When we hear the words, “We need to talk” it usually conjures up negative feelings within us. It’s usually a phrase preceding some kind of confrontation. When we are confronted, particularly with our own shortfalls or inadequacies, we have a tendency to get defensive and even feel hurt. We might lose sight of the fact that the confrontation is for our own good and, if we respond well to it, will result in our growth.
Conflict is a way of life. No matter what, if we are in relationships (which is how God created us) then we will experience conflict. Conflict in marriage, conflict in our families, conflict at work, conflict is all around us. How do we respond well? How do we use that conflict to our advantage and let it contribute to our growth?
Dr. Linda Mintle, in her book “We Need To Talk” writes, “Successful relationships are like successful stories. Both need conflict to grow. Since conflict is a natural part of any relationships, we do need to get comfortable with it and manage our differences in ways that value the other person.” She then spends the rest of the book talking through the potential conflicts that we will experience. You might even say that this book is a primer on conflict and relational issues. It could easily be used as a textbook and a handbook, thumbing to specific chapters when you experience a specific kind of conflict.
Mintle lays out 3 assumptions that she has when it comes to conflict: 1) conflict is a part of all close relationships 2) conflict, under the right conditions, can grow intimacy and bring satisfaction to relationships 3) in unhappy relationships, conflict escalates problems and distress and needs to be addressed. She talks through conflict in yourself and even how to respond when others won’t deal with conflict themselves.
Conflict is caused when sinful creatures try to get the upper hand in a relationship. Conflict is often caused by a difference of opinion, approach, upbringing, or any one of many factors. When those differences collide and we are unbending in our own ways, conflict is inevitable. Mintle talks through the importance of compromise and resolution when it comes to conflict as well.
There are chapters dedicated to some of the most common conflicts such as marital conflicts, both leading to divorce and the impacts on the divided families as well as sexual conflict and tension within a marriage. She talks through the contributing factors to these conflicts and how deadly they can be, things such as pornography and infidelity and how to work through those issues as well.
Mintle talks through how to deal with difficult people to lower the anxiety in a situation to move more successfully towards a resolution of conflict. She also talks about the fact that there are times when conflict can’t be resolved because of the personalities of different people.
Overall, “We Need To Talk” is a worthwhile resource. It can be wordy at times and there were moments when I wondered whether she could have said what had been said with half of the explanation. But for a handbook for those who aren’t experts or educated in the area of counseling, this book is worthwhile to keep handy on your bookshelf, especially if you are someone who has to deal with conflict on a regular basis. It’s a good mix of both theoretical and practical advice on dealing with the inevitable conflict that you will face throughout all of your relationships.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)