CONFLICT RESOLUTION & How to Turn a Conflict With Your Co-Worker Into a Calm Conversation #IncMagazine

by Deborah Grayson Riegel, Inc. Magazine, 1/29/18.

…If your company employs more than one person, workplace conflict is inevitable. And even if you’re a sole proprietor, you’re going to have challenges with clients, vendors, industry colleagues and others… you are going to come up against people who challenge your ideas–and who challenge you.

That’s a good thing. Disagreements can lead to diversity of thinking, improvements in products and services, and greater productivity. Disagreements can also lead to better working relationships, but only if everyone involved fights fair.

Let’s assume you already do–you communicate directly and thoughtfully, you are considerate in your language and tone, you engage others in a dialogue rather than a monologue, and you are focused on achieving a good outcome and a healthy relationship. Good for you!

But how do you get your colleague to do the same?

1. Telling you directly.

In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, “The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.” As uncomfortable as it feels to hear negative feedback or be confronted directly, it is significantly more uncomfortable (and less productive) to have a colleague who is secretly seething, holding a grudge, acting passive-aggressively towards you, or telling everyone but you that she has a problem with you…

Try saying this: “Thank you so much for telling me directly that you [didn’t like my decision/felt disrespected by me in the meeting/wished I had consulted with you]. I appreciate you trusting me enough to share that feedback. Would you like to discuss it further?”

2. Using a respectful tone.

In the face of an interpersonal conflict, our brains register a threat in approximately 1/5 of a second. We immediately go into fight, flight or freeze mode, and it’s easy to become snippy, short-tempered, sarcastic, surly – or even go silent. It’s reacting rather than considering how to respond.

If your colleague is willing and able to stop his automatic reaction, and demonstrate emotionally intelligent self-management by speaking to you calmly and with care, thank him…

Try saying this: “I just want to thank you for the calm tone of voice you’re using right now, even though I know you’re upset. It makes it easy for me to really hear your perspective, and to have a productive conversation.”

In the words of legendary radio host Bernard Meltzer, “If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along–whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.”

3. Being curious.

Healthy communication navigates and balances between two practices: advocacy (promoting our own ideas, perspectives and points of view) and inquiry (being curious about the other’s ideas, perspectives and points of view.) In a conflict, we tend to over-rely on advocacy–telling the other person what we think and “know”, why we’re right, and why they’re clearly wrong. Inquiry tends to go out the door…

When you hear your colleague asking you questions like “How do you see it?”, “What do you think I’m not understanding here?”, “What would you like to see happen?” or even prompting you with, “Tell me more…”, thank her for being curious.

Try saying this: “Thank you for asking me. I’d like to tell you how I see it, and then I’d like to learn more about how you see it…”

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CONFLICT & How to communicate with difficult people: online trolls & bullies #IncMagazine

People Can’t Stop Talking About How Sarah Silverman Handled a Twitter Troll. (It’s a Master Class in Emotional Intelligence)

The right thing to do was the much harder one. But she did it.

By Bill Murphy Jr., Inc. Magazine, 1/8/18.

…Here are five key things to take away from Silverman’s response, that will help you to communicate with difficult people in any context.

1. She took a few minutes before replying.

Without having the self-control to pause before reacting, none of the rest of this would have been possible.

2. She took the time to learn the context.

Tim Ferriss says in his book, Tools of Titans: “Everyone is fighting a battle [and has fought battles] you know nothing about.”

Silverman seemed to realize this, which is why she took the time to look through Jamrozy’s feed. Besides learning about his physical pain, she also would have seen that he’s apparently using his real name on Twitter, and that he’d actually tweeted a very nice supportive message at her weeks earlier.

3. She decided to take a chance.

Of course, the safest thing to do might have been simply to ignore Jamrozy’s caustic … comment. It’s the internet; people might be crazy.

But deciding to reply is fully in line with the across-the-spectrum outreach Silverman has been doing recently. She deserves a lot of credit for it.

4. She offered love and understanding, and spoke his language.

Silverman’s tweet is something to be proud of. It’s authentic, empathetic, and personal. It’s the kind of thing you might write to a friend who needed some tough love, more than a total stranger. That’s perhaps why it worked.

5. She didn’t just drive-by.

One of the nicest things about this story is that it’s ongoing. As noted, Silverman didn’t just get into a short Twitter conversation and leave; she’s stayed involved, as Jamrozy has tried to get a handle on at least one of the underlying things that’s bothering him: his back issues. And it’s had an effect…

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CONFLICT & A video intro to LEAD 600 homework on conflict resolution & power-plays

This is a video that I provide to my students as an introduction to the weekly LEAD 600 (Congregational Leadership) topics.  I hope it also creates the feeling of a live course.

