Keeping conflict productive


Conflict can be hot or cold–what are you dealing with?


Conflict is a part of life. Our goal should never be the total absence of conflict because, more often than not, the absence of conflict is more a sign of disease than of health.

Our goal ought to be the healthy and respectful expression of disagreement.

According to Harvard Business Review we typically deal with hot or cold conflicts.

“The Cold Conflict”

The cold conflict lurks beneath a façade of ice–aloofness, coolness, emotional distance. On the surface things seem peaceful, but in reality there is resistance–of a passive or subversive variety.

  • The employee says what you want them to say and then turns around a does whatever he wishes.
  • The spouse does and says all of the right things, but internally she is furious and has already checked out and is living a parallel life.

This situation requires heating up the conversation. In order to address and move beyond this situation, it has to be explicitly acknowledged and no longer can it remain the unacknowledged elephant in the room.

“The Hot Conflict”

Resistance isn’t always passive. At times it is very active–the blood pressure spikes, the face reddens, and the voice is raised.

This requires cooling down the conversation–specifically, when the parties have moved beyond healthy disagreement to an unproductive sort of bickering that is impeding the mission.

Getting to the Temperate Zone

In order fo2086701.jpgr conflict to be productive, it has to be moved from hot (torrid) or cold (frigid) into the temperate zone.

For those of you who remember basic biology and geology: recall the temperate zone. The earth’s temperate zones are the two areas of earth’s climates that experience four distinct seasons. It’s not hot all the time (that is the torrid zone around the equator), and its not cold all the time (that is the arctic and antarctic zones at the poles).

The temperate zones offer some degree of balance between hot and cold. It’s possible for life to exist in the torrid zone and in the frigid zones, but life isn’t as easy or as pleasurable there as in the temperate zones. Life flourishes in the temperate zones.

When it comes to conflict, the temperate zone offers us a balance between engagement and disengagement, between enmeshment and indifference.

In the temperate zone there is enough passion and energy to make a conversation animated, but not so much passion and energy that it becomes a shouting match.

In the temperate zone there is enough distance to allow one person to hear and consider the others’ views, but not so much distance that the interlocutors are checked out from the conversation.

Progress, answers, and change come in the temperate zone, not in the hot or cold stages (or zones) of conflict, because the temperate zone is the only place where people can understand and be understood. 




Understand better by reading in print


Understand better when by reading in a print book

by Jeff Gissing | @jeffgissing


We were promised that print was dead, that it ink on paper would give way to pixels on a screen. To be sure, we do a great deal of reading online. It turns out that some types of reading are perfectly suited to a digital medium, others are not.

While school systems, universities, and libraries are increasingly purchasing digital assets it’s not always true that such a format is best for the type of reading their clients do. In fact, a review of studies has found that students understand information better when they read it in a print book.

Ironically, however, students prefer e-books even believing they performed better on them. According to “Reading on Paper and Digitally: What the Past Decades of Empirical Research Reveal” by Laura M. Singer and Patricia A. Alexander, “Students said they preferred and performed better when reading on screens. But their actual performance tended to suffer.” <link>


The researchers found the following:

  • Students overwhelming preferred to read digitally.
  • Reading was significantly faster online than in print.
  • Students judged their comprehension as better online than in print.
  • Paradoxically, overall comprehension was better for print versus digital reading.
  • The medium didn’t matter for general questions (like understanding the main idea of the text).
  • But when it came to specific questions, comprehension was significantly better when participants read printed texts.

Many committed readers will agree with this assessment. I can read pulp fiction on my Kindle. When my efforts turn to Gadamer or Aquinas, I reach for print every single time.


“Reading on Paper and Digitally: What the Past Decades of Empirical Research Reveal” by Laura M. Singer and Patricia A. Alexander

“A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens” by Laura M. Singer and Patricia A. Alexander



How reading forms us


From my post at Behind the Books:

Whenever someone asks for my favorite quote I do not hesitate. Most other ice-breaker-type questions perplex me—my favorite food, favorite color, what animal I would be if I got to choose. For the most part, I’m indifferent to those things. I’m fickle. It varies with the years, even the days.

Of one thing—one thing only among all others—am I clearly convinced. That one thing is my favorite quote, attributed to writer John Rogers:

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

It’s perfect. And better, it’s true.

Read the rest here.


Understanding the Trump phenomenon


I’m looking forward to John Fea’s forthcoming book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. If there is any hope for redeeming evangelical identity it comes from listening to voices like Fea who are able to help us understand at what forks in the road we took the wrong path.