“Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.” Welcome to the incessant sound that invades my space and challenges my senses. It won’t stop. Regardless of how many times I’ve examined the cup or peered at the lid, this monolithic drip continues to challenge my patience and peace. Why? What is wrong with this Starbuck’s cup? THEN, as though God’s hand came down from the heavens, the dripping stopped – for a moment – for one heavenly pause – and then it starts all over again.
Really?! Yeah, I’m not proud, but I have to admit, after the 40th drip, I sighed, prayed for patience and then mumbled my distain. People are a lot like coffee. Sometimes they ‘drip’ – sometimes they try your patience – sometimes they make you realize the grace of God in a new way. You see, God will never give you more than you can bear, but sometimes, He allows you to interact with your worst enemy, so that you can get a better view of yourself. Yeah, I hate it when my faults are placed before a mirror as well, but it can serve as one of the best tools for personal growth.
Whenever we run into conflict, we’re faced with two questions: “Are you really THAT patient? Are you really THAT loving?” Confession – I’m not – I’m far from it. I have to be honest. I usually run from conflict because I don’t want to deal with the reality of my own heart. I know that the Bible talks about the speck and the log, but I’m building a boat and I like to keep all my scraps. Before we delve into the awkwardness of introspection, let’s look at some practical tools that can aid you in conflict resolution.
You Need the Right Tools
Wait. Is this a mallet or hammer? I promise. I’ll go slowly. When I was a kid, I loved helping my parents build things – they didn’t have to function or even look nice, but there was something incredible about developing callouses while creating something new. I’d strap on my tool belt, peruse the blueprints and then set to work. However, in my desire to get things ‘done’, I’d usually choose the wrong tool. I was so focused on the finished product that I skip some steps. I wanted to meet the goal, but I hated the preparation of the journey.
Conflict resolution occurs when we take the time to understand the person sitting next to us. You see, we all see the world differently. I rush to the end goal, check off my list and leave people in my wake. I wake up in the morning and I don’t stop until my head hits that pillow. This is me, but not everyone approaches life in the same way.
When trying to ‘deal’ with people, we must choose to try to ‘understand’ people. Patrick Lencioni suggests leaders to “use a profiling assessment like the Meyer-Briggs because people’s attitudes to conflict can be shaped by their personalities and behavioral preferences as much as their families and cultural background.” It’s imperative that we take the time to use the right tools. If someone is an introvert, I would suggest that you don’t chase them around with a hammer – they won’t appreciate your approach.
You Need the Right Weather
Relationships are a lot like building a shed. You lay out your plans, gather your tools and pick out the perfect paint color, but you forget to check the weather and find yourself soaking wet. You’ve done all the preparation and taken the time to use the right tools, but the atmosphere isn’t conducive for construction. The same is true for people. You have to pay attention and approach people at the RIGHT time in the RIGHT way . If you confront them when they’re in a storm, don’t be surprised when you get struck by lightning. Preparation takes time, because you have to assess the weather. You have to make sure that your words will be well-received.
You Need the Right Perspective
Welcome to the 21st century workplace – a conglomerate of ages, backgrounds, opinions and a hub of rolled eyes and exasperated grunts. “Why can’t they do things my way?” Boomers cry. “Why can’t they update their ideas and be open to something new?” Millennials complain. Each generation is pinned against one another – they have their assumptions – they have their beliefs – they have their walls up.
Ron Zemke observes this: “There is a problem in the workplace – a problem of values, ambitions, views, mindsets, demographics, and generations in conflict. The workplace we inhabit today is awash with the conflicting voices and views of the most age-and-value-diverse workforce that world has known…” Conflict is happening and we are all part of the problem.
Let this be your new life motto – We are all someone’s ‘dripping’ coffee.
We live in a Globalized world. This is fantastic news, but it’s also a sobering reality. This Globalized perspective causes us to evaluate our own biases, assumptions and ideas in light of others. It dares us to listen before we speak and learn before we judge. Diversity is not simply a cultural phenomenon, but an age delineation. Have we created protective cocoons or invited differing views? Generational differences are the most prevalent forms of prejudice within today’s workforce; however, dismantling this issue requires us to enter into conversation – it requires us to understand a perspective that is unlike our own.
You Need the Right Motivation
God is not looking at your resume – He’s looking at your heart. Ouch! I know it hurts, but it’s true. God looks beneath the surface. He sees past your façade and into your soul. Many of us need to take a moment to evaluate our own lives before we approach others. We need to ask ourselves: Are we trying to rebuild structures, or break windows?
Relationships take hard work. People are some of the most complex, frustrating, annoying and amazing God-given gifts. However, each of us are someone’s ‘dripping’ cup of coffee. We all get on each other’s nerves and try one another’s patience. All of us are guilty of creating conflict. However, resolution begins with introspection – it begins when we present ourselves to Christ before we present our opinions to others. Conflict resolution occurs when we’re on our knees, pointing ourselves to God rather than pointing at others.
 Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, ©2012), 41.
 Ron Zemke, Claire Raines, and Bob Filipczak, Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (New York: American Management Association, 2013), 11.