooperation

– Facilitate deeper intimacy                       – Cause deep emotional wounds

What makes the difference?

(Remember that ANGER = POWER when we sense a threat.)

Stress                                                          Unresolved Issues

– Rarely are we in a “good” place            – The emotion from past disagreements

to deal with conflict.                                    feeds the fire of present ones.

– We need to take care of ourselves         – Significant hurts and offenses

and approach disagreement gently.        must be addressed, not avoided.

Power Imbalance/Lack of Equality   Lack of Confidence or Trust

– Individuals who have less power            – A lack of confidence that I (and my

often need to fight harder.                         needs) matter to you, leads me to work

– Emphasis should be placed on               harder to convince you of my point.

what we have in common.                         – I must demonstrate that you matter.

How do we demonstrate that others matter?

  1. Verbal – My words communicate care and respect or a sense of superiority.
  2. Non-verbal Communication – My tone and facial expressions communicate my interest in and acceptance of you and your needs or contributions.
  3. Treatment of Needs and Priorities – The way that I treat the things that matter most to you, demonstrates how much you matter to me.

To have healthy conflict, we need:

Cultivating Humility

“Humility flourishes in a life examined.”

What God Does

Humility comes from wisdom (James 3:13-18). In an age of seemingly endless knowledge, we need wisdom more than ever. Wisdom is an active (“lived-out”) understanding of God’s preeminent significance, and the deep value of every person He made and loves.

James made it clear that God gives this wisdom to anyone who asks with sincere and steadfast faith (James 1:5-8).

Jesus exemplified this wisdom and the humility that it produces (Philippians 2:1-11). In addition, he provides tremendous motivation for us to pursue this quality (Matt. 20:26Mark 9:33-36James 4:6-10).

What You Can Do

Stop, Look, and Listen

– Stop pursuit of your goals and desires long enough to make time for others.

– Look at the people around you—in your home, on your team, and in your community. See their immense value as people created in the image of God who are on a journey, pursuing significant needs and desires.

– Listen—as a fellow human, with a goal of compassionate understanding. Ask questions, make eye contact, and resist the urge to formulate a response as people are talking. What do you hear coming from the person’s heart?

What We Can Do Together

Humility is primarily a relational concept (with God, others, and reality). Self-report assessments of humility are of little benefit. True humility is revealed in our thoughts and feelings about others—and how those thoughts and feelings are communicated. One of the best measures of humility we have is honest feedback from others. Rather than judging one’s level of humility (which is an internal, heart-level concept), they can offer feedback about how humility or superiority is communicated through words and actions. Of course, some level of humility is needed just to ask for this feedback with genuine openness and also to offer this feedback in a way that conveys honor and love. It is clear though, that we need others who will join with us in pursuit of true humility.

Practical Suggestions:

  1. Prayerfully study the book of James. In order to experience the “humility that comes from wisdom” we must “ask our generous God,” making sure that our “faith is in God alone” (James 3:13, 1:5,6).
  2. Learn to be a good listener. The book, The Lost Art of Listening by Michael P. Nichols is very helpful.
  3. Live a life examined—inviting honest feedback from others.

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