Have you ever wondered how to navigate relational conflict while also building connection? As leaders, rightly understanding confrontation positions us to release tremendous life in our supernatural school’s environment. Using this tool to create prosperity in relationships begins with the core values from which we live. In fact, core values drive the culture we foster personally and corporately. With this in mind, we want to explore three core values in this post, which we believe drive healthy confrontation in the context of developing a strong school culture. These powerful truths will position you for success when interacting with both your leadership team and students, and create greater levels of trust, safety, and freedom in your school.
Core Value #1: Make Connection the Goal
The goal of healthy confrontation is to build connection. Communication that invites greater levels of intimacy will naturally displace fear while developing trust. We believe that modeling this core value as a team will create a culture of honor and love in your school. As you and your leadership team demonstrate healthy relationship, those whom you lead will be inspired to live the same way!
We encourage you to begin any confrontation by communicating your goal of connection upfront. As the confronter, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are keeping the person’s best interests in mind. If people do not feel cared for when they are confronted, they will most likely become defensive or feel controlled. Also, work toward building high levels of trust within your leadership team and with your students before major conflict arises. When relationships are grounded in trust, you will find that problems are dealt with more easily or even prevented altogether.
Core Value #2: Seek First to Understand
In confrontation, it’s extremely important to create a safe place where the person genuinely knows that you are not trying to control him/her. This comes through valuing your relationship with this person. When confronting someone, seek to understand the situation and the person’s heart through the art of asking good questions. This is essential when navigating any conflict because it communicates value for the other person’s point of view. It can also reveal any potential mistakes of your own, so be prepared to take ownership for any personal wrongdoings and be quick to apologize! When we seek first to understand, we can avoid confusion or miscommunication.
A tool you can use to apply this core value is the “I” message. To share an “I” message, you can use the following phrase: “I feel ________ when ________ because ________.” Here’s a great example of an “I” message in healthy confrontation: “I feel hurt when you interrupt me because it feels like you don’t value my voice.” By using this tool, you can directly communicate the feelings a person’s behavior or response sparked in you. It is honest and opens up discussion with the person as opposed to evoking defensiveness. Before drawing any conclusions, allow the person to respond to your message and take ownership for his/her actions. Also, you can ask questions in the discussion that would bring further clarity to the situation. A great question to ask is, “How did you experience this situation?” When we approach a person with a statement like, “I know why you did this,” we’ve probably partnered with suspicion versus seeking to understand the heart.
Core Value #3: Choose Love and Honor
When honor is not at the center of confrontation, we may be operating out of fear, control, or punishment. How can we as school leaders effectively create empowering environments and equip world-changers if we operate out of fear? It is of utmost importance that we choose love and honor, which is most clearly seen in how we treat one another on a daily basis. As Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Seeing others according to their true identity in Christ will displace fear and draw out people’s value that they may not be aware of. If uncertainty or tension arises in confrontation, just ask the Holy Spirit how He sees this person. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (NASB) Ultimately, we have the privilege of being part of the process of seeing one another grow up in love and maturity. Through love and honor, we can build a school culture that looks like heaven on earth.
As leaders who carry influence amongst our students, we are called to model the core values of Jesus and His kingdom. When we walk in healthy confrontation with one another and our students, we will in turn create a healthy culture in our school. We encourage you to build your team on the foundation of trust while modeling life-giving confrontation for others to clearly follow. As a result, your leadership will be a source of life to many!