The video was recorded at the annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) which I was attending in Detroit. Dr. John Perkins (founder of the CCDA) has greatly influenced my thinking as evident from these excerpts that reflect Dr. Perkins’ influence on my articles and books.

©️Bob Whitesel used by permission only.




NEW IDEAS & 7 Lessons for Avoiding A Church Split When You Introduce a New Idea

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2009.

For 20+ years I have studied how to successfully employ intervention events (i.e. introducing “new ideas” such as new programs, new pastor, etc. to intervene in a church’s decline).  Below are my top 7 tips for successfully doing so.

These insights are needed today, because a growing literature in church management and group exit suggests that without an understanding of some of the following lessons, most attempts to introduce an intervention event will not start the church on a new life-cycle, but rather split it into two smaller groups of which neither will survive.

However, seven (7) lessons are introduced (below) to make the change agent aware that before she or he creates an intervention event, they must also be prepared to study and manage the process that follows that intervention.

Lesson 1: Usually, intervention events will produce a church exit. Arn (2009) is correct that life-cycles play an important role in managing organization behavior. Management researchers Dyke and Starke (1999:810-811) concur with Arn that new life-cycles can be fostered by, in Arn’s words, “beginning something new … an intervention event” (2009:9). However, group studies literature warns that introducing an intervention event, with proper knowledge of the six-stage process model involved, will in all likelihood produce a group exit (Dyke and Starke, 1996, 1999).

Lesson 2: Usually, intervention events produce a group exit, because intervention events usually polarize the church into competing groups. Pondy (1967) discovered that introducing an idea which conflicts with a organization’s status quo, usually produces enough conflict for opposing sub-groups to form. Dyke and Starke label one group (the group proposing change) “change proponents” and the resistant group the “status quo” (1999:805-806)

Lesson 3: Most people aren’t polarized from each other, until an intervention event. Dyke and Starke concur with Pondy’s conclusion that “felt conflict follows manifest conflict” (1967). This means that most people won’t get upset until after they witness some visible or “manifest” intervention (e.g. see Arn’s list of “intervention events,” 2009:9) over which they disagree with others.[1] Thus, when an interventionist (Schaller 1997) uncritically introduces or supports an intervention, a visible (i.e. manifest) conflict event often ensues which then gets previously non-conflicted people riled up. The intervention event creates such deep internal felt conflict in individuals, that the result is a deep-seated conflict that usually spins out of control (Dyke and Starke 1996). Some may wonder if the conflict that results from intervention events is unavoidable, but Dyke and Starke have demonstrated that it is not (ibid). This leads us to the lesson 4.

Lesson 4: If the reaction to the intervention event is not managed, the change proponents will leave as a group, create a new organization that will compete with the mother congregation, and usually both groups will die. Dyke and Starke (1996:159-174) discovered that typically such intervention events propel Pondy’s sub-group into a trajectory that leads to a “spin-off” or “unplanned birth” of a competitive organization. Lau and Murnigham (1998) observe that the ensuing “we-they” competition creates two unstable organizations. Case study research has supported the grounded theory of Lau and Murningham, and Dyke and Starke (Whitesel 2004, 2009:151-169). An ecclesial organization will usually not have sufficient economy of scale to survive this exit behavior, especially if the sub-group that exits the organization is comprised of change proponents (as it usually is, according to Dyke and Starke 1999:810-811).

Lesson 5: To manage the results of an Intervention Event, ecclesial leaders must understand the “Process Model for Group Exit and Retention.” If an ecclesial leader wishes to retain her or his change proponents, an intervention event should not be undertaken without a preparation to manage the ensuing process model of group exit (an organizational model has been put forth by Dyke and Starke, 1999; and a simpler model has been put forth by Whitesel 2007, 2009:151-169, 177).

Lesson 6: At Trigger 2, go slow … build consensus … and succeed. Church leaders that keep their congregations unified and thwart group exit, undertake two (2) of the “trigger events” differently (Dyke and Starke 1999: 811-815). Trigger 1 (a legitimating event) occurs when change proponents bring a new idea to a leader, and the leader enthusiastically “blesses” or “inadvertently legitimates” the new idea. Dyke and Starke found that if the leader does so, change proponents will run too fast with the new idea. While the status quo will be initially tolerant, they will later resent the fact that they were not consulted. The result is a church split (and group exit). Instead, leaders that kept their church unified went slow … built consensus … and succeeded. When new ideas were brought to a church leader, the uniting leader slowed down the change proponents, encouraged them to go through proper channels (creating compromise and consensus), and even had them dialogue with people who the church leader knew would be suspicious, apprehensive and/or contrary.

