We have all been there – knowing we need to have that tough conversation with a friend, relative or peer. The conversation is not being looked forward to because you know there will be confrontation in your conversation. As much as you would like to think that this person will eventually ‘get it’ most of the time they won’t unless you talk it out.
There have been many times in my life I have been the one confronted…and if done right, I am forever grateful! There have also been times that I have been on the other side, trying to confront someone about something…perhaps it’s an attitude, a cycle of sin, or even just feedback on how someone is leading. I think we all have been on either side of the equation and I’d like to take a moment to unfold some things to keep in mind that will help you the next time you are approached by someone with a confrontation or perhaps you need to have the tough conversation with someone else.
1. Show some humility. We are all sinners here, remember you have had your moments too! Any situation can be a learning moment, do not put yourself above the person that is calling you out – hear them out. When you sit down to have a conversation with a student, leader, or peer and want to confront them – think about where you have struggled in life, perhaps in the same areas.
2. Be quick to speak…scripture tells us not to let the sun go down if we are angry with our brother or sister in Christ. We need to talk things out – NOT in the heat of the moment, take a breath, take a walk, talk with God first. We need to make sure we are speaking in love, not out of our sin nature in anger or hate. Have open ears to listen to the other person, but we cannot let important feedback linger. If we confront someone about a situation that took place 6 months ago, this could blur the lines of caring, urgency, and priority. If it was that important, why are you waiting until now to bring it up? Avoiding the conversation will only make things worse and furthermore show that this confrontation is not important.
3. Be honest. I know that when I’m honest with a student or leader, there might be some questions, dislike, hurt feelings, perhaps even disagreement but in the end they usually thank me for being honest. The worst thing that could happen is being honest with others about how you feel toward a particular person without being honest directly with that specific person, this is called GOSSIP! Honesty can and will complicate conversations, but it does bring us closer to the realities we are discussing and the feelings we are feeling.
4. Follow Up. I had a really tough conversation with a student a few weeks ago – it was honest, we both showed humility, and both of us saw it as a learning experience. We perceived certain things about each other that seemed to drive a wedge between us…we both perceived wrongly. It was so good to clear the air and have the tough conversation. Through tears, prayer and hug I still felt a little bit uneasy where things were left UNTIL the follow up. We briefly talked exactly a week later and I feel much better as where things stand. Tough conversations can be really hard for both the listener and the one who feels compelled to say something…let it settle in for a while. Evaluate the conversation as you have it, will this need to be re-visited? Do I need to bring in a parent or church staff member into this conversation? What would be the best way to follow up? Make it a point to tell your listener…”I’d like to follow up next week.” And do it! This shows that your truly care about them. Ask them how they are doing, ask them if they have had any thoughts on the conversation you had. If you are the listener and you think it may be needed, make sure you ask for a follow up conversation. Some things might be revealed to you that you should not respond to in the heat of the moment, let it settle…pray over the things said, do a self evaluation and perhaps seek wise counsel from someone you respect.
Though there are many things to consider, but these few things kept in mind when having a tough conversation can be extremely helpful. I know they have helped me!
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