Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Conflict is a part of the human experience. Thanks to Adam and Eve’s sin there is going to be conflict at work, church, with our spouses, children and in-laws to name just a few. But some of this conflict can be mitigated if we understand the difference between positions and interests.

Most conflicts are over positions. Two parties answer the same question with very different opinions and conflict results. As a trivial example, a husband and wife might disagree over where to go out to eat. The husband wants to go to Wendy’s. The wife wants to go to Capriccio’s.  A disagreement ensues with one party winning and the other party losing. Perhaps ugly words are thrown around about being cheap or a spend-thrift.

However, a little thought displays that the desire to go to Wendy’s or Capriccios is the position. If asked why he wanted to go to Wendy’s, the husband might say that he did not want to spend a lot of money. If asked why she wanted to go to Capriccio’s, the wife might say that she wanted to go to a restaurant with a little atmosphere. These issues are their interests.

Thus, because of his interest in not spending a lot of money, the husband’s position is to go to Wendy’s. Because of her interest in going to some place with atmosphere, the wife’s position is to go to Capriccio’s. By identifying interests and positions, the process of finding a position that meets both interests is possible (i.e. a third restaurant that is relatively inexpensive and yet provides a little atmosphere).

It is in understanding interests that one can begin to resolve conflict. Many times a mutually agreeable position can be found after the interests are identified. Some conflicts cannot and should not be resolved this way. But many conflicts can be avoided or unraveled by talking about interests and positions.

Are you in the middle of a conflict with someone in your family over a certain position? What are the interests that lead each to their position? Once interests are understood, look for an agreeable solution that seeks to meet both interests.

Each of you should look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.