It is hard to confess wrongdoing. It is even harder to confront someone else’s bad behavior.
Yet when we are responsible for others, or have chosen to practice mutual accountability, hard conversations are inevitable—with pitfalls all around.
We can dilute the message by generalities, smother the concern between complements, or sidestep the issue by not speaking at all.
We can cast blame, cite unfounded inferences as facts, impugn intentions, or lash out with words that cause deep wounds.
Or we can speak the truth in love (Mt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 4:15).
In this biblical meld, we start with prayer (Phil 4:6, I Pet. 5:7). We examine our heart (Mt. 7:3-5; Gal. 6:1). We prepare (and practice) what we will say in the first minute, using statements* like these:
I want to talk to you about . . . [name the behavior].
To give an example . . . [cite one].
On my part, I feel . . . [describe your emotions].
This is important because. . . [tell what’s at stake].
I want to understand this from your perspective . . . [invite a response].
In this minute, we speak the truth in love.
Then we listen (Jam. 1:19). We strive for a mutually satisfactory solution (Acts 6:1-7; 15:36-41). Or we draw in others to assist (Phil. 4:2-3; Acts 15:1-32).
Speaking the truth in love is the central pivot of hard conversations. It opens the way to good outcomes. It enables both parties to grow in Christ. It allows the whole faith community to grow and build itself up in love (Eph. 4:15-16).
*Adapted from Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations, pp. 148-153