Monday, August 24, 2015

BookPastor >> "We Need to Talk" (Linda Mintle)

Conflicts are always around the corner. This is because people are different and whenever there are differences, there will bound to be conflicts. That is why the best way is not to avoid conflicts but to learn to deal with it constructively. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 19th, 2015.


TITLE: We Need to Talk: How to Successfully Navigate Conflict
AUTHOR: Linda Mintle
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (256 pages).

Conflict is inevitable. Sooner or later, even the most cordial of relationships will encounter rough patches. The fact is that conflicts in themselves are not necessarily bad, especially when we can learn to respond constructively when they occur. In Dr Linda Mintle's words, it is simply summarized in four words: "We Need to Talk," which is exactly the title and the central theme of the book. Called a "relationship doctor," Mintle is a popular speaker, a licensed marriage counselor and family therapist, and also chair of the Division of Behavioral Health at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She deals with the topic of conflict sensitively but with firmness. Her three basic assumptions are:

  1. Conflicts are part and parcel of any close relationships;
  2. Under the right conditions, conflicts can help grow relationships;
  3. In unhappy relationships, conflicts can escalate and one needs to learn how to deal with them.

Conflicts always involve a power struggle and the key is to manage power imbalances as best as possible to balance between emotional needs, personal integrity, people's well-being, and the stress of life. In order to resolve any conflict, trust must be cultivated. Keeping secrets, being unreliable, history of betrayal, are all examples of how trust can be eroded. In order to build trust, show grace with providing second chances on the one hand and to draw boundaries on the other. Learn of Jesus' humility. Cherish differences without having to pander to every wish and fancy. Beware of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse: 1) Criticism; 2) Defensiveness; 3) Contempt; 4) Stonewalling. Anticipate a clash of styles and to learn strategies on how to deal with each. Be realistic with what is solvable and what is not. Like a family, one can disagree but still remember that we are all family. Families must learn to fight fair and to deal justly. There are also gender differences to be aware of. Distinguish the needs behind the desire for sex. One popular belief is that men and women have opposite views of sex and affection. Men puts sex before affection while women sees otherwise. Rather than focusing on these two, Mintle suggests both genders find ways to get validation and love in order to meet both of these needs. Mintle also gives 20 guidelines with regards to social media usage and sex.

Conflict styles also vary. Mintle pays special attention to difficult people that provokes high conflict levels. "High conflict" personalities tend to be too emotional about issues and often see things in black and white. Due to their rigid mental styles, they can become manipulative when they do not get things their way. They tend to yell and lose their tempers. They need help in controlling their anger and enabling lots of forgiveness. Use the serenity prayer as a guide.

With lots of practical tips, this book essentially helps us to clear the decks without dismissing the most difficult players. We learn to recognize the different kinds of styles and the various approaches to deal with conflicts. Sometimes it is good to minimize conflicts. Other times, it is best to deal with the situation at hand. With a positive outlook, confidence and humility need to be used simultaneously. The chapter on "Dealing with Difficult People" alone is worth the price of the book. Mintle has given us a powerful resource on how to live together with well-being of all in mind. Perhaps, for those of us who want to do something about everyday conflicts but don't know how, we need to pick up this book, learn from it, and to be equipped on how best to calm down and to promote a constructive dialogue. For Jesus' sake.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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