What in the World is Wrong with These People?

Pastor Linda sat in her office chair, stunned. Mrs. Jones, a parishioner, had just walked out of Pastor Linda’s office after, completely out of the blue, verbally lambasting her for “not caring about my husband Jim, laying in the hospital ill, and you hardly visited him!”

Thing is, Pastor Linda had visited Mr. Jones but apparently not as often as Mrs. Jones thought she should. Linda fumed and mused, “What in the world is wrong with that lady?”

Ever experienced someone jumping on you with hostile criticism, lashing out harshly for seemingly no reason? The personal attack seemed completely unreasonable and just came out of left field? You may have felt confused and wondered, “What is going on here?”

We’ve just finished a series of posts on the topic of avoiding conflict by building trust. However, there exists another important strategy that can also lead to conflict reduction: managing expectations.

I would like to tell you about a concept called the ‘psychological contract’ and how breaking the psychological contract,  even when you do so unintentionally, can create a very deep sense of betrayal, hurt or anger in others. It can unleash a tornado of dark emotions and hostile personal accusations which will leave you reeling in its wake.

The psychological contract holds just that much potential power for conflict. Pastors must be super savvy when it comes to managing it!

Four things you need to know about the psychological contract:

  1. A psychological contract exists solely in the minds of two parties (individuals or groups) who have a working relationship together.

  2. The psychological contract consists of implied agreements which are not stated or spelled out, yet are presumed to be fully agreed upon.

  3. Expectations form the basis of the psychological contract.

  4. You can breach a psychological contract without even knowing it.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to tell you more about the psychological contract and the power of expectations. This knowledge can help you identify and tune into potential conflict problems long before they ever emerge. It can help you form greater trust and alliance with your congregation, preventing conflict before it ever starts!

Tune in and learn how to make the psychological contract work for you rather than against you!


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