Lesson 7: At Trigger 4 the effective leader plans for conflict, uses conflict-resolution skills and emphasizes the power of unity. Dyke and Starke found that even when Trigger 2 was handled correctly, conflict will still occur. However, the unifying leader plans for conflict, and when it arises, he or she brings the different sides together to stress that they can do more together than apart. Therefore, instead of a “polarizing event” on the route to group exit, Trigger 4 becomes a “harmonizing event” on the route to group retention and “dissonant harmony” (Dyke and Starke1999:811-815). Thus, a uniting leader plans for conflict, learns conflict resolution skills, and is adept at inspiring a church to see it can do more together, than apart.

If a leader wishes to assist the church in embarking upon a new lifecycle which Arn laudably suggests (rather than fostering more typical group exit behavior) then he or she should familiarize themselves with the process model of group exit (Dyke and Starke 1999:813, Whitesel 2003:177).

[1] This initial repression may be due to Christians typically eschewing conflict (Whitesel 2003:85-93).

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177


Charles Arn, “Where is Your Church in Its Missional Lifecycle?” (Marion, Ind.: Indiana Wesleyan University, 2009).

Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly 44 (Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999), 792-822.

Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “Upheavals in Congregations: The Causes and Outcomes of Splits,” Review of Religious Research 38 (NY: Religious Research Association, 1996), 159-174.

Louis R. Pondy, “Organizational Conflict: Concepts and Models,” Administrative Science Quarterly 12 (Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999), 296-320

Dora Lau and J. Keith Murnigham, “Demographic Diversity and Faultlines: The Compositional Dynamics of Organizational Groups,” Academy of Management Review 23, 325-340)

Lyle Schaller, The Interventionist (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997).

Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004).

Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).


FORGIVENESS & Intellectual humility and forgiveness of religious leaders

by Joshua N. Hooka*, Don E. Davisb, Daryl R. Van Tongerenc, Peter C. Hilld, Everett L. Worthington Jr.e, Jennifer E. Farrella & Phillip Diekef, The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice,  Volume 10, Issue 6, 2015.


This article presents two studies that examined how perceptions of intellectual humility affect response to a transgression by a religious leader. In Study 1, participants (N = 105) rated the religious leader on intellectual humility regarding different religious beliefs and values, as well as general humility and forgiveness of the leader for a transgression. Perceived intellectual humility was positively associated with forgiveness, even when controlling for perceived general humility. In Study 2, we replicated the findings from Study 1 on an independent sample (N = 299). Also, the type of offense moderated the association between perceived intellectual humility and forgiveness. For participants, who reported an offense in the area of religious beliefs, values, or convictions, the association between perceived intellectual humility and forgiveness was stronger than for participants, who reported a different type of offense. We conclude by discussing limitations and areas for future research.
DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1004554

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CONFLICT & Research Finds 2 Tools that Promote Intellectual Humilty & Resolve Conflict

by David Briggs, Huffington Post, 6/1/16.

Humility. Intellectual humility in particular.

New research projects are finding the more pastors are perceived to be intellectually humble, the more likely they are to be forgiven by people who took offense at something they said or did.

This was especially the case in one study for perceived transgressions in the area of religious beliefs, values or convictions, core areas of religious identity that have the potential to tear asunder congregations.

All congregations are going to go through “relational wear and tear,” and the tension can be particularly high when strongly held religious beliefs are threatened, researchers said.

But humble clergy who model openness and mutual respect may provide the “social oil” that keeps the congregation from overheating and breaking under the strain, new research indicates.

Listening to others

…Humility involves being other-oriented and having an accurate view of your own strengths and weaknesses.

Intellectual humility includes being open to new ideas and being able to regulate arrogance. Thus, intellectually humble individuals are able to present their own ideas “in a nonoffensive manner and receive contrary ideas without taking offense,” said researchers reporting on studies of intellectual humility and religious leadership. The team, led by researchers from Georgia State University, found intellectual humility was associated with higher levels of trust, openness and agreeableness.

“…The more victims perceived the religious leader to have intellectual humility, the more they reported being able to forgive him or her,” reported the study’s researchers, led by Joshua Hook of the University of North Texas.

