Two Ways to Handle Conflict, One That Doesn’t Suck
It’s fascinating how much frustration and misunderstanding is really easily taken care of by honest, open, vulnerable conversation. As a pastor (and a human for that matter), I tend to make decisions that effect people. Sometime these decisions are received well. Other times, not so much. Usually someone is happy while someone else is pissed. It just goes with the territory.
When people are frustrated with a decision there are a couple paths they usually take:
Path 1: They call me and we talk to me about it. I explain why I made a decision or said what I did. They get perspective on my motivations and the “why” of the decision. I get perspective on how I may have missed some important information or how my decision affected someone else negatively.
From there, I apologize where necessary or they get wider perspective. Basically, I explain why I made the decision I made and why we are sticking with it or I apologize and make a change to the decision – usually, it’s a little bit of both. From there, they can decide more appropriately how to respond to the decision.
Path 2: They never say anything and they get pissed off and passive-aggressive and leave the church 6 months later and I never learn anything or am never able to explain the nuance of what happened.
Now, I am not a rocket-scientist but it seems to me that Path 1 is more productive. The problem with it that it is harder short-term, but winds up being much better long-term.
Short-term pain, long term gain.
There are likely some natural reasons that people choose Path #2.
One of them is that people do not trust pastors to respond well. To be fair, we’ve earned this. People’s experience tells them that a pastor will be defensive, controlling and manipulative and will not be able to admit they screwed up or be able to explain the nuance of the decision without belittling the person they are talking to or their concern.
Pastors probably respond this way because we are finding our identity in our decisions and not in Christ. So we can’t have our decisions be questioned because then our very “selves” will be under scrutiny. When you feel your identity is in question rather than just your ideas, it is naturally hard to respond well. T
Bottom line, thee reason I try and choose Path 1 and encourage others to do the same:
I live with the base belief that most people generally aren’t trying to be a-holes.