Healthy Conflict

How do we engage in conflict in a healthy and peace-seeking way?

The action steps to this may differ for each of us depending on how we individually instinctively tend to approach conflict.

Science has never been a subject I’ve particularly enjoyed, except when it comes to science about the brain and emotions.

While the ways that people respond to conflict are unique, all of us share the same chemical reactions and processes when our body feels stressed.

I’m not going to get too technical here, but basically your brain doesn’t distinguish physical stress from emotional stressors.

In a physically stressful situation (i.e. a vicious dog chasing you) your body needs to react quickly.  Any extra time spent thinking about the situation is less time for you to get to safety.  Consequently, our adrenal glands are designed to release chemicals to flood our brains and snap us into self-preservation.

Unfortunately, those chemicals also flood into the brain when we feel emotionally threatened and stressed.

The chemicals that flood the brain give us a surge to react and not think.  Thus, they inhibit us from accurately gauging and engaging with the situation.

Furthermore, these chemicals can stay in the brain for 48 hours until they are “burned off.”

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by feelings of anger or depression and you literally could not seem to think?  You probably were experiencing brain flooding.

The first step in dealing with conflict in a healthy way, is to prevent flooding from happening!  You want to be as logical, loving, and in your right mind as possible when resolving conflict.

Here are some steps to take to avoid and manage flooding:

For small stressors,

  1. Breath – Do deep slow belly breathing in you nose and out your mouth
  2. Talk to yourself – Calm yourself down.  Talking to yourself out loud is even better than just in your head.  Speak truth out loud.
  3. Reset and refresh your thoughts – see this article for more on renewing the mind.

For more stressful situations,

  1. Do some sort of physical exercise such as walking, running, or playing a sport.
  2. Take time out from any interaction with the other person you are in conflict with.
  3. Distract yourself by praying, reading, watching TV, taking a shower, etc.  Even if you are physically distant from the situation, keeping your thoughts focused on the stressor when your body is on the verge of or in the midst of a stress response, is not healthy!

When it comes to the conflict personality types, they react in stressful situations differently, and certain practices can be helpful to each of them.

Stay tuned for more on this topic, and if you have any practices that help you avoid becoming stressed in stressful situations, comment below!


The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

This is one of the best classes I’ve taken, and I highly recommend checking it out!


What’s Your Conflict Personality?

Last week I wrote a post about the importance of conflict, and now I want to delve a little deeper into this topic!


There are different ways that we tend to deal with conflict.  Some people, when they come face to face with conflict, will erupt in anger and rage.  They may shout, say verbally abusive things, or even act physically abusive.


Other people may act fearful and submissive and simply give up or give in to the another person’s demands, avoiding conflict, but also avoiding dealing with problems.


We each tend to react in one or two ways when it comes to conflict.  We may have one way that we react around people that we don’t trust as much, and another way we react around those we do trust and with whom we are very familiar (i.e. family members).


Here are four types of conflict personalities that are illustrated in EMI’s “Confronting Conflict” program:




Like a lion, a person who tends to react with an attack response , uses anger, aggression, hostility, and intimidation.  These personalities can snap into modes of rage in which they act verbally, physically, and/or emotionally abusive.


However, these people have a wonderful gift: passion and courage!


A redeemed “lion” is a person who uses their passion not for rage and abuse, but instead for courage, passion, toughness, and tenacity in pursuit of a greater and better purpose.


There are few things as beautiful and amazing as someone who uses their passion and courage to fight for the voiceless, to call for justice, to boldly speak truth, and to demand positive change.



*Before the next personality, let me warn you:  If you have a fear of nocturnal rodents (besides hamsters) like I do, the next photo might make you a little jumpy.*

Ok, here we go…













Despite the creepiness of this photo, I think it’s a great illustration of what constant surrender to conflict can do to a person.  Like an opossum will roll over and play dead when threatened, a person who yields and gives into conflict can feel dead inside.


Symptoms of this tendency include yielding too easily and giving in to other people in situations of conflict.  It is a victimized, depressed, passive, and angry approach to conflict which often displays passive-aggressiveness, indirect communication, poor self-esteem, and victimization.


The “opossum” may appear happy and fine, but really deep down they are angry, because they are not voicing their opinions, or saying what they really want/need to say.  They don’t participate in conflict.  They surrender to it.


