Martha Lawley, author of Attending the Bride of Christ and who has taught on this subject often, has provided some valuable help for us as leaders regarding conflict. (Second part will post October 7.)
One of my favorite parts of LifeWay’s YOU Lead Training Event is the panel discussion. Participants ask such great questions. Unfortunately we don’t always have time to answer every question.
A very interesting question was raised at a recent YOU Lead that we were unable to address. Because of the importance of the subject, I thought it might be worthwhile to address this question on the blog. This is the first of a two part posting, so be sure to tune back in for part 2.
Question: “Some women are not rational. What is the best approach for dealing with someone who spins the facts? Speaking specifically about conflict.”
You may have noticed that conflict is complicated. By the time an issue or misunderstanding becomes a full blown conflict, a combination of factors are in play. These factors usually fall into one of the following categories: facts (includes accurate as well as inaccurate or incomplete facts), feelings (our emotional response to the facts) or opinions/perceptions (our interpretation or view of the facts). Spinning the facts generally happens when people add their feelings and opinions to the facts.
Perhaps the following example will illustrate my point: Susan has missed the last two special events planning team meetings (fact). Karen, another member of the team is frustrated and angry (feeling) because Susan’s absence has left Karen with more things to do (fact). Karen heard Susan went to a movie with a friend instead of attending the last meeting (inaccurate fact). Karen believes that Susan is not committed to the group (opinion) and as a result has said some hurtful things about Susan to other members of the team (fact). Although Susan has not felt comfortable sharing with the group (feeling) she is struggling with some medical issues that doctors have so far been unable to diagnose (fact). Word of Karen’s criticism has made it back to Susan who is hurt (feelings) and believes she needs to resign from the special events planning team (opinion). Abby, the team leader, has become aware of this problem but does not know how to address it so, as of yet, has done nothing (fact).
A common mistake leaders make in attempting to resolve conflict is refusing to address “feelings” or “opinions/perceptions”. They believe the best way to resolve an issue is to deal only with the “facts”. However, the successful resolution of conflict usually requires addressing all three: facts, feelings and opinions/perceptions.
As conflict heats up, facts, feelings and opinions/perceptions tend to end up in one big, tangled heap. An important first step in the resolution process is sorting through this heap and separating out what is accurate fact, what is feeling and what is opinion/perception. Why bother? Because all three must be addressed. However, each needs to be addressed separately and should not be given the same weight. In resolving conflict, facts are very important. Clear, verifiable facts help us understand the problem and provide the foundation for a workable solution. However, people’s feelings (their emotional respond to the facts) and their opinions/perceptions (their view the facts) must be discussed and acknowledged before some in the group can successfully move ahead to resolution. In some cases where emotions are running particularly high you may need to address feelings first because some people will not be open to discussing the facts until their feelings have been acknowledged.
In my next post we will look at some suggestions for facilitating a healthy dialogue in which facts, feelings and opinions can be sorted out and God honoring solutions can be discovered.
Martha Lawley speaker, author and Bible study leader from Worland, Wyoming, formerly served as the Women’s Consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention until her family moved to northern Wyoming. She contributed to the women’s leadership books,Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level and Women Reaching Women: Revised and Expanded edition, published by LifeWay, and has written numerous articles for LifeWay’s Women’s Ministry web site. She is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier and serves her local church in various areas of leadership, and is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee