Leadership often requires us to have hard conversations – sometimes at our initiative, and sometimes at the initiative of others. When those times happen, I must always check myself to make sure my heart isn’t moving in the wrong direction during the conversation, especially because I don’t like confrontation in general. Here’s what I must watch for:
- Allowing anger to arise. I know when my heart begins to pound a little faster, my blood pressure starts to rise, and my facial muscles begin to tighten. If I let it get out of control, I’ll respond in an unhealthy way.
- Moving toward “shut down” mode. Sometimes it’s easiest for me simply to end the conversation and ignore the issue. That’s a copout, however.
- Building to build a defensive wall. This especially happens when the conversation turns to critique me. I have a tendency to bow up and prove myself right before I genuinely hear the concerns of others.
- Deflecting blame toward the other person. When I am, in fact, guilty of creating a problem, I too often cast blame on others before taking responsibility for my own actions.
- Tuning out the other person. Sure, I’m there in the room during the conversation, but my mind is elsewhere. I’m listening more to my inner thoughts than to the person talking to me.
- Whitewashing a needed apology. It sounds something like this: “I’m sorry that you felt hurt by my actions” or “I regret that my stand caused anguish for you.” In both cases, the “apology” is seldom genuine.
- Talking more than listening. When I talk more than listen, I tend to come across as the teacher more than the concerned, caring brother in Christ – and I miss an opportunity to shepherd well.
- Making only brief eye contact. That’s one way I know that the conversation is stressing me out. If I’m looking around or over the other person, I’m not as engaged as I need to be to bring resolution.
- Seeking to “win” the conversation. The confrontation becomes a competition, and my naturally competitive spirit kicks in. A need to win makes a healthy conversation almost impossible.
- Talking without praying. That wrong response might be, in fact, the deepest wrong. My lack of prayer is a confession that I don’t need God’s help – and the conversation inevitably remains difficult.
What wrong responses must you guard against?