Conflict is a normal part of small-group life. In fact, if we don't have conflict, someone is not being honest. People are just too different from one another to avoid it completely.
Personally, I do not like conflict. It makes me feel, well, conflicted! At the same time, I believe that understanding the nature of conflict and being prepared to deal with it as a small-group leader, coach, or staff person is essential for people's spiritual growth and for a small-group ministry to thrive.
The following guidelines have been helpful for me in dealing with conflict, and I hope they can help you as well in your small-group leadership role.
Know How You Deal With Conflict
The old adage, "Physician, heal thyself!" truly applies here. Leaders who understand their own conflict management style approach conflict in an informed way. We all have strengths and weaknesses in dealing with conflict. Whether we will be helpful or a hindrance may depend on our understanding of what we bring to the conflict table.
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Inventory is a helpful tool for understanding the various conflict management styles. What is your primary style? Do you compete or collaborate? Do you compromise and accommodate or try to avoid conflict completely? No one style is right for every situation, but understanding your primary response will help to keep conflict in perspective.
I like to avoid conflict. When I confront it, I first look for a compromise. Knowing that about myself has been important when I need to die to my "preferred" conflict management style in order to do what is best for others. I remember well when I needed to confront a small-group leader about talking too much.
I tried tactfully, gently, and indirectly to approach the subject. ...