Last week, I shared a story about a conflict between myself and my teammate. One day after the worship service, he commanded me to sit down and began a litany of complaints against my leadership over the past few years of working together. I argued a little, but mostly I listened. I was stunned to see him step out of character, and out of the cultural norms I had learned from Japanese culture.
Over the following days, I reflected upon what had happened: How long had I been causing offense to my colleague? Why hadn’t I noticed signals of tension in our relationship? What was at the core of this conflict? What should I do now?
How long was I causing offense?
By listening to my colleague that day, I learned that my words and behaviors had caused him consternation for at least a year. He brought up things I had said or decisions I had made months before the current conflict over how seats were to be arranged during our worship service. As I considered this, I realized that the tensions had escalated after a third person joined our leadership team. It was not just about him and me.
Why didn’t I notice signals of tension in our relationship?
I felt so dense. I had no idea that he was growing more and more frustrated with me. As he spoke about some of the specific issues, I began to see how some of my actions had made him to feel this way. I thought I had been working hard to show him respect and appreciation, but I realized I had been taking him for granted. I expected him to speak up when there were problems between us, but he was following cultural norms by not pointing out my mistakes or bringing up complaints to my leadership – until this fateful day when he couldn’t hold it in any longer.
What is at the core of the conflict?
As I thought about why my colleague was so upset, and how my own behaviors contributed to the problem, I gained a stronger framework from which to view the situation. I determined that the primary conflict wasn’t between him and me, but between him and the third member of our leadership team. There were a host of assumptions, communication patterns, and a culture clash at the root of this to which I had been oblivious. Of the three of us, I was the only non-Japanese. But this time it wasn’t primarily about the brash American who couldn’t fit in.
What should I do now?
In the knowledge that I was not in control of the outcome and I was not in control of how others would act, I identified several action steps:
-make a greater effort to listen to both of my colleagues
-apologize for some specific wrongs I had done
-call in help from outside our team.
-forgive my teammate for ways that he had wronged me, whether or not he ask for me to.
-ask & expect Christ to use my actions and the actions of each member of His body of this glory.
And that is what I did. If you want to know the rest of the story, please post a comment!