Modelling Respect

It is the unusual congregation that can avoid internal tensions for too long.

More than six in 10 congregations reported some kind of conflict in the past five years, according to the 2015 Faith Communities Today study.

…More than a quarter of all congregations experienced a conflict in the last two years that led some people to leave the congregation, according to the 2006-2007 National Congregations Study. Nine percent of congregations experienced a conflict that led to the departure of a clergyperson or other religious leader.

Findings from the studies on religious leaders are consistent with a developing body of research that indicate perceived humility can help repair social bonds. In one study, college students who had been hurt in a romantic relationship within the last two months were more likely to forgive an offender they perceived as being humble…

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CONFLICT & When you disagree with a superior, how do you decide whether it’s worth speaking up

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In almost 30 years of consulting experience, I have found no weakness more prevalent in pastoral leadership than the inability to discuss conflict. This article discusses research-based tools to gracefully but effectively disagree with someone who is more powerful than you.

How to Disagree with Someone More Powerful than You
by Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review, 6/17/16.

…It’s a natural human reaction to shy away from disagreeing with a superior. “Our bodies specialize in survival, so we have a natural bias to avoid situations that might harm us,” says Joseph Grenny, the coauthor of Crucial Conversations and the cofounder of VitalSmarts, a corporate training company. “The heart of the anxiety is that there will be negative implications,” adds Holly Weeks, the author of Failure to Communicate. We immediately think, “He’s not going to like me,” “She’s going to think I’m a pain,” or maybe even “I’ll get fired.” Although “it’s just plain easier to agree,” Weeks says that’s not always the right thing to do. Here’s how to disagree with someone more powerful than you.

Be realistic about the risks

Most people tend to overplay the risks involved in speaking up. “Our natural bias is to start by imagining all the things that will go horribly wrong,” Grenny says. Yes, your counterpart might be surprised and a little upset at first. But chances are you’re not going to get fired or make a lifelong enemy…

Decide whether to wait

After this risk assessment, you may decide it’s best to hold off on voicing your opinion. Maybe “you haven’t finished thinking the problem through, the whole discussion was a surprise to you, or you want to get a clearer sense of what the group thinks,” says Weeks… “It’s also a good idea to delay the conversation if you’re in a meeting or other public space. Discussing the issue in private will make the powerful person feel less threatened.

Identify a shared goal

Before you share your thoughts, think about what the powerful person cares about … You’re more likely to be heard if you can connect your disagreement to a “higher purpose.” When you do speak up, don’t assume the link will be clear. You’ll want to state it overtly, contextualizing your statements so that you’re seen not as a disagreeable underling but as a colleague who’s trying to advance a shared goal…

Ask permission to disagree

This step may sound overly deferential, but, according to Grenny, it’s a smart way to give the powerful person “psychological safety” and control. You can say something like, “I know we seem to be moving toward a first-quarter commitment here. I have reasons to think that won’t work. I’d like to lay out my reasoning. Would that be OK?” This gives the person a choice, “allowing them to verbally opt in,” says Grenny. And, assuming they say yes, it will make you feel more confident about voicing your disagreement.

Stay calm

You might feel your heart racing or your face turning red, but do whatever you can to remain neutral in both your words and actions…

Validate the original point

After you’ve gotten permission, articulate the other person’s point of view. What is the idea, opinion, or proposal that you’re disagreeing with? Stating that clearly, possibly even better than your counterpart did, lays a strong foundation for the discussion. “You want your counterpart to say, ‘She understands.’ You don’t want to get in a fight about whether you get her point,” Weeks explains.

Don’t make judgments

When you move on to expressing your concerns, watch your language carefully. Grenny says to avoid any “judgment words” such as “short-sighted,” “foolish,” or “hasty” that might set off your counterpart; one of his tips is to cut out all adjectives, since “they have the potential to be misinterpreted or taken personally.” Share only facts…

Stay humble

Emphasize that you’re offering your opinion, not “gospel truth,” says Grenny. “It may be a well-informed, well-researched opinion, but it’s still an opinion, [so] talk tentatively and slightly understate your confidence…”

Acknowledge their authority

Ultimately, the person in power is probably going to make the final decision, so acknowledge that. You might say, “I know you’ll make the call here. This is up to you.” That will not only show that you know your place but also remind them that they have choices, Grenny says. Don’t backtrack on your opinion or give false praise, though. “You want to show respect to the person while maintaining your own self-respect,” says Weeks.

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