Never fear!  When this personality is redeemed in a whole and healthy way, such people are harmony-seeking peacemakers who display graciousness and friendliness, but also don’t avoid necessary and healthy conflict.

Boy do we need more peacemakers in this world!




When I was about five years old, I had an obsession with trying to catch the little rabbits that would nibble on the clover in my family’s backyard.  I would create traps out of cardboard and carrots to try to catch them.


When that didn’t work, I had to use my last resort: trying to catch the unbelievably adorable creatures with a butterfly net.


Unfortunately, this method didn’t work.  If there’s one thing I learned about rabbits, it’s that when rabbits are frightened, they bolt.  Blink and they’re gone.


Some people react in a similar way when it comes to conflict.


When tension arises, all they want to do is escape, withdraw, retreat from the situation, or leave the room.  They live from a place of fearfulness.  They act emotionally unavailable, perfectionistic, and shallow as a means to avoid conflict.


The ways that someone may run from conflict often include addictions to things such as alcohol, drugs, food, sex, and/or work.


If you tend toward this “rabbit” conflict personality like I do, then maybe you crack jokes to get out of potentially uncomfortable situations.  Maybe your natural tendency is to try to act perfect and do things perfectly, hoping to avoid ever having any conflict in the first place (FYI: this doesn’t work).


But don’t worry, there’s hope for this personality too!  A redeemed “rabbit” approach to conflict is one that transforms this person into the adventurous, openhearted, merciful, and forgiving person that they are meant to be.


Instead of running away from conflict, they can openheartedly run into the conflict and display fearless love, mercy, and forgiveness.





Last but not least, the deer.  Like a deer in headlights, when conflict arises, this personality tends to freeze.


Conflict shocks them into inaction, anxiety, fear, and confusion.  They act nervous, panicky, indecisive, and tentative.  They are afraid of hurting others or doing the wrong thing, so they freeze, wanting to avoid any conflict whatsoever.


Physical manifestations of this response to conflict can show themselves as digestive and respiratory issues, neurological and psychosomatic disorders, and/or a general sense of panic.


For the “deer,” their beautiful redemption is to get to a place where they can be insightful, perceptive, sensitive, and tuned-in.  In a world that is quick to speak but slow to listen, desensitized, and tuned-in to distractions, but tuned-out of real life, these are amazing gifts.


We aren’t all going to fall perfectly into one category.  We’re human beings, not robots (or animals!).

Do you relate to any of the above personality types?  Do you tend to react one way with people you barely know, and another way with people that you know well?


Do these personality types help you better understand some of your friends and family members who respond differently to conflict than you do?


In my next post I will cover some ways that we can break free from unhealthy approaches to conflict, and live more healthy, whole, and redeemed!



The information on the four animals and conflict personality types shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

This is one of the best classes I’ve taken, and I highly recommend checking it out!


The Value of Conflict

What was it like in your home growing up as a child?  Maybe your family had unique traditions or funny inside jokes.  Maybe you remember the nostalgia of taking fun road trips or  going on vacations together.

There was probably some not so good stuff too.  Maybe your family got into angry shouting matches, or maybe you had family members who withdrew, addicted to alcohol or drugs.


Have you ever taken a moment to think about how your family dealt with conflict?


Most of us have a skewed view of what conflict is and how it should be engaged.  Usually this starts at a young age based on how our families taught us to deal with conflict.


Maybe you were taught to never raise your voice, express anger, or “rock the boat.”  Instead, you learned to suppress your feelings and shy away from engaging in any sort of conflict.


Maybe your family engaged in verbal or physical abuse as a way to deal with conflict, and you believed that the way to successfully engage in conflict was to shout the loudest or assert yourself as the strongest to win an argument.


In my home when I was growing up, we dealt with conflict by talking through what we were feeling.  Rarely did my parents shout (although my sisters and I sometimes did), but they also encouraged us not to shy away from the gritty and uncomfortable thing that is conflict.

*(Edit: When I shared this post with my mom, she reflected on how she remembers instances in which our family did not handle conflict in the best way.  Nobody will always be able to handle conflict in a healthy way.  Having the intention to pursue and handle conflict well is what matters.  No person and no family is perfect!)


I remember feeling frustrated at times because my mom would keep talking about an issue until she felt like it was resolved.  Sometimes this made me feel angry!


Though my parents modeled a healthy approach to conflict, I was someone who preferred to “keep the peace” by internalizing or ignoring issues, instead of dealing with hard conversations.


