Having a Difficult Conversation 11
We’ve been looking into God’s word and thinking together these past three Sundays about being offended but not taking offense. We’ve been looking at Jesus’ story of the father and his two sons and a full-house of offense. Offense-grabbing and offense-releasing.
Having a hard and loving discussion (a mark of the Spirit’s maturing us into fully devoted followers of Jesus, Ephesians 4.15) with the person who has offended us is often the way to help restore equilibrium in the jostled relationship. Such conversations can actually deepen relationships even where there has been offense!
Over the next few blogposts I want to share some thoughts about having these difficult discussions. We’d love to hear your thoughts as well. What has helped you? What hasn’t worked? Would you share a story of a victory?
Here we go.
I don’t know anyone who looks forward to a difficult conversation.
Well, I take that back.
I do know a couple people who are “conflict addicted.” Clashes and quarrels give them a buzz. But they are nearly as rare as unicorns.
So, most of us don’t like difficult conversations. It’s normal to feel uneasy anticipating them. It’s normal to handle them imperfectly.
What could help you is thinking through what you would like to accomplish before the conversation.
Ask God to give you a good attitude, to guide you, and the person you’ll be talking with.
Don’t be unrealistic in what you’d like to see happen. When you expect too much, or want to punish, you’ll probably be more frustrated after the conversation, and perhaps even deepen the original rift.
Here are some helpful reminders:
1. Plan to be brief. And stick to it. Don’t try to say everything. You won’t solve all the problems in one conversation.
2. Promise to not be about trying to change the other person. If this is your attitude, they will smell it before you come into the room. And their defenses will go up quicker than the July 4th San Diego fireworks.
3. Commit to be a learner and a listener. There may be a simple explanation, or misunderstanding. They may have been totally unaware of the offense. Plan to ask clarifying questions, and listen. Really.
4. Looking for an apology? It will be great if it happens. But don’t shoot for it, don’t expect it. If you’re strategizing for a “I’m really, really, really sorry and won’t ever do that again,” you are setting yourself up for a big fall. And they’ll sense that’s why you came, to extract an apology at all costs. It’ll get messy. Trust me on this one.
Enough for now.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”