This past week I was visiting with a friend who had a troubling situation at work. In a short time it became complicated. On the one hand, there was the initial problem that had to be addressed. Although it wasn’t insurmountable, there was no ignoring it. Then, on the other hand, there was the inept manner in which the problem was handled – harsh words, disrespectful expressions, etc. Such spawned hurt feelings, resentment and inevitable distrust. Now instead of there being just one problem, the initial problem, the problem that could have quite easily been addressed – there are two.
This conversation reminded me of the words of a speaker I heard one time. In addressing a group of men in regard to conflict in marriage, he noted that all relationships have challenges from time to time. Jesus said, “in the world you have tribulation.” (Jn. 16:33a) And when those challenges become toxic, typically such is due to how the problems are addressed, not necessarily the problem itself. Hence, there are two challenges we all face: the Problems and the Process of handling those problems. A key indicator of a relationship’s health is seen in the couple’s ability to work through things (the process). If a problem keeps resurfacing or things tend to quickly escalate, chances are the process is flawed.
There are various things that can be said regarding conflict resolution. Ron Edmondson, in an article entitled Ten Tips To Resolve Conflict In A Healthy Way, has some helpful things to say in this regard:
- Understand the battle
- Find the right time and place
- Examine yourself first
- Consider the other side of the conflict
- Do not overreact to the issue or overload on emotion
- Do not dance around or sugarcoat the issue or disguise it in false kindness
- Do not allow the small disagreements to become big disagreements
- Be firm but gentle
- Work toward a solution
- Grant forgiveness easily
A quick read of his material will be time well spent, especially if you’re in the midst of a troublesome interpersonal challenge.
While there are many relevant Scriptures that speak to this, one that comes to mind is found in the Book of Colossians. Paul says: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4:6) Each of the ten tips given by Edmondson are good and advantageous; still something has to be said. And the manner in which the message is communicated. We are, according to Paul, to “season our speech with salt.”
As you know, salt was a precious commodity back in Bible times. Wages were paid with salt and such was used to flavor as well as to preserve. Salt was useful. Salt was of value. Perhaps a takeaway for us in all of this is to remember that our words matter and at the end of the day they may serve to either edify or tear down. Sure there are hard conversations that must be had, yet we can “go through” that conversation, so to speak, with wisdom and guarded words OR we can just let it fly. It’s in those times that folks just react sort of off the cuff, like the problem mentioned at the beginning of this article, that things go south.
So while thorny problems and interpersonal challenges will certainly come, remember to discern closely the process by which you address such. And may we all be intentional about letting our “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” (Col.4:6) Is it not safe to say that at the end of the day we will all be the better for it?
You are loved,