A husband who won’t help his wife with household chores. A spendthrift woman who’s constantly trying to borrow money from her friends. A boss with an anger problem who alienates his employees. A grandma who’s tired of being asked to babysit so often that she doesn’t have enough time to herself. These are just a few examples of the many issues that, if not dealt with, can permanently damage relationships.

All too often, people either avoid conflict or deal with it in clumsy, ineffective ways. Such approaches only make conflicts worse. But if you follow God’s call to confront people without offending them, you can resolve conflicts, strengthen relationships, and grow personally in the process.

Here’s how you can confront people without offending them:

Aim for a goal. Before confronting someone, clarify what you hope to achieve through the confrontation. Retaliation should never be your goal. If you have a vengeful attitude, confess it and ask God to cleanse your thoughts toward the person you want to confront.

Aim to use a confrontation to resolve whatever issue is causing conflict between you and the other person. Consider what specific outcome you’d like to see result from the confrontation – having someone stop a negative behavior, start a positive behavior, or make some other change – and keep that goal in mind when you confront the person.

Confront whether you’re the offended or the offender. God wants you to try to resolve conflict through confrontation whether someone else has offended you or whether you’ve offended someone. If you’ve been offended, don’t repress your feelings; that will only lead to bitterness that will poison your soul and express itself in unhealthy ways in your life.

If you’ve offended someone, remember that it’s your responsibility to take action toward reconciliation. Work to overcome excuses and defensiveness no matter what the situation. Be willing to confront to try to work out the issue, since God has given you a mandate to initiate reconciliation whether you are the offended or the offender.

Understand different conflict management styles. Dictators handle conflict by charging, commanding, demanding, directing, imposing, mandating, ordering, proclaiming, ruling, calling the shots, and laying down the law. Sometimes that style is necessary because moral values are at stake or the common good is being threatened. But often, dictators need to focus more on hearing and valuing other people’s input.

Accommodators handle conflict through adapting, adjusting, conforming, indulging, obliging, pleasing, or accommodating to other people’s needs and desires. Accommodators are good at listening, which is a key skill in working through conflicts. But they need to learn to set boundaries to let others know that their negative or insensitive behavior toward them is not acceptable.

Abdicators handle conflict by retreating, bowing out, quitting, stepping down, separating themselves from situations, dropping out, walking away, abandoning, resigning, surrendering, or yielding. But by running away, abdicators make it impossible to resolve their conflicts. They need to express their needs through “I” statements that tell others what they feel when they experience the behavior that’s causing the conflict and explain what they’d like to see happen.

Collaborators deal with conflict in the healthiest way, through cooperating, joining forces, uniting, pulling together, participating, and co-laboring to find a way to resolve the issue. Consider what style you tend to use the most, and think and pray about how you can better work with others as a collaborator. Do you need to be more respectful of authority, value other people’s input more, or communicate more clearly? Try to choose the collaborator style as often as possible when managing conflict.