Over the years I’ve enjoyed varied professional development experiences and I once participated in a seminar that focused on basic publication design. It was extremely interesting to me as most of my work experiences have revolved around content and editing rather than design.
I learned, for example, that most people glance over print ads. Only 15 percent of Americans read publications word for word. If there is anything eye-catching a reader may stop, but only take 10 to 14 seconds to take a closer look. Our eyes routinely travel across a page in a predictable way, called the “Z” formation. Designers therefore creatively plan around that design using photos and art, color and creative fonts.
Not only did I come away much better informed and genuinely intrigued by the world of graphic art, but I have learned a thing or two about marketing as well. As a result of attending that seminar, my name has been sold to other seminar companies and I now receive almost daily information from a number of companies. “Team Building 101,” “Getting the Most from Your Employees,” and “Your Color Tells Volumes About You” are popular. So are classes that focus on getting along with difficult coworkers.
Implicit in most of these seminar topics is this reality: When you work with people, you can count on some amount of stress. Is this true for you? Think for a moment about the people with whom you work, live, socialize, and serve. Is there someone in your life who has to be right all of the time or run in front of the pack? Who cannot stand change? Who runs 100 miles per hour? Their minds race and they avoid analysis or system building. They are the idea people. They likely to formulate great schemes, but have no intention of seeing things through to the end. And what about those who micro-manage? Does their continual interference seem to imply that you are incapable of managing a task on your own?
It is in settings where people with distinctive personalities must work as a functioning team that conflict can erupt and those who long for peaceful environments are burdened. For those who don’t mind stirring the pot, conflict can be enticing. Peacemakers, however, frequently suffer — experiencing head and stomach aches, a rise in blood pressure, irritability and occasional depression. The peacemakers of the world often attempt to avoid conflict and confrontation by careful maneuvering. They will personally sacrifice their free time in their attempts to keep the touchy ones happy. Often they will maintain a sweet disposition with the hopes that people might be less willing to hurt or disappoint someone so naturally kind.
While God often calls us to be sacrificial, I believe in many situations like these he hopes we will focus not on winning battles but learn to be more persuasive and develop a longing to daily connect with those around us. By reestablishing troubled relationships, the focus moves to people and reconciling with them because they are of great value. When you gear yourself only to resolving issues, rather than working with people who feel disenfranchised from one another, you contribute at best to a tolerable working environment. When you ask God to provide you with a true love of people, you’ll grow in patience and a willingness to incorporate them rather than avoid or run headlong into conflict.
So what are the steps to seeking greater unity with others? I suggest seven.
First: Begin with God when there is conflict. Prayerfully ask for wisdom, patience and guidance rather than gossiping or strategizing with others. If there is anger and frustration, tell God about it rather than dishing it out on the people around you. Ask him to help if you genuinely care for those you find difficult to deal with.
Second: Take the initiative to fix relationships rather than win battles. Seek compromise when appropriate.
Third: Take the feelings and outlook others have into account. Do not dismiss people because they react differently than you do.
Fourth: Take responsibility for your contribution to a conflict and not only apologize for your part but suggest mutually beneficial solutions.
Fifth: Be willing to stop conflict and redirect yourself even when it feels like a difficult task. Do what is right rather than following your momentary feelings.
Sixth: Understand that diverse personalities and working styles can make life interesting.
Seventh: Long to develop respect and a loving attitude more than issue resolution.
Truly loving people can be a tall order, to be sure, but this seven-step plan has the potential to revolutionize your life and your relationships. Let’s give it a try and see what God will do.