One of the most difficult things a person has to do sometimes is confront another individual. In the workplace we are often faced with conflict arising from issues related to actions taken by an individual that directly impact us in some way. How do we effectively communicate concerns to another person in a way that does not alienate that person, but still allows us to confront the issue?

Today, as never before, there is a significant degree of intolerance for those who differ with us. Often we take it personally when others disagree with us. This can alienate us and lead to a polarization of the relationship. One thing I have noticed is that in America we have a more difficult time sharing our differences without it leading to a break in the relationship. We often feel that if we have emotion around the issue, it will only lead to a break in the relationship. Other cultures like the Italians and the early Hebrews understood that it was OK to share feeling with strong emotion and passion. A break in relationship should not be necessary if we follow some important guidelines in handling conflict. In the early church we know there was conflict, and often great emotion behind the conflict, such as Paul and Barnadas being at odds over Mark.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing."Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them,but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord (Acts 15:36-41).

The idea of supporting another person while at the same time confronting them seems like an oxymoron. However, we will see that they don’t have to conflict if we approach differences with the intent of maintaining the relationship.

Confront the Issue, Not the Person

The first thing we must learn to do is confront the issue, not the person. Confronting the issue means we view the problem as an issue WE must address, versus an issue that YOU have caused. We must avoid blaming others for the issue if we want to have constructive dialogue and resolve of the issue. We must view the relationship as more important than the issue if we are to be successful in this process.

The apostle Paul found himself in what could have been considered a no-win situation. He was the new kid on the block. He strongly disagreed with Peter on an issue but did not back away from confronting Peter, the leader of the movement.

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Gal 2:11-14).

It took a great deal of courage for Paul to confront Peter, the leader of the church at the time. However, there is no indication his confrontation led to a split between them. Peter later came to see Paul’s point of view.

The Importance of Confronting

Matthew 18:15 encourages us to go to one another if we feel we have been sinned against. "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” There are many reasons people are unwilling to confront another person on an issue.