The Second Article in a Series on Addressing Conflict
Recently, I got into it with one of our manufacturer’s reps.1 I’ll call him Joe. I was working with a potential customer with locations both inside and outside of Joe’s territory, and even though this particular project was not in Joe’s territory, I was trying to help him make some contacts in the company who might help him develop leads at facilities in his territory. As the two of us talked about it over the phone, though, I didn’t really appreciate some of the assumptions he seemed to be making. And he was obviously perturbed by some assumptions he thought I was making . . . to the point that I told him quite pointedly that I “took offense” at certain things he had communicated. We were able to resolve at least some of the issues and found some common ground. But I needed some time to process what was going on within.
As I prayed about it over the next two to three days, I realized that Joe had his perspective, and I had my perspective – and that God was somewhere in the midst of all that. And in the end, I had to admit that Joe’s reality and my reality were not necessarily God’s reality and God’s truth.
Beyond that, the Lord also helped me see that certain “triggers” can set me off – one of which is rooted in baggage from my past that came from sensing that my perspective was not respected, understood, or valued. So the next time I saw Joe face-to-face, I had to apologize to him for specific things that I had communicated. I also shared with him that I’m still a work in process, still peeling away layers of the “onion” that the Lord’s helped me gradually peel away over the last forty years – and asked for his patience.
From this experience, I gathered three principles for addressing conflict that others may find helpful in their own relationships – whether in business or in general:
- Ask Where – Whenever there’s a conflict, I need to ask, “God, where are you in all this? Help me to see you in the midst of all this.” In Jeremiah 2:5-8, Jeremiah rebukes the people of Israel and their spiritual leaders for not asking, “Where is the Lord?” We are well-advised when we ask in tough situations, “Where are you, Lord? Where are you in the midst of all this?”
- Ask What – As we’re working through conflict situations and are starting to see things a little more from God’s perspective, it’s also good to ask, “What do You want me to learn from all this? Help me to see where I could have said or done something differently.” Proverbs 14:8 tells us, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” It’s good to look at ourselves in the mirror.
- Ask How – As we try to look at things from God’s perspective and start to see where we might have said or done something differently, we can also ask, “Lord, how should I address this? How can I make this right and be the ambassador for Christ that I’m called to be?” Proverbs 14:9 continues from the verse above: “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” We cannot control how other people act. But we can allow the Spirit of Christ to control how we act.
The first step in addressing conflict is to consider the conflict within.
Verse of the Week:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 (NIV)
Let’s ask God for grace to notice and address the “planks” in our own eyes when we face conflicts this week.