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What words come to mind when you think of conflict? I recently asked a flower_on_the_streetgroup of a dozen church leaders. Answers ranged from anxiety, avoidance, and scared, to trying to keep the peace.

We are facing conflict in many ways in our world right now—national, political, ethnic, denominational, and familial. These conflicts heighten the tension in our churches. That can lead to some pretty bad situations.

Jesus offers some processes for dealing with conflict so that it doesn’t turn destructive. The Gospels say things like turn the other cheek, take another person with you when you have to call someone out, or forgive so that you can be forgiven.

But what if you can’t?

I want to introduce you to a process of self-regulation that will increase your capacity to follow Jesus’ counsel. In the world of emotional intelligence, self-regulation is the ability to master your emotions, responses and behaviors.   In other words, with increased ability to self-regulate, you can turn the other cheek instead of hitting back. You can have a calm conversation instead of stomping off and slamming doors. You can forgive instead of seething.

Self-regulation doesn’t make conflict go away. But it does give you the ability to avoid making things worse by turning your destructive reactions into productive responses. Click To Tweet

First, let’s take a look at what actually happens in a conflict situation: Conflict > Automatic Thought > Destructive Behavior.

An automatic thought is an unconscious assessment of what is happening. Automatic thoughts lead to generally destructive behavior. For instance, let’s say someone challenges me.   And that my automatic thought is, “He’s trying to make me look stupid!” In that case, I’m likely to get defensive and self-righteous. I’m going to want to prove my point instead of really listen to what he’s saying. The more I try to prove my point, the more I shut down any conversation. And the more likely he is to think, “#$%* She doesn’t even listen.” That will set up some destructive responses from him. See where this is going?

Instead of going down that path, here’s an emotional intelligence tool that will help you stay calm. In this acronym, each letter stands for an action to increase your self-regulation.

C: Calm yourself. For most of us this means pausing and praying. Or even simply breathing. Breathing gives us a chance to move out of fight or flight, and back into cognitive processes. In other words, it gives us a chance to access wisdom instead of simply reacting.

A: Assess your Automatic Thought. Tune in to your automatic thought. Bring it from the subconscious to the conscious realm. When you become aware of what you’re thinking, you’re on the road to choosing a new thought.

L: Listen to what was actually said instead of how you automatically interpreted it. Discover a new way of making sense of their comments. Listen both with your heart and your head.

M: Make a new response. Now that you have calmed yourself, assessed and listened, intentionally choose to make a new response. Think a new thought. Respond in a new way.

Conflict is a fact of life. At its best, it helps us clarify our values, articulate our needs, and arrive at new insights. At its worst, it tears us apart.

As stewards of the Gospel dream of the Kingdom of God, we owe it to ourselves to increase the love in the world, and not the anxiety; to increase the Kingdom and not conflict. That means we need to master ourselves. To practice self-regulation.

Ready to learn more about how to stay CALM? Join me for my upcoming Mastering Conflict workshop!