It’s true—we can text, tweet and IM. Email is old stuff, but still doable. All of these means have been used to deal with interpersonal conflict. The problem is that nothing compares with face to face communication where we can look at one another in the eyes.
Effective conflict resolution can require a significant time investment. Attempting to adequately explain feelings and emotions via the impersonal avenues of modern technology simply leaves too many uncertainties and unanswered questions hanging in the air. Phone conversations are a better option (especially when geographic separation is unavoidable), but are still limited in their effectiveness. The practical logistics of a face to face discussion don’t have to be complicated, but they are significant.
Having immersed everything in prayer, make it clearly known that you want to talk about something important. Set a specific time and place, allowing enough time for an adequate conversation. The setting should be relatively free from distractions, and the degree of privacy based on the nature of your relationship. An unmarried couple for example, needs to guard themselves both from sexual temptation and from the appearances of impropriety. Good options would be in a restaurant over a meal or in a local church building.
Getting started is often the most difficult part. You might say, “I feel like some things have come between us and I so value our relationship that I’d like to talk about them.” If you are both Christians, begin by having each person pray—a huge plus.
Choose your battles carefully. Trivial matters will only complicate the picture. Clearly state the issue(s), but don’t attack the other person (they’ll already be on the defensive). Be sure to apologize and ask for forgiveness if you are at fault in anyway. If you’ve been hurt by the other person, communicate your feelings with an emphasis on how you were affected by their actions. Those who are trying to bring correction should clothe themselves with gentleness and humility.
Asking specific questions can be helpful in getting the other person to open up. There may be a lot going on in their mind to which you are clueless. Speaking face to face and bringing things out into the open helps to frustrate the enemy’s plans and to de-monsterize people who have hurt or offended us. Left to our own long distance thoughts we can easily make others into hideous hob-goblins.
Conflict resolution is almost an art form—one that we can learn well with a reasonable degree of effort. Awkward moments are a certainty. Outcomes aren’t always what we hope. But people are more valuable to us than anything this world has to offer, and honoring God means more than our own comfort.
Do you want to build warm, rich relationships? The eyes have it!