Hard conversations. Every ministry leader has at least one that they need to have soon. It could be that you have to say no to someone important at your church. You might have tell a leader to step down. There may be a person in your life who you need to confront about their sin or confess your own. Some people find it easy to have these conversations. I am not one of those people. My tendency is to avoid having them and suffer silently on my own.
Joseph Grenny defines a crucial (hard) conversation as “A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.” *
This summer it seems that I have had to have more than the usual number of tough conversations with students, parents, and co-workers. God has been challenging me to stand courageously as I open my mouth. It’s honestly been one of the most challenging seasons in ministry. But through it all, God is teaching me that through these tough conversations there is blessing. I’ve also learned a few lessons along the way.
Lesson # 1 – Having the conversation is better than avoiding it.
If you hate conflict like me, then you avoid conflict because you fear the worst possible outcome will actually happen. The reality is that avoiding the conversation will NOT solve your problem. The relational tension will still be there and your issue will not be solved until you sit down and have the conversation. The longer you avoid the conversation the more the problem will intensify when the issue finally does come to a head. If you have that hard conversation, the worse might happen. If you avoid it the worst possible outcome will happen.
Lesson # 2 – Believe the best in the other person.
When we have an emotionally charged conversation coming our way it’s easy to paint that person in the worse possible light. We start to believe that they have completely impure motives while you have completely pure ones. This is almost never true. You will never be able to get inside someone else’s mind and truly know their heart. Make the conversation about issues, not motives. When you believe the best in someone else you allow them the opportunity to surprise you with their flexibility and reasonableness. You also allow yourself to see things from their perspective.
Lesson # 3 – Don’t be afraid to be firm on what matters to you.
This is a hard one for me. I want people to like me. I worry that if I stand firm I’ll lose the relationship. Giving in becomes my strategy. If I follow this route I end up resenting myself and that other person because I didn’t fight for what I believe to be important. You can be firm and still communicate that you care about the other person. Standing firm and showing care not mutually exclusive. Most of the time being firm will NOT harm the relationship as long as you affirm the relationship at the same time.
What hard conversation do you need to have this week? Will you prayerfully consider taking a step of courage and have that conversation before it’s too late?
*Want to dive more into how to have hard conversations? Read Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler.
Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Kevin loves to connect with and empower youth workers. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick