No more running or hiding from hard conversations. Find the faith and courage to push past the uncomfortable and resolve with understanding, grace, and love.
Have you ever felt that tightness in your chest and that little twinge of anxiety when you are about to talk to someone about a difficult or touchy subject? That is a key sign that even if the topic or situation that you need to discuss is difficult, you may need to rise above your response of fear and be brave enough to have hard conversations with people in your life. Hard conversations are usually centered around a thought, emotion, offense or situation that either could cause conflict in opinions, perspective or even evoke feelings that are difficult to navigate. This guide to navigate how and when to have hard conversations can be applied to any relationship, and is intended to address, expose and resolve that blocks us from having hard conversations and move forward with building healthier relationships with friends, family, colleagues and significant others.
How do you know when you should have a hard conversation or keep it moving?
When you do not have peace in your spirit about it.
When you truly value the relationship and want to preserve it.
When you want real clarity and understanding for the other person’s perspective and not just for the sake of defending your stance.
So I can't defend myself?
I know, I know… the latter of these is the hardest because we all desire to be understood and avenge our own thoughts, emotions and actions, but I challenge you to think bigger.
Is defending your position more important than the value of the person and relationship to you? Now this does not in any way mean that your feelings and opinions do not matter, but what I have often found in navigating this merky space is that when you commit to hearing the other person out first before entering the lane of defense, they will automatically answer any of your questions and clear up misunderstandings in simple calm conversation when you listen without filters, judgment or preconceived notions that they will be angry or defensive with you. Don’t go into the conversation armed for battle to defend your honor or just cause to be right. The truth is, in some cases, you may both be right and have to own the individual contributions to the situation.
Letting Down Your Guard
Being emotionally mature enough to not avoid hard conversations.
Okay, have I at least opened your mind to why you should have these conversations? Good!
I share this from a place of highlighted awareness in this area over the last year of my life because I would traditionally take two approaches to hard conversations that did not always yield the best results. Fight or flight: fight for my point; flight in shutting down and avoiding the conversation all together. Even if it cost me the relationship.
The thing about the Holy Spirit, you will always get a gentle nudge to move on mending and addressing situations that truly are God-meant, and God-sent connections for your life.
Do you recognize when this arises?
Do you love God and the person enough to obey and take initiative on the conversation?
Do you value peace over being righteously wrong?
What do I mean by “righteously wrong,” you ask?
When you are righteous in your moral stance by wrong in your stubborn assertive nature in how you carry it out. Is your righteousness rooted in love? Could your kindness and compassion win them over more than a moral high ground that may isolate them from being open and honest with you?
The Fatih to Fix It
Do you have the faith and fortitude to acknowledge how you feel about having the hard conversation, process why you are feeling that way, and then forge through it to get to the other side of understanding, peace and reconciliation? Here is what I mean…
Faith has several ingredients absent the fight or flight methods I expressed before. That is substance, hope, and evidence.
Substance of a relationship worth saving.
Relationships worth saving have substance. I mean deep real substance that has a history or rich conversations that enrich your life and leave your heart full after every conversation and encounter. Will you allow one, okay, maybe a few bumps in the road tarnish the established substance? Is the season of the relationship really over or are you burning the relationship and the other person because you do not possess the emotional intellect and compassion to heal the situation with love, grace and maturity? Are you willing to hold dear to substance over holding on to your own fear of hearing their truth? Have the faith to choose nurturing the relationship of substance, even if it scares you because you are looking at it through the lens of past hurts.
Hope for a solution and a positive response over fear of a confrontation.
My Pastor, Rachel Senior, said words that are etched in my heart as the standard compass on how to navigate difficult conversations. In paraphrasing her sentiment, I ask you to consider:
Has the person ever responded like you thought they would when approaching them with a difficult topic, or do they always respond by listening, having compassion and giving a loving response?
What would happen if you paused to play out a positive response and outcome very anticipating being approached with a negative response? What if we commit to be honest and true to ourselves by articulating our thoughts about the situation with the intent to resolve and not defend or argue? Oh, how many more relationships could be salvaged with this approach! Don’t let fear of conflict drive out hope for honesty delivered in love.
Evidence of the other person’s character and your perception of who you think they are.
Maybe the one person you are struggling to have hard conversations with is the one key connection you need to accomplish a goal, carry out a mission, or reach your destiny. Let’s go back and look at the evidence. Just as in a court of law, before defending the accused, a character witness is called to establish if the person is capable of intentionally committing the accused crime of offense. Key work being intentionally and offense. Let’s consider the evidence of the character of the other person.
At the beginning of the relationship, was this someone you knew God sent to partner with you and help fill in the gaps of what you needed in your walk to become who you are today? Do their good attributes outweigh the bad, and can you draw on those things to see them for who they really are?
Seen vs. unseen:
Do they traditionally handle me well in times of adversity?
Have I seen repeated acts of love, kindness, and commitment from them?
Is the reaction I expect from them reality or is it what I believe in my own thoughts based on past experiences and situations before them?
Overall, who is the person I see and know versus the version of them I have made up from my own filters?
Your collective answers to all of these questions to evaluate and assess the health of the relationship and the character of the other person should be your guide to engage in hard conversations with empathy, compassion, a commitment to peaceful resolution, and most of all, love.
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