I did the math and here’s what I found- the world is comprised of 75% water, 25% earth, and 90% opinions. If you ask a hundred people how you should be parenting your children, you are sure to get at least a hundred answers. Not only does the world outside your home have their opinions but, chances are, your partner and your family do as well. And, where there are differences in opinion, conflict will often arise. Sometimes, people can become very aggressive when they see things differently than you do. They may try to force their opinions on you, attempt to overstep a boundary that you have set in place, or even harm you in some manner. I have shared in the past that we should aim to resolve conflicts in a responsible and respectful manner. One might think that this means that we back down whenever things get heated. However, this week, we are going to discuss when a leader must stick to his guns in order to protect/respect himself and others. This time, we talk about the hills that are worth dying on.

I hate conflict! When the boys would play King of the Hill during recess, I would be the one standing at the bottom saying, “What’s the point? I kind of like the shade down here.” However, I knew that there were some battles that must be fought. I have only been in one physical fight in my entire life (not counting family feuds), but this fight was the one I still believe I needed to fight. I was probably nine or ten at the time. My neighbor was about three years older than I. We were throwing a football out in my backyard. My younger brother came out to play and asked if he could join us. My neighbor decided that it would be a fun game to push my brother to the ground over and over again. I told him to knock it off, and he didn’t listen. I told him firmly one last time to stop pushing my brother. He did it again! As soon as my neighbor had turned around, I was right there behind him with a little “going away” present. I gave him one pop on the nose and it was done. He ran home crying, blood trailing behind him. My brother went inside. I shot some hoops. A minute or two later, my neighbor’s cousin (17 or 18 years old at the time) came over and asked, “did you hit my cousin in the nose?” I said, “nope” and walked right inside. The cousin looked completely dumbfounded.

Being a leader doesn’t mean that we completely avoid conflict. Conflict is inevitable, so to pretend that we can live care-free of it is foolish thinking. However, I believe (my opinion again) that we lead best by holding an assertive stance when engaging in conflict. Do you remember the post from way back when where we discussed the importance of taking an assertive stance? It’s been a while, so I’ll refresh your memory. From my personal study of the topic, I have found that there are three types of approaches to conflict- aggressive, passive, and assertive. An aggressive approach seeks to dominate the opposition and get his or her own way. To take a passive approach to conflict is to yield to the aggressor. I know some people would add passive-aggressive as another form of response to conflict, but I consider passive-aggression to simply be another face of aggression. What we want, in contrast to the other two responses, is assertiveness. An assertive approach to conflict consists of two parts- an unwillingness to be pushed around, coupled with a desire for resolution. It leads us to stand our ground without forcing our own will on another. We accept that our thoughts, values, emotions, and needs are just as important as everyone else’s. A person with an assertive stance is comfortable with compromise. They are aware of what they believe and know when to be flexible or inflexible. I encourage dads toward an assertive stance with others.

There will be times when others push our boundaries or ask something of us that we are not willing to give. That’s a normal part of life. When these occurrences happen, it provides us an opportunity to take an assertive approach. When doing so, here are a few things that we should keep in mind:

  1. Pay attention to your body language. When your words don’t match what your body is doing, then people tend to listen to your body. Try to get your tone, body, and choice of words to harmonize with each other.
  2. Get comfortable with saying “no.” It wasn’t too long ago that I said that there are appropriate times to say “no.” When someone is pushing a boundary, asking more than you are willing to give, or when your values are being pressed it is an appropriate time to say “no.”
  3. Use “I” statements. Try not to criticize by saying something like “you never listen to what I have to say.” Instead, share your concerns by saying something like, “I don’t feel heard when you leave the room.” People tend to become less offended when we choose “I” statements.
  4. Follow the Golden Rule. We all know it- treat others the way that you would want to be treated. The golden rule isn’t some archaic practice- put it to use.
  5. Speak with confidence. This may take some practice for some, but it is a skill worth acquiring. It’s hard to accept the thought of another when you’re not convinced he has accepted it himself. When we are hesitant to share what we have to say, it is very likely to be brushed aside.

We talked about how to assert yourself, but we haven’t yet talked about when to assert yourself. At the very least, I think everyone can agree that at times when we or others might be harmed, it is necessary to be assertive. I also believe that when we are honest about our needs, our desires, and our limitations, we are being assertive. One could argue, in this way, it is wise to be assertive in every situation. Taking this thought further, I have concluded that knowing when to back down and when to stand your ground is being assertive. To choose how to respond to a situation, instead of giving in to your impulses, is asserting your vision for how a conflict could be handled responsibly. In short, I believe that there are no times when being assertive in communication is a poor response. I want to encourage you, Rock Solid dad, to lead with assertiveness this week. Make decisions with your brain and your heart. Speak the truth, and do so lovingly. Set an example during times of conflict. Protect those that might be harmed. Show respect, always. This is my challenge for you this week.

Stay Rock Solid, dads!