I have a core belief that I think God calls all his followers to hold and that is Christ Centered Relationships. I believe that all my relationships need to be grounded in and centered on Christ and that I should be living out the fruit of the Spirit within them. This belief comes into play for you as the Disciple Maker and your relationships with the people you are discipling.
Conflict resolution is a tough but unavoidable part of relationships – if you are in a relationship that you are intentionally (or even unintentionally!) going deeper in, you will eventually have conflict within it. Because.. well, people are people! Watch a couple of 2 year olds trying to play with the same toy and within seconds you will have conflict, tears, and possibly a tantrum.
Unfortunately that tendency doesn’t alway disappear with the onset of adulthood. People who are immature spiritually may look calm on the outside but are possibly going through the same kind of emotional storm as the 2 year old on the inside. And as adults we usually know how to effectively cause pain and division with an arsenal of words and attitude, without having to throw a single punch.
Satan loves this – he loves to separate us from each other and from God, and emotional conflict is a very effective means to that end. When we are in unity with others we are a much greater force against him than when we are isolated and straying from the pack.
3 Habits that help you hold a Helpful Discussion rather than a Hurtful Debate
1. De-escalate emotion:
Responding to someone while you are in the midst of emotion does not generally produce the outcome of agreement or unity in the relationship. Your feelings may cause you to speak louder and faster, you may come across as accusatory and combative, and these things can cause the other person’s emotions to raise in response.
Here are some things you can do to help reduce the emotions you are feeling and enable you to think clearly before speaking.
- Pray. Pray for the other person, pray for yourself, pray that the Holy Spirit will be in the conversation.
- Take a deep breath, give yourself a couple of minutes to think through your response.
- Look objectively at the facts of the situation, rather than just your feelings.
“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered” Proverbs 17:27
2. Show empathy/compassion
Stopping to make an effort to see value in the other person can have a dramatic change in your heart about the situation! It will help you to determine what outcome you would like to see from the interaction you are having. What equals a ‘win’ in God’s eyes? You being right or the relationship remaining intact?
- Look at other person through eyes of Jesus.
- Speak to them in a way you would like to be spoken to.
- Listen to them for the purpose of understanding, not just to respond.
“..Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.” Phillippians 2: 3b-4
3. Avoid negative/combative behavior
Lastly, one of the most important parts of avoiding unhealthy conflict would be to avoid the type of behaviors listed below. These things are prone to bring out the worst response in people. It is hard not to want to defend yourself against someone who is armed for an attack. The automatic response to these attitudes would be to attack, defend, and bring up their past behaviors. All of these things can lead to hurt feelings, anger, and separation of the relationship. We need to make an effort not to have these responses in ourselves, and the even tougher things, not respond in kind if they are used against us.
- Don’t use criticism in your words, try to use ‘I’ statements rather than being accusatory.
- Work to keep an attitude of defensiveness out of your voice and your body language.
- Avoid bringing up past incidents/behavior – make a point of dealing with the present situation only.
“Instead we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” Ephesians 4:15
When we are spiritually mature we will be in relationship with God and others, and the relationship we have with God and others is also what helps us mature spiritually. It’s the circle of the life for a Disciple Maker!
Written by Jim Putman
This was originally posted on Jim Putman’s blog here. Used with permission.