Differences of opinion can occur in any family, group or organisation and the church is no exception. We live in a world in which disrespect for others is escalating, especially with the rise of social media.The following simple rules should help us act with respect for others even when we have significant disagreements. If we follow them it will be much easier to resolve disagreements and come to a place of forgiveness and reconciliation when this is needed, and help avoid the need in the first place.

Rules of Respect - for meetings, conversations, letters and social media  

Rule # 1.   Differ with others without demonizing them.

Rule # 2.   Have spirited conversations without drawing blood.

Rule # 3.   Don't interrupt others who are talking and don't dominate the conversation.

Rule # 4.   Limit volume levels and refuse to use incendiary or belittling words that guarantee to derail a discussion.

Rule # 5.   Be courteous in word and deed to everyone at every level.

Rule # 6.   Never stereotype.

Rule # 7.   Apologize immediately when you are wrong, instead of denying or doubling down (becoming more emphatic and escalating conflict).

Rule # 8.   Form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.

Rule # 9.   Show up when you say you are going to show up and do what you say you are going to do.

Rule # 10. Leaders must set “Rules of Respect” for everyone in the organization and enforce them relentlessly. (These are the Rules for CCF).

Taken from Bill Hybels, Global Leadership Summit, 2017

Whilst the above rules are very helpful when we are engaging in discussion with others, it is not always easy to know the best thing to do to begin to sort out a problem in a relationship. It's all too easy to gossip to others without sorting things out with the person we actually have an issue with. The following Code of Conduct is a helpful guide to how to address relational tension when it arises.

 Code of Conduct - for addressing relational tension

1. If you have a problem with me, come to me privately.

2. If I have a problem with you, I’ll come to you privately.

3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. I’ll do the same for you.

4. If someone consistently talks to you about me but will not come to me, say to the person, “Let’s go see him/her together. I am sure he/she will see us about this.” I will do the same for you.

5. Because it is easy to misinterpret intentions, be careful how you interpret me. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressure to guess about my thoughts, feelings, actions, or intentions. Instead, come to me and ask me to clarify. I will do the same for you.

6. If it’s confidential, don’t tell. If you or anyone else comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell unless (a) the person is going to hurt himself/herself, (b) the person is going to harm someone else, physically, emotionally, spiritually or reputationally, (c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.

7. I do not manipulate. I will not be manipulated. Do not let others manipulate you. Do not let others try to manipulate me through you. I won’t let others manipulate you through me.

8. I will never send you an unsigned letter as a way to “share concerns” or to criticize you or anyone else. Conversely, I do not read unsigned, critical letters; rather, I throw them away. Sending an unsigned critical letter and including statements such as, “I’m writing to you in love” is not loving. It is hurtful, cowardly, and a violation of healthy relationship principles.

9. When you have a question or are in doubt about something, come to me and ask to talk with me about it. If I can answer you without misrepresenting something or breaking a confidence, I will. However, even in times when I can’t share information to the degree you would like me to, please give me the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming negative things about me. I’ll do the same for you.

10. Let’s keep the “air” between us clear. If I sense that there is distance, hurt, misunderstanding, etc. between us (regardless of who is to blame), I’ll come to you to talk about it. I expect the same from you.

11. Forbearance and forgiveness are essential for our relationship.

Adapted from Charles W. Christian, “10 Rules for Respect.” Leadership Journal, Summer 1999, www.christianitytoday.com as quoted in Maxwell, J.C. (2003), There’s no such thing as “business” ethics, Warner Business Books. Adapted by Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Services. Can be freely copied and redistributed. Not to be sold. For more information on communication please visit www.accounseling.org/communicationmarriage