I recently finished reading Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss. The author is a former FBI hostage negotiator and now owns a consulting business that trains Fortune 500 companies through complex negotiations and has taught negotiation at several leading business schools and universities. There is much in this book that church leaders can learn that will benefit them the next time conflict occurs in their church.
One of the lessons I found very helpful is that the person across the table is never the problem. The issue is the problem. The person across the table is actually your partner in trying to resolve the issue.
If we could learn this we could avoid much of the anger and the other negative emotions that too often occur in church conflicts. Too many church conflicts force people to choose sides and to look at the other side as the enemy. When this happens the church loses. No matter how the issue is resolved, the church loses when its members begin to see one another as the enemy.
Another valuable lesson I learned is that it's OK to say no. Too often we avoid saying no to something that we are certain will damage what we're trying to do to avoid conflict. We've also been taught that in negotiations we want to try to get the other person to say yes to everything we ask. If you doubt that, listen to the questions you're asked the next time a telemarketer calls. Every question is designed to get a positive response from you. They do this in order to get you to give them the big yes when they try to sell you their product or service.
Voss insists that saying no actually starts the negotiation rather than ending it. In fact, he even recommends helping the other side feel comfortable saying no to reduce barriers and allow more effective negotiation.
A word of warning...this book does contain some language. There's not much, but if you find that offensive you may as well not read the book. But, I do believe there are some real helps in this book for the Christian leader who will face conflict at some time in his or her ministry (and that's all of us!). You'll also find some advice you can use the next time you buy a car or make any other large purchase!