So… you’ve done your best in communicating, whether it was a presentation, speech, or even interpersonal communication. But then- what if there is conflict? A disagreement? A misunderstanding?

For the last day of this month-long series, we will look at conflict, and how we can better handle those situations. After all, we all experience conflict, whether it be  at work or at home or among friends. Learning how to handle conflict is an essential communication skill. We all experience conflict, yet many of us are not trained or well-equipped in techniques in dealing with it.

In the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, Sande says we can look at conflict as an obstacle to conquer quickly, a hazard to avoid, or an opportunity to solve problems in a way that honors God and benefits those involved.

He says there are three basic ways we respond to conflict: Escape responses (which involve flight or denial); Attack responses (which involve assault or litigation), and responses in the middle of these two, called the Peacemaking responses (and which include reconciliation, negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, among others). Sande goes on to explain each one of these options in greater detail in his book.

So, what is conflict? Sande defines it as “a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone’s goals or desires.” This definition is broad enough to include a difference in opinion on where to go for vacation to bigger divisions among large groups. He explains four primary causes of conflict:

  1.  Misunderstandings from poor communication
  2. Differences in values, goals, gifts, callings, priorities, expectations, interests, or opinions
  3.  Competition over limited resources (such as time or money)
  4. Sinful attitudes and habits that lead to sinful words and actions

Conflict is not all bad, and because we are all unique, differences are inevitable. Furthermore,  many differences are not simply right or wrong; they are simply different. Sande says:

When handled properly, disagreements in these areas can stimulate productive dialogue, encourage creativity, promote helpful change, and generally make life more interesting. Therefore, although we should seek unity in our relationships, we should not demand uniformity (see Eph. 4:1–13). Instead of avoiding all conflicts or demanding that others always agree with us, we should rejoice in the diversity of God’s creation and learn to accept and work with people who simply see things differently than we do (see Rom. 15:7; cf. 14:1–13). (page 30)

Conflict is an opportunity to demonstrate the love and power of God in our lives (but should not be viewed as an inconvenience or an opportunity to force our will on someone else).  Conflict provides an opportunity for three responses:

  1. Glorify God
  2. Serve others
  3. Grow to be like Christ

These responses are covered in much greater detail in his book. In addition, Sande offers these four basic principles of peacemaking:

  1. Glorify God
  2. Get the log out of your own eye
  3. Gently restore
  4. Go and be reconciled

Sande offers us a new way of looking at conflict; not as something to be avoided or dreaded, but as an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ.

As individuals, communicators, and human beings living with sin, some amount of conflict is inevitable. This book is a practical and valuable resource for learning how to handle conflict in a way that is loving and honors God.

All of our communication, should in fact, point to Christ, for he is the reason we are learning to share with the world articulately and eloquently about the hope that we have.

I hope that something in this month-long series on communication has inspired or encouraged you! Please consider sharing by commenting below or contacting me directly.

Question for you: What is your view of conflict? Had you considered it an opportunity to glorify God? How can you improve the way you handle conflict?