BY ROB FURLONG
Conversation is a part of life. We talk about all sorts of things and ideas; we talk to people and yes, we talk about people – conversation has a huge impact on our relationships.
And so does a lack of it. Have you ever regretted not having a conversation with someone?
Perhaps you feel you are being given the “cold shoulder” by a work colleague or your partner is upset with you about something. You know something is wrong between the two of you, but the other person isn’t saying what (apart from a few unsubtle hints) and you are too afraid to ask.
What needs to happen in situations like these is what some have described as a “crucial conversation.”
A crucial conversation takes place when two people address privately and with loving honesty whatever the problem is that is a ecting their relationship at that moment and then work toward genuine reconciliation.
A crucial conversation contains within it the seeds of loving, open communication, and restoration, so it is surprising we do not have them more often!
One reason for this is we do not know how to go about conversations like these, which is why I am sharing a couple of principles that have helped me in my own crucial conversations over the years.
These principals are also the ones Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-16 about resolving disputes. “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’.”
A crucial conversation must be done privately with the other person. If you feel the person has been ignoring you, then a good way to bring this up is to say something along the lines of, “When we catch up lately it feels like you do not want to be around me or that I have done something to offend you. I want you to know I am not accusing you of anything – I could be misreading this completely – but if there is a problem between us, then I would like to talk about it and clear the air.”
An approach like this makes no assumptions or accusations about the other person but it also seeks to be straightforward in as loving a way as possible.
And it is done privately, just between the two of you – you do not talk or complain about the person to others.
If you are unable to resolve the situation then seek mediation. This is a serious step and should not be taken lightly, but if the problem cannot be resolved, a mediator can be of enormous help to both of you in getting the problem sorted out.
Mediators bring many benefits to a crucial conversation:
1. They can help both of you see how serious the situation is and how the relationship can be restored.
2. They can bring added wisdom by providing fresh insights and perspectives that may have been missed. 3. They bring an objectivity which identifies where both of you may be at fault, thus leading to reconciliation.
4. They are also able to affirm what was and wasn’t said because they witnessed the conversation between the two of you.
The important thing to remember about a crucial conversation is that the goal is always reconciliation and restoration between people. It is not about trying to win an argument, pointing out how bad the other person is or proving you are so much better than they are.
Rather, we approach the conversation:
• Without making assumptions – we come prepared to listen, not to blame.
• Without arrogance – thinking we are “in the right!”
• With humility – a readiness to admit we might be wrong.
• With courage – to be open and honest with each other.
• With grace – being ready to offer forgiveness where it is needed.
• With hope – that the relationship will be far better for having had this conversation!
Crucial conversations are, well, crucial to our relationships: but there are barriers that prevent them from taking place. We will consider these next month.