Much of my life rested on the idea of appeasing, pleasing, and following the rules to avoid conflict at all costs.  I was (and still am) a great peacemaker who could quickly crack a joke or change the subject whenever I feared a situation was beginning to feel uncomfortable.


I hated the idea that someone might be angry at or disappointed in me.  While I may have been wanted to be the “perfect” child, student, employee, etc. who obeyed the rules, fear was often the driving force of my actions.


When I sensed conflict broiling, my first reaction was to retreat and to escape the situation.  If my feelings were hurt, I would lie and say that I was fine, because I didn’t want the other person to feel bad.  I did not want to engage in any type of conflict.


To me, conflict was something that should be avoided at all costs.  It was something that disrupted the peace and wounded people.


What I did not understand was that the absence of conflict does not imply the presence of peace.


Can I tell you something that I’ve learned and am still learning that has transformed my views of relationships?

Conflict is good – healthy, in fact.

Now, just like a fork can be used to eat a delicious meal, or to brutally stab and wound someone, conflict can be healthy or detrimental depending on how you engage in it.


Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”


We are to embrace conflict in a way that helps us to grow!  Friction smooths things, grows things, and creates things.


Conflict can be beautiful.


In my next posts, I’ll write about the different ways we tend to deal with conflict, and how we can engage in it in a healthy and beneficial way.

Stay tuned!


Also, here’s a great video on the topic of conflict:


Further Reading:

Listening & Respect


(I can’t think of this word without thinking of the amazing Aretha Franklin!)

We’ve already covered the importance of listening and communicating with warmth and empathy.

Now let’s take a look at what it means to communicate with respect, which is the final part in a healthy foundation of communication (for more on this, check out this resource).


Respect is “communicating worth.” 

– EMI’s Listening for Heaven’s Sake, p. 37


I disagree with the phrase “Respect is something earned, not something given.”  While respect in the sense of admiration is usually earned, respect in regards to the dignity owed to every human being is never something that someone should have to earn.

Every single one of us, regardless of who we are or what we have done, deserves the basic respect that comes from being created in the image of God.  , James 2:1-4, 1 Peter 2:16-17.

Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created people in his own image.

James 2:1-4  entreats us not to show favoritism to people based on their wealth.

1 Peter 2:16-17 calls us to love everyone.

No matter how much someone feels comfortable and empathized with, if they do not feel respected as a human being responsible for their actions and capable of change, then there will be an unhealthy imbalance between the speaker and listener.

When we show we respect someone enough to make their own decisions, that communicates that we value them, and it also helps us to not become their rescuer who is trying to “save” or “fix” them.

Our role in relationships is not to fix people, but to encourage and come alongside one another to help them as they seek wholeness.

Ultimately, the greatest wholeness comes through God who is the only one who can truly fix or save anyone (see Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 2:8).

There is a line between taking other people’s problems on ourselves, and totally rejecting any empathy or involvement with a problem someone is dealing with.

How then can we respect people?

Here is a great acronym taken from page 38 of EMI’s Listening for Heaven’s Sake:

R – Resist using pat answers or manipulation

E- Exercise self-responsibility by “owning” your own perceptions and feelings

S – Suspend critical judgments and conclusions about the person’s feelings or motivations

P – Practice the fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 explains, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

E – Extend yourself appropriately.  Be honest about your personal, ethical, and moral limits

C – Consider confidentiality.  Show yourself worthy of a  person’s confidence by maintaining his or her privacy

T – Take one another seriously.  Avoid condescending, patronizing, or belittling attitudes


When we allow God to do the work of fixing people, and we refuse to try to rescue people or “save the day,” then we are able to avoid placing the other person in a place of inferiority, and placing ourselves in a position of hauling the burden of being a savior.

Respecting other people not only communicates that we value them, but it also allows us to better respect ourselves.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Bryant H. McGill:








Listening & Empathy

A healthy foundation in a relationship is built on warmth, empathy, and respect. (source)

The acronym, “SOLAR TEA,” that I shared in my last post, is a wonderful way to build warmth.

*If you missed my first post on listening, you can find it here.

But how do we build empathy?  And first of all, what is empathy?

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as:

“the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner;

 also  :  the capacity for this”

I don’t know about you, but I find that definition to be a little overwhelming.

Here’s a simpler definition:

“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

Ok, one last definition.

Equipping Ministries International defines empathy as “communicating accurate understanding.”

