In Redeeming Conflict, Ann Garrido has produced a superb follow-up to Redeeming Administration. Following the same template, she offers 12 conflict management habits followed by 12 companions and a prayer. The book is written as a formative guide for administrators and works well as part of reflective practice.
Garrido sets the tone for the book in the Introduction:
Maybe it is different where you live, but where I live we have preached against divorce but done little to train people to listen even when they disagree. We have prayed for peace in the Middle East but done little to mediate conflicts on the staff. We have taken Communion with each other Sunday after Sunday but not practiced communion with each other Monday after Monday. (7)
Conflict is part of our ministry to students, teachers, staff members, parents, priests, and administrators. Engaging in an honest/non-threatening/non-defensive way is a tremendously valuable skill. She encourages people to seek the truth and not just hold on to their version of the Truth. This advice was the most practical as I implemented it during a particularly nasty personnel kerfuffle this past spring. I found myself asking “Why do you believe that to be true?” and “Tell me more about why you believe that.” And these weren’t just tactics, I really was interested in why someone held fast to beliefs that seemed so outrageous. She goes on to encourage people to listen better—when in reality she is offering a prescription to guard against confirmation bias whereby people only pay attention to information which confirms previously held beliefs.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was the description of untangling knots—a devotion made famous by Pope Francis. Untangling the “attribution of intention” from the impact is an important skill in conflict management. After all, when we discuss the impact of actions, people become defensive because they perceive it to be an attack on their intentions. We rarely differ on facts but in ministerial work like schools, when people perceive attacks on their intentions, they take that very, very personally.
Pick up the book and allow it to challenge your approach to conflict.