Updated: May 24
Leaders, both in the secular world and within the church, often shy away from difficult conversations. Some fear conflict and lack the necessary skills to navigate such situations, while others believe that having these conversations is unkind or that they simply do not have the time to prioritize them. However, as followers of Christ, we are called to love one another, and avoiding difficult conversations (for the sake of avoiding them) can hinder the growth and well-being of the team, the organization, and members of the community alike.
Now, that being said, having difficult conversations is a skill that requires practice and adherence to Biblical principles, both when you catalyst or the subject. Having a Difficult conversation demands effective listening, endurance, kindness, self-awareness, curiosity, clarity, and emotional courage.
In the Bible, we are encouraged to pursue wisdom and guidance when faced with challenges aggressively. Proverbs 1:5 states, "Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance." This is why we must walk away from our echo chamber as often as possible and seek the counsel of mentors or individuals with a vantage point or experience who can provide feedback to help us navigate the discomfort of addressing complex issues. After all, our ethical obligation is to grow and help others grow and improve.
When we avoid difficult conversations out of a desire for short-term good feelings or a fear of confrontation, we compromise the long-term development of our teams and ourselves. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard. Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to "speak [and accept] the truth in love" and not shy away from addressing issues that hinder growth and effectiveness. Being open to difficult conversations early on can potentially prevent the need for drastic measures such as termination, break-up, and being ghosted, as difficult conversation provides an opportunity for correction and growth.
Additionally, the Bible teaches us the importance of working on our strengths and using our God-given talents. 1 Peter 4:10 encourages us, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." which is why we must realize, or come to the knowledge that prolonged work in areas of ineffectiveness can hinder [our and their] personal and professional growth, and that more often than not. Parting ways with an individual or a situation who is not a good fit can be a catalyst for personal and professional growth.
Leadership expert John Maxwell reminds us that leaders who are unwilling to initiate or participate in hard conversations are unfit for their positions. As Christians, we are called to be servants and leaders who emulate the character of Christ. Jesus Himself confronted and addressed complex issues with love and grace, and Jesus never was shy to have difficult conversations. Can we do that ourselves? Especially when we are at fault. That also takes practice and courage.
As we engage, or someone else engages us in difficult conversations, we should keep in mind the advice offered by Kim Scott: "Never dodge a difficult conversation, avoid any hint of superiority or judgment, skip the long wind-up, and be kind and clear."
In conclusion, participating in difficult conversations is an indispensable aspect of living faithfully. As Christians, we are called to love one another [and also ourselves,] seek wisdom and foster growth. By embracing difficult conversations, you can demonstrate your commitment to the well-being and growth of the community. So, let us prioritize clarity, active listening, and emotional courage as we navigate these conversations, remembering that our ultimate goal is to honor God and promote the development of God's kingdom here on earth. Here are two books that I never get tired of recommending.
"Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni
"Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well" by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen