8 Rules for Constructive Conflict (in marriage or church)

How to argue well and resolve an issue.

1. Define the issue. Work together as partners in the gospel to clearly define what’s bugging one or both of you. Ask questions like “what is the real issue here?” or “I can see this is bothering you, but you’re not being clear.” or “You’ve said that the issue is “this” but do you really mean “this”?

2. Never expand the argument.
Keep focused on the issue. Don’t add other issues to the one you are trying to resolve. Don’t say “and another thing” or “what about this problem” or “you remember the time?”

3. Never attack the person. If you say to the other person “you are a liar” or “you are stupid” or “whenever we argue, you go quiet” all you are doing is telling the other person their failures. This does not help resolve the issue.

4. Never drag up the past. Using examples from the past, you show that you have 20/20 memory for past hurts and that you’ve not really moved on. Don’t say “this is like the time you…” or “can you remember the time when….” Keep focused on today’s issue and what needs to change.

5. Never say “you always” and “you never”. No one is always wrong or never right. You may feel like nothing changes but if you think hard, there are times when the other person has acted differently. “always” and “never” are always painful exaggerations.

6. Be willing to lose an argument. Some arguments are worth losing. Think about what you are fighting about and let it drop. If you like to win every argument, no matter what it takes, you will only build up quiet bitterness and resentment in the other person.

7. Never drop bombshells. Bombshells are ways to win arguments like boxers punching below the belt. They are true, painful and massively destructive. Bombshells could involve past events, holidays, failures, attitudes to money or bed, relationships with parents or friends. Lay them down, take out the fuse.

8. Always open God’s word and seek his will to resolve the issue. God knows what we need to resolve any issue. Ask him. Seek his will in his word. Get to know your bible really well.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians chapters 3 and 4.
Forget the past, press on toward the goal. Rejoice in the Lord.
Be gentle. Pray. Think about the good things in the other person.

Here’s a .pdf version of the above constructive conflict rules with pictures.

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