7 Healthy Ways To Resolve Conflict at Church or Work

So you’re dealing with a conflict and you’re feeling some tension with someone you work with or someone you serve with at church.

Join the club.

But rather than let it linger, address it. The stakes are simply too high.

I’m increasingly convinced many churches simply don’t grow because they suffer from conflict and that many teams never thrive because there’s simply too much tension.

What do you do?

Well, first realize you’re not alone. In the United States, 70% of the people who go to work today will tell you they don’t like their jobs.

So many people I know get frustrated at work. And one of the top frustrations?

The people they work with.

Conflict happens wherever people gather: in families, in churches, at work and in communities at large.

I think Christians often struggle with conflict because:

In the name of grace, we feel we need to sacrifice truth.

When we speak truth, we often don’t know how to speak it with grace.

We worry about hurting other people’s feelings when one of the best things we can do is offer honest feedback.

We’re not sure how to support someone we genuinely disagree with.

None of that needs to be.

I have learned, through trial and error, that these 7 strategies below can help me deal with conflict.

I hope they can help you.

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Here are 7 ways that I hope can help you resolve conflict:

1. Own your part of the conflict

Conflict and even bad chemistry is almost never 100% one person’s fault.

Thinking you’re not part of the problem is often the problem.

One of the best expressions I’ve heard of how to figure out the extent to which you might be part of the problem is to ask a compelling question: What’s it like to be on the other side of me?

Jeff Henderson asked that question in a great series at North Point Church called Climate Change.

Own what you can. What is it like to be on the other side of you? Ask some people.

2. Go direct 

Often issues are mishandled because we talk about someone rather than to someone.

Your co-worker at the water cooler isn’t the problem, so why talk to him about it?

Jesus was crystal clear on how to handle conflict, but very few Christians follow his practice. In the name of being ‘nice’ (“I can’t tell her that!”), we become ineffective.

Talk to the person you have the problem with. Directly. If you haven’t got the courage to do it, maybe the problem isn’t even big enough to worry about.

3. Believe the best about others

It’s easy to assign bad motives to people. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt.  They might not realize how they are coming across. Believe the best about others; don’t assume the worst.

Believing the best can help you address an issue directly without ruining the relationship. It can turn hurtful into helpful. Here’s an example: “Rachel, you might not realize this, but sometimes your emails can come across as demanding or even demeaning. I’m not sure you’re aware of that, but I just wanted to let you know how they leave me feeling sometimes. I know you probably don’t mean to do that.”

That gives the person an out, and frankly, many times, they probably had no idea they were coming across negatively.

When you believe the best about others, you tend to get the best from others.

4. Explain—don’t blame

How to talk to the person you’re struggling with is where many people struggle.

And those conversations often go sideways because people begin with blame. Don’t blame. Explain. Instead of saying “You always” or “You never” (which might be how you feel like starting), begin by talking about how you experience them.

If you’re dealing with an ‘angry person’ for example, you might frame it this way: “Jake, I just want you to know that when you get upset in a meeting, it makes me feel like the discussion is over and I can’t make a contribution.”

If you’re dealing with gossip, try something like:  “Ryan, on Tuesday when you told me what happened to Greg on the weekend, I felt like that was something Greg should have told me directly.”

Do you hear the difference between explaining and blaming?

Blaming others is a guarantee that the only person who won’t grow is you.

5. Be specific 

Giving one or two specific incidents is much better than making general accusations or commenting on personality traits. “The other day in the meeting” or “In your email on the August numbers yesterday” is much more helpful than “You just always seem so frustrated.”

The more specific you are, the more you de-escalate conflict and move toward a hopeful ending.

6. Tell them you want things to get better 

What the person you’re confronting needs is hope.

At this point, they probably feel defensive, ashamed and (hopefully) sorry.

Let them know the gifts they bring to the table and the good they do.

Tell them you are looking forward to the future and want things to work out.

7. Pray for them

I know this sounds trite, but it’s not.

Don’t pray about them. Pray for them.

