FACT: Conflict is inevitable in every organization—and if left unresolved, it can damage relationships, weaken your culture and dilute your ministry impact. But don’t lose heart, because there’s a safe, proven (and biblical) approach to face and resolve differences that can heal relationships and lead to new, God-blessed organizational outcomes.
Meet Giselle Jenkins, an experienced conflict coach who has trained dozens of Christian leaders in a trusted three-step approach to successfully resolve workplace conflict. Here’s what she told me recently.
“It’s no surprise,” says Giselle, “that disagreements, arguments and disputes paralyze us. We’re afraid because we mistakenly think that confronting the conflict will make it worse.”
- We run from confrontation because it doesn’t feel compatible with our notion that it’s at odds with being humble and gentle as a Christian. It’s not.
- Without mature communication skills and a willingness to seek God’s best for the other person(s), we default to conflict-avoidance, even as trust deteriorates, relationships weaken and work productivity suffers. Fortunately, there’s a far better alternative for God’s people.
I asked Giselle to explain, and what she gave me was a master class in conflict resolution, based on three key steps anyone can use.
Before engaging in conflict resolution, ask yourself two questions. First, “What is my personal communication style?” (Assertive? Straightforward? Win-win?) Second, “What is my conflict style?” (Avoidance? Victim mentality? Passive-aggressive? Win at all costs?) Increased self-awareness on both levels can help you create a productive approach to conflict that is responsibly direct.
These three simple actions can help free you from high-pitched emotions and raised voices.
There’s wisdom in the old adage, “First, count to ten.” When we’re angry or stressed, our best thoughts are crowded out, and our thinking isn’t sharp.
A pause moment offers you the gift to reflect and ask:
- What really happened?
- What was my part in the conflict?
- What could God be teaching me?
- Is there a Scripture that addresses my situation?
- What could be the other person’s reason for disagreeing?
- What would it look like to either confront, extend grace—or do both?
[endorsement]The tipping point of successful conflict resolution is to ask yourself, “Am I able to make a deliberate decision to forgive the other person, even if they created significant losses and grief in my life?” This is an opportunity for you to make sure God has spoken into the conflict.[/endorsement]
3. Reach out.
True resolution comes to life as you take responsibility for your part in the conflict and listen to the other party: “I know you’re upset, and I’m ready to apologize if you’re ready to talk about this.” Be mindful that the other person may need more time to process the situation. Be patient. More than hoping to be understood, seek to understand the other person.
In workplace conflict, more than hoping to be understood, seek to understand the other person.
Giselle’s approach to effective conflict resolution affirms the value of a thriving workplace. Her focus on Healthy Communication and Inspirational Leadership, two of the eight factors of a flourishing culture, “prepare the soil” for conflict resolution to take root and grow.
I agree with Giselle’s conclusion: “Leaders are stewards of their organizations. In light of our inevitable workplace disagreements, stewardship demands we address conflict head on. May we have the courage to be open to the question James asks: ‘What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?’ (James 4:1). Our answer can strengthen our resolve to seek and submit to the One “who yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us. (James 4:6)”
A conflict coach and board member with Peacemaker Ministries, as well as a former Vice President for People Development for Prison Fellowship, Giselle Jenkins recently joined Best Christian Workplaces Institute as Human Resources Consulting Director.