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How to have a challenging conversation with someone you love

Jason Jimenez
(Courtesy of Jason Jimenez)

Let's be honest. No one looks forward to having a challenging conversation with a friend or family member. The very thought of saying something that might hurt their feelings sends quivers down your spines. And so rather than confront the problem, you keep avoiding the talk and land up tossing it aside with the other unresolved issues.

But ask yourself, is avoiding hard conversations with a loved one improving or damaging my relationships?

As a Christian, it's not wise to suppress your feelings or avoid expressing how you feel about something with someone you love, especially if there's a problem hindering your relationship. A genuine relationship is one built on openness and honesty.

So, whatever the challenge or difficulty you are having with a loved one, here are five priorities to follow that will motivate you to have that uncomfortable conversation.

Priority One – Pray Before the Difficult Talk

You might be thinking the first priority seems a bit obvious. And you're right. Prayer is evident because it's essential. Yet, so many Christians skip over prayer and dive right into whatever is bothering them. However, the Bible states very clearly, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Phil. 4:6). When you and your friend (or family member) come together to talk about some sensitive matters, praying together will help settle the nerves and transfer the focus on the Lord. It's also important to express your gratitude for one another and ask God to give wisdom and understanding to work things out.

Priority Two – Converse, Not Lecture

When someone wrongs you, the natural thing to do is attack the person who hurt you. But, according to 1 Peter 3:8, you are to "have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind" as a Christian. Therefore, the last thing you want to do (no matter how innocent you feel you are) is to take an accusatory tone with your friend. Your approach is to honor them as a person made in God's image — not disparage them if they don't conform to your point of view. Your starting position isn't "I'm going to set you straight for hurting me." It should be, "I want to understand why you did what you did because I love you."

Priority Three – Show Respect

As human beings, we crave respect. A good technique when engaging in a challenging conversation is to focus on honoring the other person above yourself. When you "show proper respect" (1 Pet. 2:17) to someone, it not only acts as a diffuser but will also invite the other person to address you with respect. Think of it this way, honoring one another leads to respectful dialogue.

Priority Four - Be Open and Honest

It follows that if you properly employ the first three priorities, the fourth one will likely fall into place. However, there are so many terrifying prospects that can hinder vulnerability: insecurities, failures, fear of rejection, and issues of trust. Yet, both of you have to be willing to express real emotion and a willingness to work things out for the two of you to make any progress. This will take time, so make sure you don't rush or fake it.

Priority Five – Ask for Forgiveness

Jesus tells his followers, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matt. 5:23-24). The word "reconciled" conveys an immediate response to make peace with the offended person. Instead of making excuses for your actions, it's always best to take responsibility for any wrongdoing and quickly resolve matters before they get out of hand.

Jason Jimenez is president of Stand Strong Ministries, a faculty member at Summit Ministries, and a best-selling author who specializes in apologetics and biblical worldview training. Check out www.standstrongministries.org.

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