Keys to Effective Conflict Resolution (Pt.7)
This is the final submission in this seven-part ...
In this post, I will discuss the third step.
Step #3 – Understand
Now, you might ask, “Understand what?” That’s a great question! In fact, I intentionally stated Step 3 in such simplistic terms precisely for the purpose of generating questions. Now that we’ve covered that, let me explain further.
Every individual has a natural instinct to defend, resist, protect the self and guard against real or perceived hurt. This human instinct tends to cause us to not truly listen or hear to understand, but to react. Usually, our reactions lead us down the path of creating conflict (even though we think it’s the other person’s fault). Let me illustrate.
TEACHER: “Ellen, give me a sentence starting with ‘I’.”
ELLEN: “I is…”
TEACHER: “No, Ellen. Always say, ‘I am.’”
ELLEN: “All right… I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.”
In this illustration, the teacher failed to listen in order to understand. Consequently, she made the incorrect assumption that Ellen was saying something wrong. She then reacted inappropriately by cutting the student off, redirected her train of thought, and the end result was a grammatical disaster (which is what she was purportedly attempting to avoid in the first place). As funny as this joke is, it represents the reality of the human situation. We’re all like this teacher. We were all born in sin and raised with the selfish view that we know it all, including what other people feel, need, and mean, and we’re always right.
Christian ministry is no different. Skirmishes break out in church relationships all the time over minor matters because we don’t do very well at first seeking to “understand” what the other person is saying, doing, feeling, observing, or not saying, etc. Understanding takes effort… and patience. Unless we’re made aware of this need to understand, we don’t normally think in these terms. It’s not natural to think like this. It is natural to react emotionally; usually before rationally gathering all the facts and seeking to understand the facts from the perspective of the other person.
Just imagine how much happier our lives, our jobs and our churches would be, if we and our members would simply hold our tongues, hold our peace, and before retorting or reacting, seek to understand the matter as presented by the other person. Seeking to understand involves asking questions, both verbally and by listening to the other person’s heart and not just their words. Understanding is also enhanced when I put myself in the other person’s place. This takes practice.
What does all this have to do with pastoral ministry? The best answer is found in implementing Step #3, “understand” in your process of dealing with conflict…and experience the difference for yourself. Listen. Listen some more. Feel. Love. Have compassion. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Does it mean that you won’t have any conflict because you implement Step 3 in your conflict resolution protocol? Absolutely not! Jesus is the Prince of Peace but often, His ministry was anything but peaceful. The steps that I’m sharing will not make you immune from the fiery darts of the wicked, but I can guarantee you that if you faithfully practice these steps, most of the darts will be transformed mid-air into feathers and float harmlessly to the ground. Not only that, but most importantly, you will discover that some of the “darts” were nothing but your incorrect perception of the other person’s motive.