In my previous article, I focused on change and how it affects our lives. I also mentioned that change and conflict are important, if not vital, to growth. In this post, we’ll look at conflict and its unique relationship with change.
Conflict serves many healthy purposes—it is…
- a prompt for engaging in important communication,
- a cry for intimacy and community when we feel disconnected from others,
- a cathartic release of feelings that need to be brought into the open, and
- a way to move toward healing and away from fragility in relationships, through healthy conversations.
In my book, Thriving in the Fire: Coaching Through the Conflicts of Change, I spotlight four basic understandings about conflict:
1 | Change and Conflict Walk Hand-in-Hand
Our natural tendency is to resist change. But change forces us to think in different ways, acquire new skills, and behave in ways we have never behaved before. This resistance often turns into conflict with those leading the change. The truth is that change is often difficult. As change agents we would need to be ready to manage the natural conflict that comes as a result.
2 | The Presenting Issue Is Rarely the Real Issue
Conflict has the power to resurrect old feelings and issues, some of which we often think have been long resolved. When conflict is not addressed right away, it has the tendency to accumulate. One mistake pastors and leaders often make is trying to resolve the issue that brought up the conflict. What we quickly discover is that resolving the issue does not resolve the conflict. In order to effectively address a conflict, we will need to look beyond the presenting issue. This way we can get to the real root of the conflict.
3 | In the Beginning of a Conflict, Facts About the Issue are Irrelevant
At the beginning of any conflict, our natural tendency is to bring up all the “facts,” thinking that we can convince the other person to change their minds. This is a waste of time! Conflict is about opposing perceptions clashing with each other. Perceptions are unique and real to the individual holding them. Because perceptions are connected to beliefs and emotions, which run high at the beginning of very conflict, facts have little effect in addressing the conflict. Instead of offering facts, we need to sit down, listen to each other, and try to see the issue from the other person’s perspective. Once the emotions and perception have been managed, then we can bring in the facts.
4 | Personal Core Values are at the Heart of Conflict
Conflict is always about core values being challenged. Since core values run deep within us, our first reaction is to push back when we perceived they have been put into question or challenged. One important step we can take in managing conflict is to help identify those core values both, within ourselves and in others.
- What’s your reaction to conflict, and why?
- What are your most precious core values, and why?
- How do you react when you feel your core values are threatened, and why?
- What can you do differently next time feel your core values are threatened?
- If you cannot avoid conflict, what can you do to prepare when it comes your way?
Rev. Dr. Felix Villanueva has been coaching for 24 years. He’s a Mentor Coach with International Coach Federation and the Director of Vibrant Faith’s Coaching School He’s also served in ministry as a U.S. Navy Chaplain, a Hospice Chaplain, and Senior Minister at a church in California. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the Native American flute and traveling around the world.