Empathy is not only understanding and sharing in with another person’s feelings, but also communicating understanding that is accurate.

There are a few people in my life who do this particularly well, and communicating with them is so refreshing!

Empathy in listening helps the speaker to feel understood and to better understand themselves.  It also helps the listener make sure they accurately understand what the speaker is saying. (source)

Knowing this, how then do we practice listening with empathy?

When someone is looking for understanding (i.e. not just asking a question or asking for help with something “What’s the weather today?” or “Can you help me study for this test?”), then you can use “reflective” (aka “active”) listening.

Here are the 3 steps of active/reflective listening as presented in EMI’s listening workbook:


  1. Use a tentative opening


“It sounds like…?”

“So you’re feeling…?”

“If I am hearing correctly…?”

“It seems…?”


  1. Identify the feeling content

Identify feeling words (i.e. worn out, refreshed, awkward, invisible, excluded, glum, disappointed, curious, happy).


  1. Identify the thought content

“Because ________ ?”


Here is an example of the 3 parts in action:

If one of my sisters was complaining about her friends going to a movie without her, I could reply with something like this.

  1. Use a tentative opening: “It sounds like you’re feeling…”
  1. Identify the feeling content: “left out or excluded”
  1. Identify the thought content: “because your friends went to a movie and did not invite you”


Then I would end with something tentative such as “is that how you’re feeling?”

Putting it all together, the sentence would be:

“It sounds like you’re feeling left out because your friends went to a movie and didn’t invite you.  Is that how you’re feeling?”

Making the statement tentative allows the person you’re listening to to either affirm that your understanding is correct, or to say that it is not correct, and then try to communicate what it is that are trying to communicate.

The primary goal is not to correctly identify the exact emotion or reason behind the emotion that the other person is feeling, as much as it is to show them that you want to understand what they’re feeling, and to give them a space to open up and explore what it is they’re feeling, so they can better understand themselves.

Throughout a conversation, you can continuously respond and reflect back to the other person using active listening.

As simple as this may seem, it is actually very powerful.

Nations go to war against each other over lack of good communication.

Speaking louder, hauling out bigger guns, or having more dramatic hand gestures is not what will bring about understanding.

If we ever hope to have more peace, in the world, we need more mediation and listening.

We desperately need more empathy.

I’ll leave you with two videos about listening and empathy:


The image in this post is one I took of an art installment.  Here’s more info about it!


“It’s Not About the Nail” – Active Listening

When you have conversations, are you really listening?  I’m not talking about simply hearing what the other person is saying, but really listening.

A classic example of someone not truly listening, is when one person is talking, and the other person is “listening,” while scrolling through emails or social media on their phone.

I’m guessing most of us are guilty of this.


People want to be valued and loved, and part of this includes being listened to, heard, and understood.

Actively listening helps to remove relational barriers such as jumping to conclusions.  It opens a window to let light in, removing obstacles, and helping us to more deeply understand one another.

In marketing, the most important thing a marketer can do is to listen to and understand his or her target customer.  Likewise, a doctor must listen to his or her patients in order to understand what is ailing them.

As friends, we aren’t being supportive and loving if we don’t take time to listen.

The video about the nail is a humorous illustration of the importance of listening.  When someone comes to you with a problem they are experiencing, you may be able to see what appears to be the obvious solution.  But, oftentimes, it is better to listen than to try to fix their problems.

Actively listening to someone shows them you love them, and allows you to not only have sympathy (feeling for them), but also empathy (feeling with them).

How you listen is important.

When I was 12, I began teaching swim lessons with a Christian ministry.

The very first thing we learned in teacher training was not how to teach proper technique, but how to listen.  The kids we taught were often terrified of swimming.

We needed to have tools to build trust and communication with our students, as well as with their parents who were observing from the side of the pool.

An acronym we learned to help us was “SOLAR TEA.”

I’ll break it down for you:

S – Sensitive seating

In the United States, standing or sitting at a 45 degree angle in relation to someone, and about arms length away, is most comfortable for open communication.

talking good.jpg
Sitting head-on when speaking with someone is usually less comfortable, not to mention intimidating, depending on the situation.  When communicating, we want to feel safe.
talking bad.jpg


O – Open posture

Crossing your arms creates a physical barrier, as does angling your body away from someone.

