My husband and I had a challenging conversation the other night. I like to call this having a “difference of opinion”. 😉
Have you ever had a difference of opinion with someone? It happens, right?
So why not learn some ways to fight better? No, I don’t mean learn how to always win the fight.
What I’m saying is, let’s learn some better ways to fight so that we can find an amicable solution or so that we can at least can walk away with our feelings and the other person’s feelings in tact.
7 Tips to Fight Better
- Stop. Stay calm. This is important whether the conflict happens on social media or in person. The Bible calls this being “slow to anger,” and is full of verses that speak to the wisdom in remaining composed. Take a moment to stop and pray, even if it’s just a short, “Help me please, Lord.” Take time to think through what happened and ask yourself, “Am I really upset at this? Is this worth getting into a disagreement over?” If the answer is no, move on. If the answer is yes, it’s still a good idea to wait and try to keep your cool.
- Acknowledge your own part in the conflict. What assumptions and expectations do you hold that are influencing how you talk about this situation? A related question to ask yourself is, ‘Did I do anything to offend the other person’? A familiar verse that supports this tip is Matthew 7:1-5. Christians are challenged to deal with the “log in your own eye” before you “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” It is hypocritical to point out all the things your spouse, sibling, friend, or in-law did wrong if you won’t acknowledge your part in the problem.
- Talk face-to-face and one-on-one. Whenever possible, go to the person and talk in private. Avoid venting to someone else. (Don’t fuss to your sister about your lazy husband or to your husband about your annoying coworker…you get the picture). Also avoid taking the issue to social media. I think we all know what can happen here. This is called “airing dirty laundry”, and it almost always turns out badly. In Matthew 18:15a, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone”. This was a verse I saw over and over when I was researching this topic. Matthew 18:15-17 was used often as the key verse to show biblical conflict management.
- Find common ground. Focus on the relationship. If you can find something you have in common with that person, you’re much more likely to be able to cooperate, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, show that you care about that person, be honest about your feelings, and be respectful of the other person’s feelings . Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our enemy isn’t flesh and blood but the spiritual forces of evil. Remember, the other person isn’t your enemy – Satan is, and he’s the one who wants the conflict to tear apart your relationship.
- Listen. Let the other person talk, even if you’re the one who brought up the issue because you were hurt or wronged. After you explain what’s wrong, allow the other person to have his/her say, too. Sit quietly. Don’t plan your retort. Just listen. It’s ok to ask for clarification as the person is speaking – to repeat some of the things he/she said to be sure you understood – but leave some space for her otherwise. There may be some underlying issues you don’t know about or unspoken expectations or assumptions that have made the problem worse.
- Focus on the main issue. It is very likely that other problems will surface while you’re trying to work this out. While those shouldn’t be ignored completely, they should be sidelined for the moment as you focus on the current situation. What offended you in the first place? If it was the fact that your husband doesn’t help with the dishes and cleaning the kitchen after dinner, you’ll have to table the issue of him not helping get the kids in the bed and come back to that later.
- Forgive. Give grace. Did you know that God wants us to put our worship on hold and forgive someone we have a grudge against first. It’s THAT important. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” God wants us to come before Him with clean hearts – not hearts burdened with contempt over an offense or argument.
The next time you find yourself having a difference of opinion with someone, remember these tips. Take a moment to stop, pray, and ask for God’s guidance. Then, go to this person, and begin the conversation.
Think back to some recent conflicts you’ve had. Which of these tips did you use? Which ones didn’t you use? How did the use of these tips (or lack thereof) influence the way the conflict was handled?
Can you think of other helpful tips to share?
For more on the subject of biblical conflict management read When Your Feelings Are Hurt. Also, see What To Do If You Have a Critical Spirit.
I used the following resources in my research for this post:
9 Ways to Handle Conflict Biblically
Experiencing Intercultural Communication 4th Edition
Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters 8th Edition
Sermon: Jesus’ Plan for Resolving Conflict – Matthew 5, 18