Recently I’ve had to have some conversations with people that have been hard – to say the least. Truth has had to be spoken, otherwise it would have left a gap in integrity or shared love.
I do not like conflict, I’d rather run a marathon than face conflict (and that’s saying a lot, because I really hate to run). Yet, the Bible makes it clear that we are to speak the truth in love, and I believe this even pertains to some areas of life that we all would rather avoid.
So as I’ve entered into these hard conversation lately, I’ve learned a few lessons that I’d like to pass along. When I find myself in a hard conversation, My goal is not to share an opinion and walk away. Rather, I strive to show that I care in hopes that I can help.
Here are some ways I’ve been striving to ensure my heart is heard side-by-side with the hard things that have to be said:
- I start by explaining why I care. As my mom always said, “No one cares how much you know until the know how much you care.” Yes, I may have truth or perspective that needs to be shared, but if I don’t explain my allegiance and love first, I will be nothing more than an “empty gong or clanging symbol.”
- Anticipate his or her objections and address them first. Before I even start the conversation I ask, what do I think this person is going to object to? I even write these down if I have to and before I am with the person. Then I practice what I will say to ensure I am addressing them in love. I may even take the list with me, but I never use it in a malicious way. Don’t say this: I knew you would say… so I brought a list to confront you objections – not a good idea. Just be ready and say, I bet you are thinking _____, so I want to let you know I thought through that.
- Vow to walk the hard road with them, if required. Be ready to carry the burden with them to help them through what it is that needs to change. If that means I have to give them some of my time, money, or various other types of support, then I must be ready to do so. If I am not ready to help them for the long haul, then I must check my motives as to whether it is right for me to bring up the tough issue in their life.
- I try to ensure that he or she know that my statements that sound trite are heartfelt. Often I will say things like, “I am praying for you” or “You know I love you, right?” – but if these are just heard as trite statements it could damage my relationship more. So while there may be somethings I want to say that sound cliché, I do whatever I can to qualify them as sincere – change the wording, add a few words, etc.
Conflict is never fun. However, I’ve learned that letting things fester is often worse. My goals as a leader, husband, sibling, dad and friends is to be as bold as a lion but as gentle as a dove – just like our Savior Jesus Christ exemplified.