Why read this?
All of us have conflict with others. It’s an inescapable fact that we will all go through conflict. What happens when you’re attacked and feel defensive and justified to attack back? How do you know what to say and do? What’s appropriate? In this post I will share some insight I’ve gained from conflict in my own life. ** Disclaimer: this is NOT the end all and perfect method. But, it’s helped me tremendously and when I follow these steps, the conflict is handled better. Maybe it can help you too.
Step 1: DO NOT respond right now!
This is the hardest of all the steps, especially in the heat of the moment. But when tensions are high, the more you respond with anger the “angrier” the situation gets. Someone has to have a level head. And, there’s probably some truth in why the other person is angry in the first place. Not responding can give you time to think about that. I’ve found that listening to someone and then asking for space to process is a good idea and helps everyone cool down. The main thing is to NOT respond out of anger. And NEVER engage in conflict through text or email; face-to-face or phone call is ALWAYS BETTER.
Step 2: Feel the emotion.
Don’t repress the emotions you’re feeling; they are legit and real. And they’re there for a reason so engage with them. If you’re extremely angry, find out why. Try and see the truth (there often is at least some) in their anger. A great step at this point is to ask: is this person “for” me? If they are, then pay even closer attention to why they’re upset. If they are not, it’s easier to dismiss them but be sure to discern the truths in their conflict with you. Know it’s ok to be angry back and to feel the emotions that go along with conflict.
Step 3: Pray & Write.
Depending on your faith tradition, praying is very helpful. I think it’s the most important thing for us to do in the midst of intense conflict. As a follower of Jesus, I know that He is an expert at handling conflict so when I seek His guidance, I’m never disappointed. If you’re wondering what Jesus would say in any conflict, it’s this = What does love require of you?
Next, I write! Before responding or having a hard conversation I like to write out my thoughts. Not how I’m going to prove the other person wrong but I write out what I’m grateful for, strengths they have, the truths in what they’re angry about, and again I write down the truths I know about conflict and how to resolve it. This is just an extra step that really helps me.
Step 4: Respond.
I’ve come to realize you cannot script conflict. You can’t expect the other person to act the way you want. As an Enneagram 8, I’m great at having arguments in an empty house and proving my point with nobody there on the reciprocating end. But, face to face, it doesn’t’ go that way… Ever. But if people feel heard, and you respond (without sarcasm and passive aggressiveness) it will go a lot better than it could have. When my “attack formation” involves the other party feeling heard and valued, the conflict usually ends up with new insights, restored relationships and a free conscience.