How Conflict Can Be A Good Thing

All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require conflict in order to grow. 

This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendships, and business.

Unfortunately, most people try to avoid conflict at all costs. 

I believe the reason that conflict is avoided by many is that they do not know how to engage people in what I call:

Healthy, Productive Conflict.

We must learn to engage in healthy, productive conflict so that we can have open, honest, trusting relationships in our life.

Being able to engage in healthy, productive conflict is at the core of being a mature human being.

So how do we engage in healthy, productive conflict? 

I believe before we discuss what healthy conflict is we need to understand where unhealthy conflict comes from and what it is. 

James 4:1-3  

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

We see here that negative conflict comes from the desires that battle within us or within our heart that leads to bitterness, sinful anger, resentment, gossip, backbiting, slander, and un-forgiveness.  

Unhealthy, unproductive conflict is centered around destructive fighting, interpersonal politics, personal attacks, accusatory remarks and one-sided viewpoints geared towards vengeance and having your way. 

This kind of unhealthy conflict causes us to revisit the same issues over and over again, resulting in months or sometimes years of pain and anguish never truly resolving the disagreement. 

Unhealthy conflict is what you often see between divorced couples, departments in companies, and staff members in a church. 

Until the problems become the issues instead of people, the problems will never go away, and the problems will never be resolved. 

So how do we engage in a healthy, productive conflict?

First off engaging in healthy productive conflict does not mean we are passive, sappy, sweet, and nice to everyone. 

You can engage in healthy, productive conflict and still show passion, emotion, and frustration so much that an outside observer may mistake healthy conflict for unproductive discord. 

The difference between the healthy and unhealthy conflict is:

People who refuse to engage in healthy, productive conflict and actually try to resolve issues usually end up resorting to back-channel personal attacks and those are far nastier and more harmful than any heated argument over issues. 

People engaged in healthy productive conflict focus on the issues that need to be resolved and are looking towards a peaceful agreement instead of it being personally focused mean-spirited attack. 

Healthy productive conflict has one purpose: To produce the best solutions for everyone in the shortest period of time. 

This is why Ephesians 4:26 says:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

And in:

Colossians 3:13 it says:

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Work to resolve conflict quickly to restore the relationship; this does not mean sugar-coating the issues or sweeping them under the rug. 

It means engaging each other with truth, transparency, and honesty not to pass blame but to truly resolve the issue at the end and bring restoration.

People who understand how to engage in healthy, productive conflict, emerge from potentially heated debates with no feelings of bitterness or resentment towards the other party because they were working together to move the: 

  1. Relationship

  2. Marriage

  3. Church

  4. or business

Forward for the betterment of all involved choosing to lay down their own agenda for the betterment of others. 

Just like Philippians 2:3-7 says:

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men.

Steps to engaging in Healthy productive conflict: 

  • Calm down, cool off before setting up a meeting.

  • Before meeting with the person or group that you have the issue with, ask yourself the following questions:

    • What does the bible say about this?

    • Since my emotions are signals of my core values being challenged, what are my emotions telling me about this?

    • What is the real issue that needs to be resolved?

    • What part did I play in, causing disagreement or misunderstanding?

    • What are the three best solutions that I can come up with that will help to bring about the best possible solution for every party involved?

  • Go into the meeting with the golden rule in mind: Matthew 7:12 "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

  • Share your heart about the issues you want to see resolved without accusing the other person.

  • Ask: What can I do to help resolve this conflict?

  • After the other party speaks, restate what you heard the other person say.

  • With every response that you give, make sure it's a soft answer: Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

  • At the end of the meeting, Affirm, forgive, and thank.

KC Cupp