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Navigating Difficult Conversations

May. 3, 2016 M46 Project

Why is confrontation so important?

Confrontation is important because it reflects how important something is to you. God placed the signal to confront is an indicator that something has happened to someone or something that you care about.

The problem is most people don’t know how to deal with conflict constructively! When most people see the word “confront”, they tend to see it through the lens of their past experiences of how they saw other people handle conflict.

The biggest influence in how people confront is what they see in their family of origin. If a talk about money turned into a verbal assassination of character, then most likely that person will find themselves doing one of two things: using the same tactics when confronting or being confronted, or they will avoid confrontation by any means necessary.

Think about that for a minute.

How comfortable do you feel confronting an issue with someone? If you are like most people, you may find some discomfort in it because you may not want to turn a conversation about “Who left the lights on?” into a fight.

So what’s the solution? Should we avoid confrontation because it’s uncomfortable, and the conversation could turn into something that we really don’t want?

Let’s think of the consequences. What could happen if you don’t confront a situation? Will you be happy? How long will walking around the pink elephant be productive in the relationship? What could be lost or damaged if you don’t confront the issue?

This week let’s focus on 8 steps to handling confrontation which can help you build a deeper bond with those you love.

Here are 8 elements of dealing with confrontation from my friend Dr. John Townsend:

  1. Take the “for stance”. Remember grace should always come before truth. This is especially needed when you are building the bond of trust with someone. They need to know that you are “for” them, and the reason why you are addressing the issue is because you truly care for them, and your relationship.
  2. State the problem. If you can, write down the specific issues with and refer to dates and times. This allows the conversation to stay on track, and it not turn into a “That’s your opinion” argument.
  3. Own your part. 99% of all issues involves more than one person. It doesn’t matter how much or how little your role was…OWN IT! Find something to own in the conversation, “I wasn’t clear in sharing this…”, “I avoided this…”, or “I didn’t nip this in the bud in the beginning.” Realize that if a person feel it is 100% their problem, it will tend to cause people to push back and get defensive.
  4. Hear their side/deal with diversion. Everyone needs their day in court. Take a moment and ask them, “Let me hear your side in this.” There may be information that you need to know. It is during this step that people can start taking you down a rabbit trail to get off topic, and blaming the world for their issue. If this happens, Dr. Townsend recommends that you listen for 3 minutes and then say these 5 words, “Now let’s get back to…” That gives them a chance to speak, but you are able to stay on track with the addressing the issue.
  5. Ask for the necessary behavior change and ask to check in within 30 days to see how things are going.
  6. Consequences (if needed). Consequences should only be considered if the person appears unwilling to make a change. If the person truly values the relationship, consequences shouldn’t be needed.
  7. Reiterate the “for” stance. Tell them again that you are “for” them, and want things to work and get better. It reiterates you heart and the reason why you had the conversation in the first place.
  8. Check back in 1-24 hours. Probable the most important step is to check back in afterwards. This allows you the opportunity to see how they are doing, and if you are on the same page. Ask the how it went for them, and if they need anything.
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