How Do You Do Conflict?

Catalyst Leadership magazine recently used research by the Barna Group to assign animals to different ways of dealing with conflict. ((Stone, Charles, “Animal Instincts” in Catalyst Leadership, March/April 2011, p. 10-15, http://christianitytoday.imirus.com/Mpowered/book/vcat11/i3/p2))   Most pastors, they wrote, take the Sloth (avoid at all costs), Skunk (pass the stink on to someone else), Turtle (hide behind spirituality), or Lion (react decisively first, think later) approach when a conflict arises.  Rare is the person who confronts conflict confidently while still thinking through the issue both practically and theologically.

If you’re like me, reading through that list of animals hits uncomfortably close to home (especially, paradoxically, the Sloth and Lion – apparently I’m like Simba with a Sid from Ice Age lisp…).

The list of conflicts with both parents and senior leadership in which I’ve employed one of those strategies ranges from the mild (“why don’t we do …[fill in the blank]?”), to the unforeseen (inviting kids to see the latest Harry Potter movie apparently doesn’t fly here) to the discouraging (“the kids aren’t enjoying middle school as much as before you came”).  These didn’t always go well and, despite what I’d like to think, the reason for that had more to do with my own ego or insecurity than the utter unreasonableness of the other side.  Truth is, I know I could have handled each one better, which is probably part of why they were memorable in the first place.

For a helpful framework for dealing with conflict that doesn’t include turning into an animal, check out my article in this month’s E-Journal.

And what about you?  Which cuddly (or not) animal best describes how you handle the conflicts that come your way?