By Steven G. Mehta Steve Mehta

I saw an interesting letter and response by Billy Graham that I thought was very helpful for learning conflict resolution skills and mediation skills.  I will republish the letter here because I think it really helps to simplify things that all people need to do in conflict or in mediation.  I am not espousing any particular religious belief, but instead use this discussion to address mediation skills.

 

“DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: My cousin believes that he can harness some of the universe’s spiritual power by carrying a crystal around with him, and he has some other ideas I wonder about, like reincarnation. He says he isn’t interested in traditional religion, so how can I talk with him about Jesus? Arguing with him doesn’t seem to get anywhere. — K.D.

DEAR K.D.: My wife used to say that more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar, and it’s true; arguing and confrontation alone seldom attract anyone to Christ. The Bible says, “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city” (Proverbs 18:19).

Instead of arguing with your cousin, tell him that you’ve been intrigued by his interest in spiritual things, and you would like to have him tell you about his spiritual journey.

Be a good listener, and ask God to help you understand why he has taken this path. The Bible tells us to “pay attention and gain understanding” (Proverbs 4:1).

No, you won’t agree with everything he says; in fact, you may disagree with most of it. But try to get beneath the details of what your cousin believes, and discover why he has accepted it.

Then ask him for permission to tell your own story — your testimony of what Jesus Christ means to you. Point out that Christ came to erase the barrier between us and God. Most of all, pray for him, that he will realize his need of Christ’s forgiveness and new life.

Billy’s comments ring true in several ways.  First, Billy explains that “My wife used to say that more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar, and it’s true; arguing and confrontation alone seldom attract anyone to Christ.”  The same is true in other conflicts.  All that happens when people argue over a particular position or issue is that they get further entrenched.  The same statements can be said in a different way reflecting respect for the other person and their viewpoint.

Second, Billy says to “tell him that you’ve been intrigued by his interest in spiritual things, and you would like to have him tell you about his spiritual journey” and “be a good listener.”   In mediation, it never hurts to ask the other side to explain their position so that you can fully understand it.  In Asia, there are some cultures that believe that one side to a conflict cannot speak until it can fully explain how the other side feels and that the other side agrees that they now understand their position.  This all starts with listening.

 Finally, Billy recommends to ask permission to tell your own story.  In mediation, after you have heard the other side, it is helpful to ask the other side if they would be willing to listen to your perspective.  By asking permission, you have helped to allow the other person to feel in control. Second, they have then committed to listening to you by giving you permission.

 By learning some simple skills, you may substantially increase your chance to resolve the conflict.

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