“You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate!” business writers claim, stressing that when it comes to your job review, you’d better be ready to prove your point with your boss. The fact is, however, that statement is pretty true. What you deserve and what you get may be totally different.
In business, skillful negotiations can result in definite advantages for a company. You Can Negotiate Anything was the title of a popular business book years ago. But what about relational conflict? What about in a marriage, when you really love the person you have a disagreement with, or when a family conflict breaks out? Is there a place for negotiation in personal relationships?
The reality is that without negotiation and compromise, a relationship becomes hard and rigid. Like the worn-out joke about the wife who said, “Before we were married, he was Mr. Right, and since we got married, he is Mr. Always Right.” Or the one about the man who said, “We have a give and take relationship; I always give and she always takes!”
Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. Luke 11:17
But the difference between marriage and business is that in your marriage, the question isn’t, “How can I win the advantage?” Instead, relational conflict has to be approached with an attitude that says, “I recognize that we fundamentally disagree on this. How can we resolve things?”
No marriage or relationship is so perfect that disagreements do not take place. However, a refusal to negotiate produces unresolved conflict, and conflict produces division. And in marriage, division means broken homes. Jesus said, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17). Insight: Conflict that is unresolved only grows deeper and more devastating in its consequences.
How can relational issues be negotiated, utilizing biblical principles?
Guideline #1: Examine your own motives.
What point do you have to prove? Why is it so important to you to win this one? Take a step back from the issue and ask, “What’s my motive?” Insight: Winning the argument isn’t the goal. Resolving the conflict is.
Guideline #2: Pray together, openly recognizing you’ve got a disagreement on your hands.
Your willingness to do this submits your disagreement to God, who is the ultimate judge of what we do and our Source of wisdom.
Guideline #3: Put yourself in the place of your mate, or in the place of the one with whom you disagree.
Jesus said it long ago: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
Guideline #4: Be willing to compromise.
Author, Ron Kelleher, says, “There will be times when someone is clearly right and another wrong. But more often there will be shades of gray where there is some “rightness” on both sides. When this is the case, it is important to come to a negotiated resolution. Both sides need to agree on an outcome. In cases where someone has been hurt emotionally, there needs to be confession and forgiveness.”
Guideline #5: Once you’ve negotiated a solution, consider the issue settled.
So often we never fully deal with core issues, and year after year, the same conflict keeps coming to the surface. Have you ever been unwilling to forgive and forget, silently cataloging your grievance and periodically bringing it out as a weapon, using it to hurt the other person? Insight: God’s forgiveness should be a pattern for us to follow. Once an issue has been negotiated and resolved, consider it forever settled.
In any relationship, negotiation is part of learning to resolve conflict. The Bible says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10). Making the decision to compromise honors both a spouse and God.
Resource reading: Luke 11:14-28