I’ve learned following an ancient teaching of Jesus Christ can make life a whole lot simpler and better for all of us when it comes to maintaining any relationship whether that be friendships, marriages or working relationships.
I become more and more aware that the average person in our culture has never heard of the conflict resolution steps that Jesus taught.
99% of conflict can be resolved in the first two steps Jesus taught. These steps come from the book of Matthew in the Bible (Matthew 18:15-17). Here they are:
Step 1: Go to the person and have a conversation about the conflict, just you and that person alone. Please keep in mind you need to be kind when talking and not condemning. A positive tone goes a long way!
Step 2: If they do not listen, bring at least one other person into the conversation with the two of you. If you’re still having conflict after trying to resolve it and the other person is fully aware it’s time to get someone higher up involved. At work that might be human resources. At home this might be a parent or someone your family member respects.
Step 3: Tell it to the church: Go public. Notice this isn’t step 1! Tell anyone, maybe some social pressure can help solve the conflict. In this step we can even learn a hard lesson for example: maybe the problem isn’t the other person?
Here are the words of Jesus written in Matthew 18:15-17, English Standard Version (ESV):
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
One time I apologized to someone for an assumption I made that wasn’t true. I was shocked when the other person responded with a thank you! She said she doesn’t ever remember anyone apologizing to her. How are we maintaining any relationship at all if we cannot apologize to one another?
Apologizing isn’t weakness. Apologizing shows you’re a person who seeks to become a better and better person. It means you value the other person and their feelings and want to move forward in harmony instead of conflict.
Many of us are taught as youngsters that the one who apologizes is the one who failed and is weak. I’d argue the exact opposite! I’ve learned it’s generally the stronger, wiser person who tries to make amends first. This person is valuing the other person by having that tough conversation, making amends and moving on. This honors the relationship.
My workplace has made these steps policy and it is really helpful to demand that people work things out together before they go over someone’s head to try to resolve a conflict that the other party might not even be aware of. Most situations will resolve in step one. It’s rarer to have to bring in another person when this is followed.
Many times what happens in our workplaces is people talk to others about a conflict they’re having and the gossip flies all around the office! This is so unhealthy; it breeds division and lowers morale. Talk can even balloon into lies like the game we played as children called telephone.
Supervisors should ask their staff to try to resolve the conflict first before getting involved. By doing this we are honoring and respecting the person we are in conflict with and we are giving them the opportunity to make it right, work it out, apologize etc…
This same thing can happen in families, marriages, and churches.
I challenge you to try out this ancient teaching of Jesus next time you have a conflict arise. It sure has helped a lot in my personal and professional life.