A week-long series on leadership and conflict resolution

By Rodger Schmidt 

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.Matthew 18:15

Managing conflict is not only inevitable but a necessary process if leaders hope to foster community, mature themselves, and lead others well. It is essential if we are to achieve all the Father has prepared for us in the mission of God around the world.

I have invested years navigating conflict rooted in personality differences—Family of origin blind spots, blatant and subtle sin, position seeking, fear, anger, passive aggression, insecurity, passion for the work, commitment to values, principles and strategies. These are just my issues. Imagine what happens when others join the conversation and equally hope to be seen, loved, heard, and understood. Over the years, I have learned many lessons through the painful process of conflict resolution. I still tend to avoid it if possible, but I am no longer afraid to lean into the issues, seek resolution, discover common ground, understanding, and a healthy path forward.

A few years ago, I found myself in a situation where mediation was necessary as the conflict of the day was between myself and a good friend and colleague. From my perspective, my friend was not living up to expectations, was overly sensitive, paralyzed emotionally, and needed direction. From his perspective, I was intrusive, overbearing, insensitive, unkind, and unreasonable. During one of our lively conversations, and with heartfelt frustration, he accused me of having a “resting murder face”. At the moment, I was shocked. My resting murder face turned to a smirk and I laughed out loud. His accusation was one of the funniest things that had ever been said to me. He was not amused, and it showed. He did not appreciate my lighthearted response to his clearly articulated critique of my demeanor.

Today, He and I are dear friends and have lovingly and diligently worked through our differences achieving understanding and mutual respect. We are still part of the same team and we now smile with a deep appreciation for each other and the lessons learned during that difficult season.

The point of this story is that it revealed much about my character and posturing as a leader. It exposed how others perceive my leadership, willingness to listen, and how I value (or not) perspectives contrary to my own. Speaking truth and cutting to the chase is of high value. Being aware of word choices, body language and facial expressions are equally essential to the art of conflict management.

For those of us struggling with managing conflict well, it is my hope that this series provides hope and valuable principles to ponder as you work with others and carefully identify your own version of Resting Murder Face.

How do others perceive your leadership? What kind of feedback have you received? How did it make you feel? 

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Image by Stéphane CHADOURNE from Pixabay