Children's Ministry Magazine ran an article by Craig Jutila, children's pastor at Saddleback, intended for children's leaders, but it's good stuff for anyone. He offers three points:
2. Respond, Don't React - Craig says he waits 24 hours when he gets a negative email that "has the hint of negativity", so as to give his fingers' emotions the best possible chance to write a thoughtful (not sarcastic/angry) response!
3. Outlast Your Critics - I literally laughed out loud when I read: "I have a personal theory. I think there are about 15 people who drive around together in a van from church to church. They spread their discontent with just about everything that's going on. They thrive on pointing out your mistakes, correcting your path, and adjusting your perspective. They're so negative it's like they're earning some kind of award for it. No matter what church you go to, you'll meet these people. So don't be surprised when their van unloads. My point is, the goal is to simply outlast those who are critical of you."
On the other side of the coin, conflicts can be fantastic opportunities. The people closest to me are the friends who have stuck around for a long time and been willing to work through our "stuff". For me, I don't feel like I really know someone until we've worked through a conflict. There's a potential bond that's very powerful! The friendship becomes something you've fought together for.
It does seem like at the end of the day, all personal conflicts have one thing in common: they're risky. Things can go well, or, uh, not. How do you sail these waters? What's helped you?