Practical Approaches to Conflict Resolution

Conflict Style Awareness

On September 25th, Jonathan Stuart (M.A. in Human Resource Development and PhD in Organizational Leadership) facilitated a training on communication styles and conflict resolution for various ministry and community members. He has both an extensive background in courthouse and interpersonal mediation, and a passion for teaching and reconciliation within the church.

Jonathan covered four different personalities based on expression of disagreement and emotion:

Reactors vs. Adapters

“Conflict and how we respond to it is so important, especially as Christians”

“Conflict and how we respond to it is so important, especially as Christians”, said Jonathan. In his experience, “Conflict resolution skills are the final result of years of effort combined with the experience of application”; in other words—we frequently miss the mark and it takes time.

To demonstrate, he asked those in attendance to participate in a group card game with intentionally unclear rules and no talking, writing, or gesturing. The groups were ultimately split into adapters and reactors, both of which felt confused.

While this was a fun way to spend the morning, this exercise helped demonstrate some of the assumptions we can make in challenging or strained communication. We can be overconfident in our understanding of the situation. We can also have blind spots in our assessment of what others have been told, the understandings they are operating from, and the meaning behind their displays of emotion or disagreement. In short, “when others behave differently than our expectations, we often believe they are dishonest or ignorant” (Stuart). This reflects a natural tendency to be self-oriented and unaware of our own personal conflict style shortcomings.

Clinging to Commonalities

Jonathan pointed out that sometimes God calls us to a place of submission: “mediation asks you to lay something down and find the medium ground”.

“mediation asks you to lay something down and find the medium ground”

The group discussed a variety of implications including cultural discrepancies overseas (Feed My Starving Children and Healing Haiti) and maintaining harmony with different personalities in ministry (Wooddale Church and City Church). In order for the Church to mitigate conflict, we need to practice extending the benefit of the doubt, showing grace, and recognizing that not everyone ‘plays by the same rules’.

Jonathan concluded the training with the following advice:

  • Attend to the message: listen
  • Try to match, and then lead the technique
  • Always model respect
  • Delay verbal reactions
  • Say the last 10%: focus on what really needs to be said
  • Seek to understand by looking at underlying causes and interests

September 27, 2019
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