I don’t know about you, but I have to deal with a lot of conflict as a youth pastor. There is conflict between students that must be mediated, parental conflict that must be followed up on, and then there is always conflict that arises within the workplace. I hate conflict, have I said that yet? I hate conflict, because no matter what I do, I always allow conflict to impact me personally. When someone is frustrated with something, or a decision that has been made, I inevitably take it to heart and allow it to personally impact me.
This past week I had a break through with Chuck Carringer, my boss, in discussing conflict. We were working through a particular conflict that was going on in the work place. Unfortunately this conflict arose one day before I left for our yearly family vacation. It also just happened to be on a Wednesday night. Chuck told me that he did not want me to think about it for the rest of the day, or even give it any thought the entire week of my vacation. What? How was I supposed to do that? Me, the guy who allows any and all conflict to have an impact personally, was supposed to let it go for a week and half and have some sense of peace.
I can tell you that I finally was able to let it go, and after discussing it in detail with Chuck upon my return, I discovered the difference between personal conflict and task conflict. Personal conflict occurs when there is perceived incompatibility between individuals, and typically includes tension, annoyance and animosity between people. Task conflict occurs when there are perceived disagreements among individuals about the content of their decisions and involves differences in viewpoints, ideas and opinions. There is a huge difference between the two. See most of our conflict is task conflict. But if you are like me, you allow task conflict to impact you personally and take it as a personal conflict. When I began to see that most of the conflict that I deal with does not have anything to do with me personally and that it was not a personal attack against me, just a disagreement of ideas and opinions, I found great freedom and the ability to rise above conflict, not fear it.
So if you are facing conflict, here are a couple of suggestions I have for you:
Suggestion # 1: Don’t take task conflict personally.
Suggestion # 2: Don’t be suspicious of others and their motives.
Suggestion # 3: Choose to believe the best about the other person!
I believe that when we embrace these suggestions, we will be able to rise above conflict and tackle it head on, instead of avoiding it!