When (and How) to Have Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations can actually help people feel encouraged and, in many cases, can motivate people to get back into the game.

When (and How) To Have Difficult Conversations

Let’s face it: Few of us enjoy having difficult conversations with those who report to us. If we’re honest, most of us probably try to find ways to hand off these moments to others or bypass them altogether. But, we can’t forget that iron actually does sharpen iron—as Proverbs 27:17 says—and courageous conversations can and do help productivity because they can eliminate frustration that strains relationships.

In fact, they can actually help people feel encouraged and, in many cases, can motivate people to get back into the game. Or they simply can be used to filter out miscommunication that can cause disagreements and resentment.

Whether we want to admit it or not, communication is the cornerstone to healthy work environments. And, leaders that learn how to have healthy courageous conversations essentially lay the groundwork for success and for setting healthy boundaries within the work place.

How do you, as the leader, create a safe environment for courageous conversations to be had? Here are a few tips:

Be open to honest communication.

As with all leadership, everything begins with you as a leader and how you choose to manage your communication with others. Sadly, some people choose the passive-aggressive approach by hoping the problem will go away. It rarely does.

God chooses us to lead for a reason, and He calls us to a task and expects us to do the hard work by coming alongside others. You learn to lead by learning how to serve, and one of the key elements in serving is correct communication. He places us in circumstances that stretch and grow us in ways that maximize our gifts and talents.

So go ahead and begin to see conflict as an opportunity for you to grow along with those you work with on a regular basis. Learning the art of correct communication makes good leaders into highly effective leaders.

When it came to leading the nation of Israel out of Egypt, Moses felt that his communication skills were lack luster. He wanted someone else to speak in his place! (Exodus 4:13) Imagine being in front of the burning bush and having a conversation with God about your lack of ability. It seems inconceivable but we often do the same thing and essentially take a step backward instead of forward when confronting and speaking with others.

Be willing to step forward and lead through communication

Moses may have seemed humble in his approach, which is an admirable characteristic. But the one thing he failed to realize is that God issued His call to him—not to someone else. While the Lord allowed Aaron to join with Moses, He really wanted his chosen leader to take the lead, especially when it came to administering clear communication to the people of Israel.

When God gives you an opportunity to step into leadership, you can bet that He wants you to learn how to be an effective communicator. We’ve all heard that when God calls us to a task, He equips us for it. Leaders that don’t know how to communicate properly with their staff will have a hard time winning respect.

Courageous conversations reveal who you really are. You certainly don’t have to be a verbal wrecking ball but you do need to be concise, clear and humble. The fact remains that leaders who lead through demonstration are much more likely to capture the support of those who work for them. Ducking and hiding from confrontation is easily recognized and is something that is often seen by others as a weakness and not a strength.

One pastor recently related how he had a staff member who was not working out. He tried everything in hopes that the employee would get the message and straighten up, but it didn’t happened. The pastor said that he literally walked around with a “knot in his gut for days.” He went on to confess that if he had not had a mentor pushing him into the conversation, he might have put it off indefinitely.

This story had a happy ending because once he talked with his staff member and took the time to go over the church’s policy in a given area, the employee’s actions changed. In fact, that person even stopped the conversation long enough to thank the pastor for caring enough to be open and honest about what needed to be changed.


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Christine Yount Jones
Christine Yount Jones is Content Director for Outreach Media Group. She has published several books and hundreds of articles about ministry in the last three decades. Before his death in 2003, Michael Yount and Christine had three children. Now, she and her husband, Ray Jones, together have five grown kids.