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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 20: Restoring Relationships

This chapter presents a seven step strategy for conflict resolution based on the teachings of the bible.  But first it talks about the importance of being a peace maker.

In the sermon on the mount, one of the things Jesus says is:

"God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God."
(Matthew 5:9) 

It struck me as I read this that these days its fashionable (for want of a better word) to focus on winning and success.  But in a way we are trying to get to the destination without taking the journey, because to win is to be blessed by God and is solely in His control.  It is only how we act and what we focus on that is in our control.  So maybe we should focus on making peace and let God focus on who wins.

Here are the seven steps for conflict resolution.

Step 1. Pray first

Often this is all you need to do because when you vent your feelings to God, he my change your heart or may change the other person.  As I mentioned with the "extra grace required" person in my last post, I don't know what changed but after I prayed, that person stopped annoying me.

Step 2. Make the first move to fix things and do it without delay 

Not only does delaying resolution make things fester in your mind, but Jesus said that resolving conflict takes priority over worshipping God.

"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24)

Step 3. Sympathise with their feelings

When you approach the person to resove the conflict, first let them talk and focus on their feelings.  The Listen - Acknowledge - Explore - Respond technique I discussed yesterday, is useful for this.  It is important for people to feel they have been heard, often this is all that is needed to resolve an issue.

Step 4. Confess your part of the conflict

As Jesus said
"Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well
enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (Matthew 7:5).

I have found when I open with the things I have done to contribute to an issue, it immediately disarms the other person and they relax. They are then likely to volunteer an admission of what they have done wrong.

Step 5. Attack the problem, not the person

Insulting people will immediately make them put up their defenses and will kill the dialogue.  Instead use phrases such as "when you [x], I [x]".

Step 6. Cooperate

Rick Warren writes "do your best to compromise, adjust to others, show preference to what they need".  I have a problem with this because it assumes what is called a zero-sum game. That means, it you get something, I lose something.  This is where the concepts of lose-lose, win-lose and win-win come from, with win-win being based on compromise.  However, when I did the conflict resolution course I learnt that there is another possibility, and that is to come up with a creative solution, so by working together you actually create something new and better than what either party originally expected. 

Step 7. Emphasise reconciliation, not resolution

If all else fails, it comes down to the question Dr Phil likes to ask "would you rather be right or be happy?". Agree to disagree. 

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