When you need to have a difficult conversation, one of the keys is to de-personalise it. You want to avoid them feeling attacked by you. You want to avoid it turning into a “relational issue” (simply because this is an easy way to get you off their back).
So grab a pen and paper, or a white board and a marker and write down the thing you want to talk about. This will take some planning on your behalf. For example it might be, “I want to have a discussion with you about how you can love your wife better.” Or, “I really want to talk to you about how you’re going to put your porn addiction behind you.” Or, “Lets talk about how you responded to Bob last week.”
And you write down “How can Tom love Tara better?”, “How can Tom put porn behind him?”, “How you responded to Bob last week.”
I know it seems a bit odd, but now it’s not YOU asking them this question, its the paper. The piece of paper becomes the “antagonist” and you and the person can work together to answer the antagonist piece of paper. It’s the 3rd party in your conversation.
And so when they go off on tangents or try to change the topic, you can redirect them back to the paper, “Tom, we still have this question in front of us… I’m on your team… What are we going to do?”
I can’t remember where we got this idea but it’s brilliant… our staff team has this phrase “umbrella of mercy”. It’s what we say before we say something that could be taken the wrong way, or something that might be offensive or touchy for other people in the conversation.
When one of us says, “umbrella of mercy”, we’re asking the other people to prepare their hearts and minds to hear something graciously… mercifully… ready to assume the best… ready to ask clarifying questions rather than make accusations.
It’s a little bit like saying “with all due respect”, instead it’s not a declaration like that. Rather it’s a request… “Please hear this as best as you can, because I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or attack your baby.”
I seem to use it a lot.
There’s a fine line, it seems, between talking about your feelings and emotional manipulation.
See, if I tell you that something you’re about to do is making me feel sad, unworthy, hurt… is it just a simple observation of the facts, or am I being emotionally manipulative?
There are two types of questions to ask… internal (or heart) questions and external (or action) questions.
The internal questions are, “Am I trying to leverage my feelings to change thing person’s actions?” If “yes”, then you’re emotionally manipulating. “Am I making this person overly significant to my self-perception?” (i.e. If you’re allowing someone to tell you how much you’re ‘worth’, then you’re giving them the place of God over you. It’s a form of idolatry.) If “yes”, there’s a good chance you’re going to use emotional manipulation.
The external questions are, “Have I made it clear that, whatever they choose, I will not take it personally?”, “Have I given them permission to make the decision despite my potential feelings?”
In the end, you have to ask yourself “Why” you would bring your emotions into the discussion. And if you are going to, what else do you need to say so its clear you’re not manipulating them?
There’s always going to be some people in your church who will never really see you as their leader/elder/pastor. They’ll come along, they’ll attend, they’ll agree with this and disagree with that. They might find you arrogant (ironic!), they might think you’re too young (again, read 1Tim 4:12), they might have some theological idea about how church leaders shouldn’t have authority (???). But in the end, in their eyes, your not their pastor.
The only thing you can do, as Scripture says, is set “an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”. Only by God’s grace can you become someone’s pastor, as you continue to wash them with the word of the gospel.
Don’t bother trying anything else. And… don’t bother caring much about it either. There’s nothing you can do.
…you have to show some of yours. That’s just how relationships and trust work.
There’s no use going into a conversation where it might be tricky and expecting the other person to tell you everything about themselves, where they’re at with their thinking or decisions, or even what’s happened to them. Whether its in walk-up evangelism, 1:1s, or in a group situation. People usually don’t just jump to a deeper level of self-revelation because you ask them to. But you can lead them to a point where they are more comfortable to talk by talking about a similar deep issue you’ve faced, or are facing.
The principle here is that you don’t have to share an experience with someone to talk about it. You just have to talk at the same level of the experience they’ve had. Open yourself up, allow yourself to be vulnerable, in order to help others be vulnerable with you.
*Yes. This can be used to great evil – so don’t use it for evil. Be holy.
You know the difference between poison and venom… if you bite it and you die – it’s poison, if it bites you and you die – it’s venomous. The same can be true of certain people.
Some people can be poisonous; you make the foolish decision to interact with them, to play along with their foolishness. The adulterous woman from Proverbs 5 is poison. It’s a death trap. “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death (v3-5)“. This is what some people are like. They draw others into their twisted view of the world. People die by their own decision to drink it all in.
Other people can be venomous. They are always on the attack. Always on the offensive. Always ready for a fight. They speak lies and claim evils have been done. They leave destruction in their wake. And you can get taken down if you happen to be in their line of sight. These are the advisors to Darius in Daniel 6, “Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.””
You can avoid neither, but it helps to know which one you’re dealing with.
(This is a series of reflections on Horstman’s Laws)
You could communicate more. Even if you feel you’ve already told them, even if you think they ought to know by now. It’s always, always, always better to risk over communication than risk under communication and all the risks that flow on from that.
Try this: ask yourself, “What if Person X actually hasn’t understood what I have been asking them/telling them? What might happen if they’re not thinking what I’m thinking?”
Yeah… That’s why you should just call and check, and communicate again.