Jeremy Yeckley is a friend of Tim Madden and guest blogger from time to time on Maddening Theology. He works with Tabernacle Bible Church in Honesdale, PA, and Foundations Christian Counseling across Northeastern Pennsylvania and around the country. He is a gifted counselor, communicator, and leader.
What memories, images, and feelings does the word conflict create for you? If you pass over the question too quickly you might have a tendency to avoid the pain and frustration conflict brings. Maybe you would prefer to think of conflict as something outside of yourself. There is no doubt that conflict exists outside of us.
A quick Google search would reveal millions of stories around conflict that could include nuclear issues with Iran, political unrest in government, local crime, and a constantly increasing divorce rate. Hiding behind the conflict that lives outside of us will not bring peace to the conflict that lives inside of us and which continues to overflow into our personal relationships. This post is the first in a series and will focus on a few factors that contribute toward an individual’s natural tendencies for responding to conflict.
Why do people respond to conflict differently? Because each individual is unique. God’s unique design for each individual will impact the way they respond to conflict. Unique individuals also tend to have unique situations of conflict that cannot successfully be addressed with anyone, single approach. Many individuals will have a natural or preferred approach that they default to when faced with personal conflict. Randolph Lowry and Richard Meyers present a model that addresses five general approaches to conflict. An individual’s personal experience, personality, attitude, and values are factors associated with influencing individual preferences toward approaches to conflict. Their model also correlates the value of goals versus relationships as a determining factor for approaches to conflict. You can see these factors demonstrated in the figure below.
The five approaches include avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration. There is no single good or bad approach to resolving conflict. Different approaches may be more appropriate than others based upon the situation or type of conflict. You should take time to understand your natural disposition to conflict and how your personal experiences, attitude, values, and even your personality impact your approach.
Everyone’s natural tendencies will come with strengths and non-strengths for resolving various types of conflict. Taking time to understand an individual’s natural tendencies toward conflict will help each person involved evaluate how their approach may help resolve or escalate a particular conflict. Collaboration is most consistently identified as the preferred approach to managing personal conflict because it holds a high value on personal goals and relationships. Collaborative approaches also seem to consistently produce more mutually satisfactory outcomes for everyone involved. Even though collaboration may present the most satisfactory outcome it may not be appropriate in situations where abuse, physical/mental illness, cognitive impairments or other factors are present.
Understanding your natural tendencies when facing conflict is helpful and could improve your ability for managing conflict well, but it is not enough if you want to learn how to thrive in personal conflict. Thriving in personal conflict will require a complete shift in what we believe about conflict. Changing your belief about conflict is not as simple as changing your mind, attitude, or behavior toward conflict. What you believe about conflict is going to be largely based on your belief about the source of authority, truth, and purpose for all of life. The next post will begin to lay the foundations for critical beliefs that are necessary for thriving in conflict. I will also introduce a great resource that will help build skills for transforming your belief and response to conflict.
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