Seven Steps to Resolving Conflict

Stairs Seven Steps to Resolving ConflictHoliday times often bring reminders of conflicts past. Sometimes these conflicts are never resolved, resulting in damaged relationships and even broken relationships. The holidays when families come together to celebrate are often tense, strained, and usually unpleasant because of past conflicts. This year with these seven steps from Proverbs on how to resolve conflict, there is hope for a peaceful holiday time together, and maybe even a means to reconciliation.

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19 (KJV)

Conflict and the resulting confrontation can easily destroy a church or ministry, even a family. Sometimes in the heat of a matter, people are destroyed too. Solving conflict requires humility and a servant’s heart. The following seven step plan is a tool designed to bring the involved parties to a point of common ground where resolution can take place.

  • Identify the conflict.

“Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.” Proverbs 3:30

The first step in problem solving is to identify the conflict. Conflict arises when expectations are unmet. Conflict takes many forms, but usually results when a barrier that prohibits our desired outcome is raised. Often times the issue can be muddled by emotions, making identification difficult. Perceptions change when emotions are charged, resulting in a magnification of the issues and outcomes. Dwelling on the negative aspects increase stress and fear. However, writing down the nature of the conflict keeps it in perspective, rather than making it greater than what it originally was.

  • Identify the desired outcome.

“Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Proverbs 16:3

In the heat of the battle, don’t fail to identify the desired outcome. With emotions rising, the outcome can become lost amidst the breakdown of communication which results when two parties cannot agree and do not listen to one another. If each party writes down their desired outcome and supporting arguments, there is a greater opportunity for resolution. Each should be specific about what is desired and why.

  • Seek God in prayer for direction and equipping.

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

At this point each person has a sheet of paper with their personal interpretation of the conflict and the desired outcome. Pray together or separately, then come back together. Seek God’s guidance and direction in resolving the conflict. A meeting of the minds and hearts is necessary to facilitate resolution. Each must get their attention focused on pleasing Him, and not self. During prayer, confess sin—wrong words, bad attitude, etc. Ask God how to resolve the conflict. Be willing to change or modify personally desired outcomes. Resolve to pray until each party is ready to work through a resolution and make the sacrifices necessary to facilitate a resolution.

  • Seek a meeting of the minds.

“By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.” Proverbs 25:15

Everyone involved in the conflict needs to share their understanding of the conflict and their desired outcome. For example, begin with identification of the conflict, just to make sure everyone understands the nature of the conflict. Decide which outcome is more feasible, or determine if a potential outcome can be adjusted so that each party is satisfied. Once the desired outcome is agreed upon, proceed to the next step.

  • Identify the barriers that prohibit problem solving.

“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” Proverbs 19:20

Conflict resolution is hindered by barriers. Barriers are obstacles that are raised in order to avoid confrontation, an unfavorable resolution, or are used as a means of self-preservation if a threat is perceived. Each party should honestly list all their barriers that prohibit the desired outcome. Organize them by importance, with the most important as number one. Next to each, identify whether this barrier can be broken down or resolved by writing yes or no next to each. There may be some barriers that seem insurmountable at the time. For example, maybe the conflict is about too much debt. To overcome debt, more money needs to be applied to the debt. However, more money may not be available, so money becomes a barrier. On the list, money would be listed as a barrier, and next to it, write no, because it would seem to be an insurmountable barrier at this point.

  • Identify the action steps needed to break down the barriers.

“Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established.” Proverbs 24:3

Action steps are needed to remove barriers in order to accomplish the desired outcome. Brainstorm to discover ways to remove barriers. For instance, ‘get a second job’ could be listed next to money on your list. In a brainstorm session, no idea is ridiculous. No one should criticize or reject an idea. All ideas should be written down. Next, consider which ideas are plausible and check mark them. These have now become your action steps. Organize them by priority, with those that can be accomplished immediately at the top of the list, and so on.

  • Accomplish each action step in your resolution plan

“He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” Proverbs 16:20

Write down a reasonable date of accomplishment next to each action step. Then write the action step on a calendar on its completion due date. Each date represents an established goal to resolve the conflict. Pray for resources, wisdom, and guidance in working through the action steps. Be consistent and diligent to implement the resolution plan. Work together, comparing notes, as each action step is tackled. Rejoice over each accomplishment, giving thanks to the Lord for His help.

Always remember…

The foundation of conflict resolution is prayer because prayer is necessary to form a resolution process. The Bible teaches that Christians are His servants, called to do His will, so bring issues to the Lord first. Approaching conflict effectively requires humility and meekness, especially since the Bible also teaches to prefer others over self. Always wait upon Him to determine the course of action. The best way to wait is to keep on praying, because praying reveals His will. Praying also buys time for emotions to cool and reason to be restored. Conflicting opinions and desires require a wait and see approach. Weigh every decision against the Word to be certain of the Biblical stance on issues, reserving judgment until facts are determined.

Finally, remember relationships are treasures that need to be preserved and protected.  Use the tools of forgiveness and forbearance to mend a broken relationship.

“Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.” Proverbs 6:3

May our Lord grant reconciliation in the midst of conflicts, and may all have to humility to forgiven and accept forgiveness, preferring others over self.

 

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