Listening is about openness, and that should also be expressed with our physical actions.  But, don’t be too open (think when guy sit with their legs spread wide – yeah.  Don’t do that, because that can be awkward)

L – Leaning forward

Leaning in toward someone when you’re listening to them makes them feel appreciated, and shows them that you are interested in what they are saying.

A – Appropriate eye contact

Eye contact is crucial in communicating and developing understanding.  Not making eye contact creates a barrier.  Staring someone down will creep them out.


R – Relax 

This means not fidgeting, and also not clamming up.

How can you make the other person feel comfortable and heard?

T – Touch

Touch is a very powerful way to connect with people.  Some people love to give hugs, while others hate physical touch.

Depending on the context, physical touch may or may not be appropriate.  In many European countries, people greet each other – men and women alike – by kissing on the cheek.

In other cultures a man and woman touching is very inappropriate, not to mention kissing on the cheek.

Appropriate touch is key.  In the United States, usually touching someone on the shoulder, or back of the elbow is perfectly acceptable.

However, if you don’t know someone especially well, you may feel it would be appropriate to ask first before touching them, even on the shoulder.  It can feel awkward to ask, but the goal is to make the person you’re interacting with feel comfortable and respected.

Don’t overthink it though!

E – Environment

This could also be context.  What is normal in the environment you’re in?

A – Accommodating differences

This could apply to a wide variety of situations.  If you are speaking to a child, you can squat down to be at eye level.  If you are speaking to someone who is hard of hearing, you may need to speak up.

Ultimately, this acronym isn’t a formula.  It’s just a little way to equip people with tangible ways they can foster an environment in which people feel known and valued.

On Thursday I’ll continue on this important topic of listening!


Listening for Heaven’s Sake resource by Equipping Ministries International – You can find the SOLAR TEA acronym in this book!

The Power of Words

are powerful
forces of nature.

they are destruction.
they are nourishment.
they are flesh.
they are water.
they are flowers
and bone.

they burn. they cleanse
they erase. they etch.

they can either
leave you

or brimming
with home.”
― Sanober Khan

Words are powerful.  The saying “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is very misguided.  Words can hurt.  While they probably won’t break your bones, what is spoken can build up or tear down a person.

Like bricks in a house, positive words can create a strong structure that weathers any storm.  However, sometimes the words spoken to us, or the words we speak over and over to ourselves are negative bricks that need to be dismantled.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 proclaims, 

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

When I think about the words spoken to me throughout my life, I clearly remember the very negative things people have spoken to me, but I also remember the very positive things.  Unfortunately, the negative words people speak tend to shake us harder than the positive ones.

It’s important to learn how to deal well with failure, correction, and negative words, but it is also important to remember to hang tightly to encouraging words as well.

At a summer camp that I attended as a camper, and now as a Counselor in Training, we have a camp tradition called giving “seeds.”  The seeds are little notes of encouragement that campers and counselors write to one another to call out and encourage the good character traits we see in each person.

Words, like seeds, plant things that grow, either positive or negative.

Some of the greatest encouragement and healing I have received are from words people have spoken or written to me.  In fact, in one of my drawers, I have a basket filled with notes and cards that people have written for me over the years.  It is so encouraging to go back and read them  every now and then.

Words have weight.  We see this from the very beginning of the Bible.

In the beginning, God creates the world by speaking it into existence.

Genesis 1:3 reveals, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

This is such a beautiful image!

Just as God formed matter with his words, we also have the power to influence people with the words we say.  Not only that, but we have power to direct our mindsets with the words we speak.

Take a look at these verses:

Proverbs 16:24

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Proverbs 15:1

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Ephesians 4:29

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Proverbs 12:18

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Matthew 15:18

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”

Colossians 3:8

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”

James 1:26

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

Luke 6:45

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

When I was in the midst of anxiety, eating disorders, and depression, I had people who spoke powerfully encouraging words of scripture into my life.  Scripture is the most powerful word.

Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

I want to speak over you some of the scriptures spoken over me, because speaking truth out loud is so important.

*Note: This is not a short video (it’s not supposed to be!).  Skip to a little past 8 minutes if you want to get straight to the scripture part.

I encourage you to be aware of the words you speak to others (even those you say in jest).  I also encourage you to be aware of the words you allow to define you, whether they’re words spoken by family members, or words spoken by psychologists.


Stay tuned for Monday’s post!

Resource Mentioned:

“Renewing the Mind”  by Equipping Ministries International