7 Healthy Ways to Resolve Tension and Conflict 
Dr. Jody Ray

In Matthew 18, Jesus taught us how to deal with conflict.  

15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” 

Based on Jesus’ teachings, I hope the 7 strategies below can help you deal with conflict as they’ve helped me. 

1. Own your part of the problem.

Conflict and even bad chemistry are almost never 100% one person’s fault. One of the best expressions I’ve heard on how to figure out the extent to which you might be part of the problem is to ask a compelling question: What’s it like to be on the other side of me? 

2. Be direct.

Issues in the church are often mishandled because we talk about someone rather than to someone. Your co-worker at the water cooler isn’t the problem, so why talk to him about it? Jesus was crystal clear on how to handle conflict, but very few Christians follow his practice. In the name of being ‘nice’ (I can’t tell them that!), we become ineffective. Talk to the person you have the problem with. Directly. Or else just be quiet about it. 

3. Give them the benefit of the doubt. 

The person you’re upset with might not realize how they are being received. It’s okay to say that out loud. Giving a person an out and the benefit of the doubt preserves their dignity. 

4. Explain. Don’t blame.

How  to talk to the person you’re struggling with is where many people struggle, and those conversations often go sideways because people begin with blame. Don’t blame. Explain. 

5. Be specific.

Giving one or two specific incidents is much better than making general accusations or commenting on personality traits. The more specific you are, the more you de-escalate conflict and move toward a hopeful ending. 

6. Tell them you want things to get better.

What the person you’re confronting needs is hope. At this point, they probably feel defensive, ashamed, and (hopefully) sorry. Let them know the gifts they bring to the table and the good they do. 

7. Pray for them.

I know this sounds trite, but it’s not. Don’t pray about  them. Pray for  them. It is almost impossible to stay angry with someone you pray for. It can also give you empathy for them, and at least in your mind’s eye, it places you both firmly at the foot of the cross in need of forgiveness.