When to Have that Tough Conversation


Maybe you are like me and you’d rather avoid conflict. I think that most of us hate it.

Those of you who enjoy conflict––the rest of us try to avoid you. 🙂

And yet, dealing with conflict is necessary. Sometimes, avoiding it only sends problems underground to surface later with far more damage than if we would have dealt with the issue when it first surfaced.

But is it always necessary to have those tough conversations when we disagree, are annoyed or offended, or see a problem with another person? Is it always necessary to force a disagreement into the open?

There are some who feel as though they have to talk through every difference of opinion in order to reach harmony. Some relationships are so filled with tough conversations that the whole relationship is built on conflict. Honestly, there was a time in my life that I approached conflict that way, believing that I had to confront every disagreement with everyone I was in contact with.

But Jesus’ example taught me to handle things differently. Jesus wasn’t afraid of tough conversations, but when you study his life, he let a lot of things go. He was a man of perpetual forgiveness and love that overlooked offenses. He was able to see through hostility to understand real needs of people. Jesus didn’t have a chip on his shoulder as those who are easily slighted. He cared more about the person who might have been offending him than he did about how the hurt to himself personally. He wasn’t afraid of conflict, but he only rooted it out when necessary.

So when is it right to have that tough conversation? Here are a few good questions to ask yourself beforehand.

  • Do I have all the facts? Do I have them right? Much of the time, we jump the gun and assume things and surmise the motives of others. That’s exactly what Jesus addressed when he told us not to judge others. We are not to assume anything negative about others when we do not know for certain. Judging their motives is doing just that. If we are to assume anything, it should be the best…giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Is this the right time? Proverbs 25:11 tells us how beautiful words are when spoken at the right time. Especially when it comes to conflict resolution, timing is really a big deal.
  • Is my attitude right? What is your goal in addressing this issue? Is this about your own annoyances or opinions? Are you just trying to get your frustrations off your chest or are you truly wanting to address the issue for the benefit of the person you are in conflict with?
  • Should I dismiss this? Is this wrong, as in a sin issue, or am I nitpicking? Remember Jesus’ story of the guy with the beam in his eye while focusing on the speck in someone else’s eye. It reminds us that there are some things we should just let go. After all, we have our own faults we need to be working on.
  • Are my words constructive, solution-orientated? After all, that should be our goal for every tough conversation, to build up the person we are talking to and find a solution to the conflict. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you” (TEV).

Sometimes tough conversations are necessary. In my next post, I’ll talk about HOW to go about them.

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