Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Conflict Resolution--How's this working for you?

Daniel Darling, Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church, peeled back the curtain of his life when he shared a slice of his life as he dealt in a not so successful way with inter-personal conflict in the November, 2013, issue of HomeLife: I was having a particularly rough day at the office, and I carelessly left a weapon lying around — my email inbox. Chafed at a colleague who publically embarrassed me in a team meeting, I composed a bitter and sarcastic email and, without hesitation, clicked Send. Then I propped up my feet on the desk and waited for the smoke cloud to rise from the office of my perceived enemy. I didn’t have to wait long. Jim, a veteran leader, called me and said, “Dan, I can tell you’re upset. Why not come over here and let’s talk about it?” As I walked across the church campus to his office, my heart sank into my stomach. Regret washed over me in waves. Jim didn’t deserve the treatment I gave him. As I entered his office, I spoke first: “I’m sorry.” Thankfully, Jim’s good spirit diffused what could have been a tense situation. I know that my hasty email damaged our relationship. Following that exchange, it took months to restore the trust we’d previously shared. His personal transparency is appreciated as her further attests, I wrestle with how to navigate conflict. Don’t we all? Conflict arises from differences, both large and small. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences appear trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem. These needs can be a need to feel safe and secure, a need to feel respected and valued, or a need for greater closeness and intimacy. The culture of 2014 is filled with tension and fear. People today fear failure, losing their job, and societal issues (such as, healthcare or lack thereof; the economy; terrorism). Your colleagues come to work every day carrying emotional baggage from any number of sources. Perhaps it was an argument with a spouse or teenaged child, or an awareness that their personal finances are not doing well, or a concern that their car might not make it through the day and repairs are unaffordable, or from some other stressor. They are emotionally vulnerable. It would not take much to push them over the edge. You’ve noticed they are distant or at least not like themselves. Their words are few, their sentences short. They don’t make eye contact much if at all. When they talk about the company it is negative. Nothing is good. It is all bad. Their perception is that no one cares about them. And, then, it happens. The wrong thing is said or something is said with a tone that conveys a harsh message. Their defenses shred. And, they react. A conflict is birthed. Is the person with whom you are having conflict your opponent or your partner in the cause of hospice? The win-win approach says, “I want to win and I want you to win.” This statement is not easy to come to when in a high stakes conflict. However, if there is to be a win-win, then several things must be present in your demeanor: • Self-awareness—What emotional baggage am I influenced by in this conflict? Is there unresolved conflict that is influencing my emotions? Is there other ‘stuff’ influencing me at this moment? • Needs—What are my needs in this conflict? Must I win at all cost? Do I own any of this conflict or am I a victim of the other person’s need for power and control over me? Your answer to that question will determine if you really want a win-win or win-lose outcome. • Big picture—What is the bigger picture? Am I and my need to win this conflict bigger than the bigger picture? The answer to that will determine if conflict resolution is even possible. What are the needs of the person with whom I am in conflict? Have I considered his or her needs? It’s a good thing to do if you desire a win-win outcome. • Target of attack—In approaching conflict, the target is key. The win-win approach has as its target the problem, not the person. “Solve the problem at hand, salvage the relationship if at all possible” is the motive behind the win-win approach. There are other approaches to conflict resolution, but the win-win approach seems to fit the focus of this study. Humility, ownership of responsibility, and integrity on the part of the Chaplain will go a long way to resolving conflict. Does this suggest a “happily ever after” outcome? Absolutely not! There are situations when a conflict has deteriorated a relationship to the point that a working relationship is no longer possible that one of two options exist: re-assignment or resignation. Re-assignment brings relief, albeit, temporary relief because there will be new people and new conflicts. The key benefit of re-assignment is that is gives time for healing and rekindling of passion to succeed in the work of chaplaincy, and it also brings the sense of reality in that there is an awareness that no one can go from one re-assignment to another to another. That type of thing leads to the belief that conflict resides with the person re-assigned. Resignation ends the relationship permanently with no hope of resolution. This is a last resort measure. Resignation fosters the following: victim mentality, self-righteousness, avoidance of responsibility, future problems with relationships, let alone unemployment. No, resignation is not the best solution. Conflict resolution is never easy and shouldn’t be. However, it is a gateway to personal growth. Bless you, Chaplains, for all you do in providing supportive care to patients at the end of their lives.

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