Conflict Management on the Field

August 29, 2019 | 0 comments

While it is helpful to know your conflict style—accommodating, avoiding, compromising, collaborating, competing—it is not enough. This spring I read Conflict Management for Faith Leaders and wish I had read it years ago.

True to the title, the focus of the book is conflict situations that come up in the faith world, with the examples focused on churches and non-profits. Though the examples were not cross-cultural in nature, for those of us in ministry world, they were familiar.

The real takeaway

But the real takeaway is that conflict is not so much about style, as it is choosing the most appropriate way to manage a situation. The first four chapters look at understanding conflict, assessing conflict, framing conflict, and an overview of managing conflict. The following six chapters explain and provide examples for that conflict management option.

The six options when you are faced with a conflict include:

Managing Conflict with Complacency

“Complacency is a conscious and intentional decision. [You] consider the circumstances, the reality, the liability, the consequences, and make a conscious decision not to get involved. It may be because the nature of the situation does not warrant intervention by [you]. It may be because the consequences of any outcome are minimal and will not change reality. The [person] who engages in conflicted situations where the outcome will have minimal impact is a [person] who is risking a lot to change a little.”

Managing Conflict with Confrontation

“Confrontation can easily become personal, biased, one sided, and irrational. Choosing confrontation is appropriate when the situation is so severe that something must be done. When the danger is imminent, the potential fallout is massive, the liability is too large a risk, or people’s lives are at stake, addressing the conflict head on may be the best option. When principles, precepts, or people are at risk it is an appropriate choice.” Confrontation needs to be intentionally chosen, not a default reaction.

Managing Conflict with Communication

“Communication is often known as mediation. Using any of the techniques of mediation, such as active listening, ‘I’ messages, and reframing, [you] mediate the conflict will attempt to open the lines of communication between the conflicting parties.”

Managing Conflict with Coordination

“Coordination attempts to orchestrate the outcome with intentional conversations and movements. It is about planning, scheduling, or organizing activities and events to address concerns and arrive at a resolution that minimizes the conflict at hand. For some conflicts the actual results will have minimal impact, but the perception of the decision made could have a profound impact on the organization or someone in it. [You] may choose coordination in order to protect people or the organization.”

Managing Conflict with Cooperation

“Cooperation seeks to find solutions that build unity. It may be that not everyone is in total agreement with a particular solution, but each sees value in it and supports it. Even though not everyone will be in total agreement, consensus building looks for support and commitment so that everyone can be a team player. It is really a matter of being cooperative instead of oppositional.”

Managing Conflict with Collaboration

“Collaboration is the idea of working jointly for the common good of all. It is seeking a resolution in which everyone comes out on top and feels like a winner. Collaboration seeks to find the common ground between sides, use the best of both, and arrive at a conclusion where everyone has contributed to the resolution.”

So what?

The final four chapters of the book explore how to choose a technique, when to negotiate, a leader’s example, and maintaining unity. Even though you will probably always have a style that feels the most familiar, I recommend that you and your team get this book and discuss it as a team.

Knowing that complacency is not merely being “conflict avoidant,” but in some cases, “conflict wise” is empowering. Whether in your home, on your team, or with another situation, we can all benefit from matching situations and conflict management options.

Bottom line add Conflict Management for Faith Leaders by Houston Thompson to your library. 

Questions for reflection:

1. Think about a recent conflict you were involved in; how did you choose to manage it? Did you use: Complacency, confrontation, communication, coordination, cooperation, or collaboration? 

2. Looking back, did you use the best option for the situation? If not, which might have been a better option?

3. Which is your default option? Which way of managing conflict do you need to grow in?

4. How does your cultural context factor in to these ways of managing conflict?

P.S. Have you checked out the resource library? Or read The Advantage of Perusing {Book Lists!} The end of the month is coming, and with the new month, the price of this month’s workshop goes up when September’s workshop goes live.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Amy Young

Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Supporting Cross-cultural work.

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