7/8/97 Conflict needn't cripple churches, speaker maintains
GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)--Conflict created by controlling and critical attitudes of power-hungry people can keep churches from growing, a children's choir specialist told fellow musicians during a week-long conference at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Tee Billingsley, children's choir specialist from Eagleville, Tenn., said the people who say, "I want it my way or I'll withdraw my money," make an even larger statement to outsiders that the church does not have oneness of spirit. People considering a decision for Christ or church membership can be repulsed by such attitudes.
As an example, she said, a couple recently canceled their plans to join a church after visiting during a business meeting. Every negative person in the church was present and spoke their minds. The couple left, saying they did not want to be involved with that kind of atmosphere.
"As long as there are two people, there are two different opinions," Billingsley said. "Everyone has a right to an opinion. It may be totally wrong, but it is theirs."
But Billingsley maintained people don't have to take on all the guilt resulting from a conflict.
"We are growing up people with no conflict management skills. That is why teenagers resort to fighting and guns when conflict develops," she said.
Billingsley advised musicians not to react to conflict immediately: Collect your wits and try to see the situation objectively, asking yourself, "What would satisfy my interest?" Consider the best alternative to a negotiated agreement:
-- What can I do to pursue my interest in this situation? If entering the conflict serves no purpose for you, walk away from it.
-- What can I do to lead the other person to respect my interest? She said a form of strike may work when too many tasks are added to a project. "Just don't do the additional tasks."
-- Decide if you should go to arbitration involving another person. Failing those attempts, she advised, go for negotiation.
Billingsley said she believes people can be helped by naming the game being played by the other person in the conflict:
-- Stone Walls is a refusal to budge. There is no choice other than your opponent's. This game is regularly played in struggles over pet projects, ownership of a classroom, set-in-concrete activity times or equipment "owned" by a group in the church.
-- Attack is a pressure tactic designed to intimidate. The goal is to make you feel so bad that you give in to the other person's demands.
-- Tricks takes advantage of your faith and trust. Most people assume everyone approaches a situation from a Christian perspective, so Tricks may include manipulating data by using false or confusing figures, making others think the opponent has authority that does not exist and adding last-minute demands after an agreement has been reached.
"Recognize and identify the game," Billingsley advised. "Many ploys hinge on your failure to recognize what is happening. Lies are hardest to recognize. Watch for mismatch between present words and earlier statements, facial expressions, body language and a higher tone of voice."
The other person may want you to lose control of your emotions so you cannot negotiate effectively, she continued.
"Know your feelings so you can neutralize the effect your opponent's tactics have on you. Consider taking the approach, 'He does not know a better way to behave, poor guy.'"
Billingsley is an advocate of using silence. "It puts your attacker off when you get quiet. Buy time to think. Pause and say nothing. Biochemical changes associated with anger and stress are taking place in your body. Pausing puts the opponent at a disadvantage."
Another technique is to slow down the conversation by repeating what has been said to you.
Take a "time out" to cool off, such as a coffee break or calling a friend to discuss the situation, Billingsley said.
"And always sleep on an important decision," she concluded. "Never make decisions on the spot."
Church Music Leadership Conference, June 28-July 4, was sponsored by the music ministries department of the Baptist Sunday School Board.