Progress, growth, advancement and improvement are all words and attributes that we typically view positively. Most of us would say that we desire our relationships to be progressing, growing, improving and advancing. None of us would probably say that we want stagnant and unproductive relationships at home, at school or at work. However, so many of us either remain in status quo relationships or choose to sever or ignore relationships that have become stagnant and unproductive for fear of confronting difficult issues head on. Why do we dread conflict so much? Why do we view it as the monster that hides in our closest ready to pounce on us if we dare to open the door?
To bring up everything is overwhelming. There are many who believe that in order for you to improve relationships you must address every issue head on. Well truth be told those people can be annoying. We live in a fallen world where we are just not going to get it right 100% of the time. There is wisdom in the old saying “choose your battles.” Sometimes it is better to forgive and move on.
To ignore everything can be destructive. There are some battles that you are going to need to choose to fight. The question is are you willing to choose to fight for your relationships? If you are then confrontation is a necessary step to true freedom in your relationships.
Although the thought of facing conflict can at times feel miserable, most of our hesitation is not a question of if we should address conflicting issues, it’s how. The following steps are not an exhaustive resource on how to face conflict, however they provide you with a guideline on how to conduct the conversation.
State your purpose or desire for bringing up the conflicting issue. “Begin with the end in mind.” What are you wanting to see happen as a result of this confrontation? Write it down. This accomplishes two things. One, you gain clarity on your own motives. Introspection helps us discover when the issue is more about us than them. It saves us from pointing a finger outward that really needs to be directed inwardly, and thus saves us from doing more harm than help. Secondly, once you clarify your own motives and believe that it will be constructive to confront, state your purpose for the confrontation. This helps the person see you are concerned about the relationship verses being right or in control. An example would be “You desire to not only be co-workers but friends.” Or that your work together would be more productive and fun.”
Clarify your feelings about addressing the conflict area. All of us have a varying amount of discomfort associated with confrontation mostly stemming from a fear that the recipient might get defensive. Stating your fears or concern about the conflict often helps the recipient let down their guard.
Specify the problematic behaviors. What are they doing that needs to be confronted? If you are able to give specific examples as to what you are talking about it can be very helpful.
State the impact of problematic behaviors have had on you. Relationships are about a connection between people, and where there is a connection there is always a cause and effect impact both positively and negatively. Stating the impact of a behavior allows the person to understand why the behavior is a big deal to you. Does it affect your productivity, cause discomfort around them, make you angry, etc…
State the (natural) consequences if the problematic behaviors do not change. The natural consequences might be that people may not be welcome, may have to be let go from work, cause a division in a group, etc. Don’t make it a threat, but be direct!
Clarify the desired change. It is all fine and good to state your purpose or desire for bringing up the conflicting issue, to clarify your feelings about addressing the conflict area, to specify the problematic behaviors, to state the impact of problematic behaviors have had on you and State the (natural) consequences if the problematic behaviors do not change. But it really means nothing if you are not able to clearly state what you are asking the person to change.