When it comes to actively addressing conflict in a healthy way, it is important to know that “all you can do is what you can do,” and it will not always be possible for you to make everyone happy. (source)
That’s ok though.
Making people feel happy is not your responsibility or burden to carry.
Once you deal with managing your stress before further engaging in a conflict situation, then you can begin to engage in the fun and gritty part of conflict: conflict resolution!
EMI’s Redeeming Conflict class uses Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” to show that in conflict, we need to be both innocent and shrewd.
Being innocent means being loving and considerate and assuming the best of the person/people with whom you are in conflict. Being shrewd means “considering the relational stance the other party is taking toward you.” (source)
In a perfect world, everyone would be sacrificially loving like Christ. But the hard reality is that if you aren’t loving and kind toward those you are in conflict with, you cannot expect them to be loving and kind toward you.
On the other hand, people still may try to take advantage of you, argue for arguing’s sake, or act aggressively or passive-aggressively toward you, without any desire for resolution.
That is where bing shrewd comes into play.
When you are shrewd, or have “discerning awareness,” as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it, then you pay attention to how the other person is responding, and gauge whether or not engaging in conflict resolution is even worthwhile.
In some situations, the people you are in conflict with may really not want to resolve the conflict, unless they get to “win,” or the resolution is to their own selfish advantage.
When the other person does not really want to seek mutual agreement and benefit, it is healthiest to simply manage the situation instead of resolve it.
It is not possible to resolve conflict with someone who does not want to resolve it.
Managing conflict when resolving it is not an option requires you to remain respectful and loving and not let yourself get flooded by stress chemicals.
If you show mercy, refuse to blame yourself, and refuse to villainize, rescue, or make demands of the other person you are in conflict with, but they are not willing to work toward resolution, then you will need to manage the conflict. At this point it is best to take a step back put up some stronger boundaries. See a good resource on boundaries here.
Keeping a relationship at all costs is not always healthy, and sometimes separation is the healthiest option.
However, usually you will have conflict situations that can be resolved, and I will talk about some steps that can be used to go about this in my next post!
The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.
*Note: The newest editions of their books and classes on this topic are called Redeeming Conflict, but their website still says Confronting Conflict.*