Leanne McAlister

How to Deal With Conflict

Leanne McAlister
How to Deal With Conflict

Conflict is inevitable.  It doesn’t matter how much you try to avoid it; you will experience it.  Often.

Conflict can be defined as a struggle between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. It flares up when someone does something that impacts us negatively and it always comes with strong emotion, often anger. Anger? Christian girls aren’t supposed to be angry…right? Not so fast.

Emotions are not “good” or “bad.” They are simply indicators or “warning signals.”  They are an invitation for us to pay attention to what is going on inside of us and around us so that we can resolve situations appropriately.

As girls, we have not always been taught how to resolve conflict and so to deal with our anger we resort to what are called “Indirect Aggressions”. 

Indirect Aggressions are behaviours that are intended to be hurtful, or harmful to others.  They can be both verbal and nonverbal and include sarcastic verbal comments, ignoring, staring, gossiping, spreading rumors, eye rolling, and exclusion.  All of these are meant to damage the other person and act as a “vent” for our feelings.

Another tool that girls use is called “Triangulation”.  I have done this…and so have you. This is when Stephanie goes to talk to Alyssa about her problem with Brooke, rather than going to Brooke directly.  Never a good idea.

There are all sorts of reasons WHY we resort to these behaviours. Many of us struggle with deep insecurity.  We tear others down in order to prop ourselves up.  We also compare ourselves to other and when we watch their life on social media, we feel crappy. We also compete, trying to “stay on top” academically or socially.  We don’t know how to process our conflicts.


So, what do we do when we are in conflict and angry with another person?

1. Learn to Identify Your Feelings

Remember the emotion charts we used in pre-school?  I think sometimes we still need them. I don’t know about you, but I am kind of a complicated girl. I feel things deeply and I am not always able to pinpoint what is going on inside of me. Sometimes those deep feelings spill over onto others in kind of ugly ways, usually to those closest to me. Those are not my finest moments. When we know exactly WHAT we feel, it’s easier to identify WHY we feel that way and what we can DO about it.

(At the end is a chart that you can use to help identify your feelings more accurately.  This goes a long way in resolving conflict!)


2. Deal With Conflict Before It’s “Too Late”

Often, when we have a difficulty with someone, we talk about it with everybody else except the person. We stew about it and basically rehearse the problem over and over and as we do that our resentment grows.  Here is the thing…the other person may not even know that there is a problem and this is unfair to them.  Don’t wait until you are “gonna blow.” Take care of conflict before is grows into something bigger.


3. Make It Safe

Plan to meet when you are both well rested. Don’t “spring it on them”, but let them know you want to have an important conversation. When you meet with the person say something like, "Our relationship is important to me and that’s why I am coming to talk to you today.”  Let them know how this issue is making you feel rather than judging, blaming, or getting angry at them. Don’t attack the other person.  Affirm the relationship and help the other person know it's safe for them to share.


4. Clarify the Problem

Share the facts as you see it…Describing the situation from your point of view.  Talk about the specific issue itself rather than saying generalized things like “you always” or “you never”.  Share your concerns with caution, honesty and grace.


5. Listen

Listening may be the hardest part. Often when we “listen” we are in fact formulating what we are going to say next.  So, listen and reflect back to them what you heard them say.  For example, “What I heard you say is that you felt ignored by me at youth group last week…Is that what you mean?”  Be open about being wrong.  There are always THREE sides to the story; yours, theirs and the truth.  Ask God to give you understanding and a love for the other person.  He has done this for me many, many times. As you listen, note things that you may need to ask their forgiveness for or things that you may need to make right.


6. Make a Plan

Ask “How will we resolve this problem?” and “What can we do to avoid this in the future?” Decide what you will do, and how each of you can help the situation move forward peacefully.


7. Commit & Forgive

Commit to what you have agreed to do.  Commit to forgiveness and not “bringing up” the hurt or offense again.  If you are both Christians, you can pray with one another.


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Learning to handle conflict will be a life-long journey but it is a learnable set of skills!  So, start where you are.  Be brave in your relationships.  Commit to not using “Indirect Aggressions”. Have those important conversations even if they freak you out a little bit. Take responsibility for yourself. When we care for people and our relationships, we show people what God is like in His grace! 


“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. . . Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. . .Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”  [ Romans 12:9-18 ]


Here is the "Wheel of Feelings" showing our different emotions and words to describe our feelings:

Mental Floss, Improve your Vocabulary with the ‘Wheel of Feelings.” Ali Parr.  http://mentalfloss.com/article/64182/improve-your-vocabulary-wheel-feelings  [accessed December 5, 2016].

Mental Floss, Improve your Vocabulary with the ‘Wheel of Feelings.” Ali Parr. http://mentalfloss.com/article/64182/improve-your-vocabulary-wheel-feelings [accessed December 5, 2016].