Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When coaching church leaders I often find that it’s not the conflict, but the way it’s handled, that polarizes leaders and leads to more conflict. A primary tool is what I call “other-based conflict resolution.” This means thinking of the other’s needs and not your own needs when resolving conflict. This can include: choosing a place that’s more comfortable for the other, a time that’s more comfortable for the other and putting your concerns in the language of the other. For more ideas read this article.
BY TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC, Fast Company Magazine, 4/14/21.
…As always, the ideal level of transparency can be found at the center of a continuum that ranges from no filter cruel honesty/confrontation to totally fake conflict avoidance/ingratiation. In fact, people do appreciate candid feedback, especially if they understand you have told them what they need to (but didn’t want to) hear.
…With that, here are some tips to consider:
CREATE, OR AT LEAST FIND THE RIGHT CONTEXT
Humans are emotional creatures, and even for the most phlegmatic and cool-headed person, some moments will be happier than others. If you are going to have a difficult conversation with someone and tell them something they don’t want to hear, you should start by creating the right context. Prepare them in advance, so they are not taken by surprise. Ensure that they are not going through a hard time already. For example, a Friday may be better than a Monday, during a pandemic is probably worse than a non-pandemic period, etc. Being aware of their personal circumstances is key.
CHOOSE A FORMAT THAT WORKS FOR THEM, NOT JUST FOR YOU
Have you ever been dumped via email or text? It is cruel and cold, but very convenient for the person who delivers the message. Most of us prefer impersonal, technologically mediated channels to convey unpleasant news, but they tend to make things worse. First, you will look like a chicken. Second, you will increase the probability of misinterpretations and miscommunication. Third, you will not be able to show or pick up any empathy.
An in-person message, or the closest we can get to these days (video call), may work best, even if it is not your preferred option. That said, if the other person is highly introverted, reserved, and private, they may appreciate a heads-up via email or text, with the option to discuss in-person or via video later. Try to adapt to them, know their style, and make an effort to adjust to it.
REMEMBER THAT YOU COULD BE WRONG
Most disagreements are clarified once a discussion takes place. This is both humbling and encouraging because it provides the biggest incentive for bringing up difficult topics and having challenging conversations with others. If something bothers you about someone, or you think they need to hear something, then bringing it up is the only way to address the issue.
Most importantly, it is a great opportunity to understand the person better and get a sense of whether you may have been wrong. If you disagree, then being aware of your disagreements is quite helpful, especially if you can find a way of living with your differences, and turns these differences into an actual strength. As Churchill said, “If two people agree, one of them is unnecessary.”