Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

4 Ways to Handle Conflict without Getting Lost in the Mess

  • Donna Jones Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 24, 2016
4 Ways to Handle Conflict without Getting Lost in the Mess

When was the last time you had a conflict with someone either inside your family or outside? It could have happened with a child, a spouse, a co-worker or a neighbor. Maybe it even happened with a stranger.

Several years ago my mom and dad headed to the mall to Christmas shop. Of course they knew lines would be long, stores would be jammed and the parking lot full. Armed with patience, they circled the parking lot slowly, waiting for a spot to open. Finally they eyed a shopper prepared to leave. Dad signaled his blinker and waited calmly for the shopper to ease her car out of her spot. Just as the parking space opened up, another driver screeched around the corner, pulling into the spot my dad had so patiently waited for.

Dad rolled down his window.

“Excuse me, but I’ve been waiting for that spot for several minutes. Maybe you didn’t see me.”

“No, I saw you. Tough luck,” the stranger said with a condescending smirk before he turned on his heels to walk casually into the mall.

Let me paint the picture a bit more clearly. Don and Carol Riley are about the sweetest couple you could ever meet. They exude love, energy and joy and would gladly give you the shirts right off their backs, if you needed it. No one doesn’t love them. No one. Now back to the story…

In a flash, mom turned to dad.  “Let’s slash his tires!”

Part of me wishes they had.

But they didn’t. They were wise enough to know that first reactions aren’t usually the best responses. They were wise enough to realize that there are right ways to deal with conflict and wrong ways. Even conflicts that we don’t start. Or want. Or need. Right. This. Minute. We may feel like doing/saying/acting one way, but we must choose the right way.

So how will you and I handle the inevitable conflicts that are bound to come our way? Here are my top four tips for conflict resolution in a healthy, God-honoring way:

1. Think End Game

Ask What do I want the outcome to be? Will my words and/or actions help me achieve it?

2. React Humbly

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)  

Although there are some jerks in the world you will take advantage of humility (aka the parking lot bozo), most people respond well when others don’t come out of the gate with both guns blazing. Kindness generally breeds kindness. When wronged, we may be tempted to lash out our great comebacks, but often a great come back just comes back on us—badly.

3. Speak the Truth

Say only what you know, not what you think you know. More conflicts go south over vain imaginations, incorrect perceptions and avoidable mis-communication than we can count. We simply can’t know another person’s motives (as much as we like to think we can). Stick to the facts, not your perception of the facts and you’ll be much more likely to resolve conflicts in a healthy way.

4. Believe the Best

The fact is most people aren’t out to make our lives miserable. Most people don’t enjoy messy, conflict filled relationships. Most people want conflict struggles to be resolved as positively as we do. When we believe the best in people we bring out the best in people.

Of course, there will always be the occasional exception to the rule. There will always be folks who take our parking spots, gossip about us behind our backs or lie to us right to our faces.

Yep. These people are out there. Even so, let’s resist the temptation to slash their tires.

Donna Jones is a national speaker who travels from coast to coast helping women find and follow God in real, everyday life. She’s the author of Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Taming Your Family Zoo and Raising Kids with Good Manners. She resides in southern California with her pastor hubby and their three kids. She loves a good cup of coffee, great conversation and laughing until her sides hurt. For more on her books, ministry or free resources, visit Donna at www.donnajones.org

Publication date: May 23, 2016