It is almost impossible to stay angry with someone you pray for.

It can also give you empathy for them, and at least in your minds eye, it places you both firmly at the foot of the cross in need of forgiveness. It will take any smirk of superiority out of your attitude, which goes a long way toward solving problems.

What Do You Think?

Do these seven steps always result in a positive outcome? No. But I believe they will resolve the majority of cases in front of you in a very healthy way. At least they have for me. (This approach, by the way, is also effective at home and in most relationships in life.)

I don’t get all 7 approaches right every time, but when I practice them, I find that conflict almost always resolves better.

What would you add to the list? What’s worked for you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

11 Comments

  1. Audra Glass on August 18, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    What happens when you try but are dismissed? Not heard? Just told to have grace for the other person, but unwilling to acknowledge or deal with the real issue after grace is exercised continuously? My church is full of family members and a lot of pride. There’s no community, and a lot of talk (preaching) but no action. Don’t mean to be negative, but can’t really think of enough positives that outweigh them or give enough reason to stick around. Maybe God is saying it’s time to go… Will be in much prayer.

  2. Pastor Janice Evans on August 17, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Thank you this will help me in our up comimg meeting with a conflict in our church. My prayer is that the parties receive what the Lord had given me to add and take away from this. It has soften my heart as I was reading this and showed me in a short time how to handle conflicts when they arise in my personal life, church, in the market places. Thank you Holy Spirit for directing me to this website. I may not get all right at the same time, But I promise I will apply it to my life daily.

  3. Barbara Allen on August 6, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    I was falsely accused in a Church the Pastor’s wife had listened to “gossip” about me. She didn’t seek my side of the issue instead she judged me.
    She confronted me in the presence of my daughter I told her to leave me alone she stood on accusing me falsely.
    A member of the Church came to tell me that the Pastor’s wife was a “silly woman” I said I didn’t want to listen she continued to tell me that the Pastor’s wife had come into the Church for six consecutive months not speaking to this member I said I didn’t want to listen then another member said to me that they didn’t know sometimes how the Pastor was able to deliver his message with all the problems going on with his wife.
    I left the Church for 1 year the Pastor said to me that it was people like me he needed with him in the Church to support him with prayer etc his wife hurt me very deeply I must be truthful and confess my difficulty praying for this woman I have had to accept that I find her a challenge she never repented the Pastor said to me that I was very welcome in the Church but its not the same God will in his own time heal my wound and I was and at times I still am broken hearted because I was falsely accused. But God will hold to account all those who speak idle words.

  4. Patricia on June 24, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Thank you for the article. I’ve experienced this before, and have been thinking through it.

  5. Chitra on May 5, 2018 at 7:58 am

    I agree with each of these. Healthy ways to resolve conflict at church ….

  6. clement Lincoln nyakabawu on December 13, 2017 at 12:40 am

    your platform is so inspirational thank you so much

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  9. David Cajiuat on June 17, 2016 at 11:13 am

    I agree with each of these. The only thing better would have been to add Scripture reference with them.

  10. Marlene Jiannino Daley on June 16, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    I absolutely agree. I experienced two very troubling situatuions this past year with individuals having domineering personalities & quick to anger. In both instances I had offended them in some way, which brought about a very ugly reaction. Both Christian women. My initial reaction was to feel hurt & back away but then through conversations with close friends, I began to pray about it. I knew that God would give me the guidance I needed. I prayed for them, I forgave them and then I forgave myself. I was at peace & by being at peace, I made peace with them. It will not be the friendship I thought it was, but that is OK. The fact that I was not filled with hurt & anger was more important. They will have to find their own peace through Christ Jesus.

  11. Jenn Williams on June 16, 2016 at 8:17 am

    These are great! One of the cultural values at our church is believing the best and we talk about it A LOT because it seems to come up everyday. It’s definitely not our natural inclination. I’ve found that when I take the first step to believe the best about someone else and their motives, they usually return the favor and the conversation doesn’t go away, but it gets much easier.

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