How To Have A Confrontational Conversation
I don’t love confrontational conversations. When I have one coming down the chute it occupies a huge sum of mind-share. I worry about it going poorly. I worry about being misunderstood. I worry about my heart being unclear. I worry about hurting the person.
In short, I’m not a fan of conflict. I actually don’t know any sane person who is. Regardless of my discomfort, conflict remains a part of relationship in a fallen world. If you’re going to relate with someone, a time will come when you have to confront them about something. It may be something they said or did that hurt you. It may be a blind spot in their lives that is a problem. The context will change, but the inevitability of conflict will not.
Confronting someone is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It can easily go south if not taken seriously and prepared for properly. One redeeming factor in my discomfort with confrontation is that I’ve developed a process for confrontation that I've found helpful. If you have one of these uncomfortable but important conversations in your future, here’s how I have a confrontational conversation.
1. Pray Thoroughly
Pray that God would prepare the person on the other end, but more importantly, pray that God prepares you. Prayer prepares the heart, mind, and mouth for the difficulty involved in confrontation. The Holy Spirit uses prayer to reveal our sin, call us to repentance, and refine our motives. Sometimes when I think confrontation is necessary, prayer reveals that it’s not. Sometimes the person in need of being confronted is me. Prayer helps me offload my worry onto the Lord. Prayer reminds me that my identity is not bound up in what others think of me, but what God thinks. Do not ever, ever, ever, ever…wait for it…EVER confront someone without praying through the issue and for the person thoroughly.
2. Plan Carefully
I don’t ever “wing” a confrontational conversation. While you can’t plan for every possible contingency, you should carefully plan out what you need to say. I’d encourage you to actually write it down and take it into the conversation with you - at least some bullet points. Ask yourself these questions:
- What needs to be said?
- Why am I saying this?
- How can I make my heart clear?
- Am I saying this to help, or hurt?
- How will I support the claims I’m making?
Careless confrontation will never go well, will not win the ear of the person you’re confronting, and will not preserve relationship. Carefully plan what you will say and how you will say it.
3. Present Directly
If you have prepared and planned, the only thing left to do is lovingly, calmly, and directly confront. Don’t beat around the bush, and don’t dance around the issue. Don’t be passive aggressive, and don’t hint. You’ve written it down so that you can be clear. Ask God for courage and open your mouth to present what you believe needs to be said.
Even the best process won’t eliminate the uncomfortable nature of confrontation and the inevitable possibility that it may go poorly. God’s Word both calls us to this uncomfortable display of love and reminds us of our goal in doing so. Galatians 6:1 says,
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
The goal of Biblical confrontation is always restoration. If that’s not your goal, you’re not ready. Pray thoroughly, plan carefully, and present directly. I’m praying that restoration sits on the other side of the confrontation in front of you.