How to have a Hard Conversation

Tomorrow I am meeting with a friend for coffee.  I’ve been praying like crazy because I love this person and it’s because I love them that I’m anxious about our conversation.

I have some concerns.  I’ve noticed some things that I feel like God may want me to caution this person about.  But I have nothing to gain personally, and everything to lose relationally.  And…I may be wrong.

Like many of you I’m pretty much a people-pleaser.  I avoid saying hard things almost as much as I avoided hopping on the Yoga band-wagon.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the Jesus way of hard conversations.  As I’ve prayed and looked for examples in Scripture, here are a few questions I’ve asked myself:

1.  Do I have enough of a relationship with this person to have this kind of conversation?  Have I built trust?  Do they know more than anything else that I love them and am for them?

2.  Are they open to letting me speak into their life in this way?  Am I assuming a role that I shouldn’t? Or is this a Nathan situation (2 Samuel 12:1)?

3.  Am I going into this conversation prayed up and having examined my heart for messy motives?  Is my desire to speak rooted in pride or control?

4.  If this really is a case of iron sharpening iron, am I open to the roles being reversed?  Am I receptive to hearing something from this friend that might be hard for me to hear?

5.  Am I going in with a humble spirit, asking questions more than making pronouncements, willing to listen and admit I may not be seeing things clearly?

6.  People hear criticism like you’re using a bull horn and affirmation like you’re whispering it in the middle of a violent wind storm.  Have I figured out how to integrate grace and affirmation throughout our conversation?  And if there was just one concern I’d want to make sure this person heard, what would it be?

The title of this post was misleading.  There’s no magic formula and if there is, I don’t know it.  I’m just a learner who is stuttering her way through – all Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”.  Anyone can make a list of questions.  But a real conversation??  “Come Holy Spirit” is about all I know to say for sure.

What am I missing?  What would you add?

5 thoughts on “How to have a Hard Conversation

  1. Laura, this is great advice. Thank you for the mix of vulnerability and wisdom.

    “If this really is a case of iron sharpening iron, am I open to the roles being reversed?” I had a very shaping experience once, in which I met a person for coffee to have a hard conversation with them, only to realize they were coming to have a hard conversation with me. Turned out it was more my issue than hers. Humbling to say the least.

    I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit- for guidance and help in the giving and receiving of these kinds of words.

    I pray that your conversation brings both you and your friend closer to the healing and life-giving hand of God.


  2. A terrific post, Laura. Very difficult situation. I think when you’ve convinced yourself you must have this discussion with the friend, there are two “musts” which you’ve mentioned. One, let the person know you care about them deeply and it is for that reason you are sharing the feedback or raising the concern. Secondly, I think, as you’ve also mentioned, limiting the sharing to the single most critical issue. We sometimes have a tendency to share several bullet points of “constructive feedback” when one would have sufficed, the proverbial “20 that gets the 80”. Finally, you might consider asking your friend, after you’ve delivered, if there is anything she sees about you which you might need to hear about. Any behavior that needs to be started or stopped? Dialed up or down?

    It sounds to me you know what to do. In the end, the risk is on your end, as we can never be certain how the person we’re sharing such information with will react. But as a good friend, you’ll know you have done what you could to help your friend, with a heart that is in the right place.


  3. Laura,
    Wow~ such a great reminder to think before we speak. Let this person know that you care about them. Be strong in your conviction. Offer that you are needing to express yourself because of your beliefs in hopes that they may offer guidance. Most important, end the exchange on a good note… even if you disagree. Be honest ~ a true friend will appreciate an honest exchange.


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