6 Rules for a Fair Fight
Edward G. Dobson, Speed B. Leas, and Marshall Shelley
April 1, 1998
Speed Leas, co-author of Mastering Conflict and Controversy, writes about a church that was mired in “dissension between the newcomers and long-time members.” At an all-day meeting, the congregation drew up guidelines for how they would handle their conflict. Some of those guidelines:
- Conflict can be healthy and useful for our church. It is okay for people to differ with one another.
- Resolutions for the sake of quick agreement are often worse than agreements that are carefully worked out over time.
- Fair conflict management includes:
- dealing with one issue at a time;
- if more than one issue is presented, agreeing on the order in which the issues will be addressed;
- exploring all the dimensions of the problem(s);
- exploring alternative solutions to the problem(s).
- If any party is uncomfortable with the forum in which the conflict is raised, it is legitimate to request and discuss what the most appropriate forum might be.
- Inappropriate behavior in conflict includes, but is not limited to:
- name calling;
- mind reading (attributing evil motives to others);
- inducing guilt (e.g., “Look how you’ve made me feel”);
- rejecting, deprecating, or discrediting another person;
- using information from confidential sources or indicating that such information exists.
- Fair conflict always allows people who are charged with poor performance or inappropriate behavior to:
- know who their accusers are;
- learn what their accusers’ concerns are;
- respond to those who accuse.
“With these and other agreements in place,” Leas writes, “the congregation, especially the trustees and session, was able to work through a variety of conflicts.”