Five Ways to Seek Peace and Defuse Conflict
“As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, AMP).
1. Put a face on it – We all know how much meaner people are on social media. Behavioral psychologists call this online disinhibition effect, attributing it to anonymity. But more recent research says it arises from the lack of eye contact. Apparently face-to-face communication subdues natural hostility. If at all possible, work out conflicts face to face. If conflict must be addressed in writing, use better than average communication skills. Such as . . .
2. Listen better than you talk – James 1:19 says, “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Typically we turn that backwards, quick to speak and slow to hear, putting across our own view with increasing vigor as our opponent does the same. Intensity mounts until it spills over into anger. Try reversing this by repeating back in your own words what others say. The FBI uses reflective listening to de-escalate hostage situations. Certainly we can use it with our brothers and sisters.
3. You’re human, admit it – Argument tends to excite pride and defensiveness, morphing discussions into power struggles and conflicts. Once committed to winning, we tend to forget the biblical teaching on humility. We’re told to “Consider yourself, lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). There’s a place for holding firm to a position, but there’s also a place for qualifiers like: “This is how I see it,” and, “I might be wrong.”
4. Find common ground – We all agree on something. When things get too hot, take a detour into harmony zone. We all find heroic behavior inspiring; we all love a good laugh. Take a little reprieve from the conflict to enjoy baseline human commonality.
5. Process versus content – The content of a conversation is what it’s about; the process is the way it’s done. When the process goes south, the content goes with it. Keep the process of the conversation respectful, focused, and productive by using the tools mentioned above. Ensure a healthy process, and the content often takes care itself.
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