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As a church leader, sometimes you'll see conflict between those you lead, and sometimes you will face conflict with those you lead.
God wants us to enter into every conflict determined to find a win-win solution. Philippians 2:4 says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Not only... but also. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
To find this kind of win-win solution, I'm using LeaderLines to introduce you to four concepts from a book by Roger Fisher and William Ury called Getting to Yes:
Relationships: Separate the people from the problem.
Interests: Focus on the interests, not the positions.
Creativity: Brainstorm creative options for solving the problem.
Standards: Agree on the standards you will use to solve the problem.
We've already looked at the importance of relationships (click here to review). Now let's look at the second concept: Focus on the interests, not the positions.
Philippians 2:4 says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Now, there's a difference between my position in a conflict and my interest in the conflict. For example, if I have a neighbor whose dog is keeping me up at night, my position may be that my neighbor should simply get rid of his dog. But as long as I stay stubbornly fixed on my position, hostility rises, and creative solutions are stifled. Behind my position, however, is my interest: I want a good night's sleep. There are a lot of options my neighbor and I have to meeting that interest.
I don't have a neighbor with a yapping dog. But if I did, resolving that conflict would involve identifying not just my interests but his interests. His interests may include a sentimental attachment to raising a dog that came from a breeding line the family has maintained for several generations. Or his interests may include the security of having a dog that will warn of intruders on his property. Or he may have his dog outside on nights he's gone because he knows the dog tends to tear up things in the house if left alone.
The point is that he has interests and I have interests, and if we're going to follow God's word, each of us will have to look not only to our own interests but to the interests of the other as well.
In driving, our greatest risk of collision is at the intersections. It's true in life, too: Conflict can happen where our lives intersect with other lives. That's why I think Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of James 1:19 is so interesting: "Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue."
That's his paraphrase of a verse we know better as "everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak." As we listen and try to identify the interests of the other person behind their positions, we'll be better prepared to come up with solutions that everyone finds satisfactory.
Notice that Philippians 2:4 says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Notice the phrase "not only." Our own concerns need to be identified and expressed; it's just that the interests of others must form a part of our attention as well.
As you work through conflict as a leader, keep these considerations in mind. We need to focus on relationships instead of the problem, and we need to focus on interests and not the personal position. Next up: Creativity. We need to learn how to brainstorm creative options for solving the problem.
LeaderLines is a weekly "e-briefing" providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.