In a conflict with someone else, there is nothing quite as refreshing as realizing that you both want to work it out and find a mutually beneficial solution to the situation.
When both parties are seeking to come to a healthy resolution, making sure you both are staying calm, and checking to make sure that you aren’t turning to unhealthy ways of handling conflict, then you can proceed to coming to a resolution!
The three stages of conflict resolution outlined in EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook are:
1. Understand Each Other’s Point of View
The first step is to create mutual understanding.
This is usually the most uncomfortable stage because it requires vulnerability and sacrificial love in order to hear what the other person is saying, and recognize their underlying feelings and beliefs.
Active/reflective listening is so important in this stage! While you may know how to listen quite well, the other person may have never learned how to reflectively listen.
You can help them listen empathetically out by asking things like “What do you think I’m saying?” or “How do you think I feel about that?” after they have listened to your perspective.
If they correctly understand what you are trying to communicate, then ask them to identify your requests with questions such as “What do you think I am asking you to do?” or “What do you think my bottom line is?”
Asking questions like these is a fantastic way to nudge someone to actively listen to you when they aren’t or don’t know how to listen in a reflective way.
But keep in mind that you also need to listen to them with empathy and identify their requests!
2. Identify Shared Needs/Issues
In this stage, the goal is to find common ground.
The first step takes time, and you should not move on to this step if either of you does not yet feel understood or truly want resolution.
The first step deals with surface-level concerns, and this step deals with the underlying motivations of those concerns.
If a husband and wife are arguing over how to donate and/or invest their money, the underlying shared common ground might be that they both want to wisely steward the resources that God has given them.
The ways in which they understand wise stewardship just differ. In this step it’s good to take time to understand and honor each other’s felt needs and take time to summarize both sides.
3. Identify Underlying Motivations
When we identify underlying motivations of both parties, then we can better understand one another’s hidden motivators. “Underlying motivations are the core values or needs that each party is trying to satisfy.” (Source)
In the previous example about the couple’s finances, the differing perspectives on how to honor God with finances most likely comes from differing underlying motivators.
The wife may have grown up in the midst of financial poverty due to parents who did not manage money well. To her, wisely stewarding and honoring God with finances may be actually saving and investing finances so that they have money saved to use for necessities, emergencies, and special purchases.
On the other hand, the husband may have grown up with parents that really emphasized giving a portion of their finances to the poor as a way to serve others and honor God.
Neither are wrong in their approach and motivations. They just need to brainstorm some “win-win” solutions.
Then they can choose a solution and implement it. If that solution doesn’t work after a period of time, then they can adjust their plan until they find one that works well for both of them.
The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class. I highly recommend taking this class because there is so much valuable information that cannot be properly communicated outside the hands-on in-class interaction.
*Note: The newest editions of their books and classes on this topic are called Redeeming Conflict, but their website still says Confronting Conflict.*