The Anatomy Of Conflict: Part 1

This Changed My Life

Josh Hossler | 05/15/2018

A few years ago I needed help. I was struggling and life was closing in around me. I needed someone needed to help pull me out. I ended up seeing a professional counselor and it was the best thing I could’ve done. There were a lot things the counselor said that helped unlock my thinking, but the greatest takeaway was this little phrase…

“Most (if not all) conflict is a result of unmet expectations.”

Then he went on to explain. This one phrase unlocked so much in my head regarding relational conflict that I share it with practically anyone I can. Here is what he unpacked…

Hurt and frustration (ie – conflict) come when we have expectations of someone and those aren’t met. Mom expects daughter to [fill in the blank]. She doesn’t and there’s conflict. Worker expects their boss/company to [fill in the blank]. They don’t and there’s conflict.

All pretty simple so far. The problem is not everyone has the same expectations, and therein lies the rub. My counselor went on to explain that there are essentially three types of expectations, and this is where this really begins to open up. When I heard this, it was like a huge portal got opened up in my brain and I now understood why there was conflict in my marriage, conflict and discontentedness with myself, and in general where the origin of all conflict lies. The beauty is, once we identify the origin of something, it makes it much much easier to work on.


  1. Not Thought, Not Spoken.
    These are those expectations we have of other people that we aren’t even aware of but they’re there. This is the husband who expects his wife to have a certain role in the home. He’s never acknowledged it as a conscious expectation but it’s there. His mom always washed the dishes so when he gets married he expects his wife to. Problem is, in her home, dad always did the dishes. Neither one of them have consciously acknowledged their expectations and they for sure haven’t communicated them. They end up frustrated and in conflict over expectations neither one of them has thought or spoken. This is dangerous ground. We get angry with people and start holding them “accountable” for expectations we’ve placed on them that we’ve never communicated and they’ve never agreed to.
  2. Thought, Not Spoken.
    These expectations make a little more sense. We are consciously aware of them. Yes, I do expect so and so to do such and such. The problem is when we haven’t clearly communicated them. This happens a lot in job situations. The boss has one idea, the employee has another. This is why clearly spelled our job descriptions are important because they have communicated expectations on the front end to avoid conflict. Clear communication is key. One “aha” moment for me in this came when the realization occurred… “People can’t read my mind!” If I haven’t spoken it, I can’t hold people accountable for it and therefore can’t get angry with them if they haven’t met it. I need to make sure I’m communicating what I’m thinking and feeling so there is open dialogue and agreed upon expectations.
  3. Thought, Spoken.
    This is obvious the place we all want to get to. This is the sweet spot when both parties understand what their expectations are (adjusting them for all considerations of the relationship) AND they are clearly communicated and agreed upon. This is where harmony occurs. There is both art and science here but this is where understanding and unity take place.

Acknowledge the expectations you have. Evaluate them to see if they are reasonable or need to be adjusted. Then clearly communicate those to come to agreed upon and fair expectations. Most (if not all) conflict is a result of unmet expectations.

“As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

That’s it for now. In my next post I’ll tackle some next steps for conflict resolution. Would love to hear your thoughts and what you’ve learned about conflict resolution. Feel free to comment below.

Josh Hossler | Lead Pastor

Josh is the founding and Lead Pastor of Evident Church. He is passionate about helping people find their purpose and follow Jesus. Josh enjoys his family, preaching, leadership, writing, and is also is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Rochester University in Rochester Hills, MI. He and his wife Raelyn, have three daughters, AvaRae, AdaLyn, and AnaBel.

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