We’ve all been in that situation. A relationship that is so far gone that you’d have to perform reconstructive surgery in order to repair it. It’s messy, uncomfortable and stressful – like there’s a cloud of anxiety hanging over you every time you see that person. Doesn’t feel so great, does it? But what people tend to miss is that that big, uncomfortable thunderhead was once a small cloud off in the horizon. What happened?
Here are a couple Guiding Questions: How did that relationship become so damaged? And what can be done to prevent it from happening again?
At some point in the relationship, there was a situation that caused conflict for at least one person. Something was said or done that planted a seed of distrust or bitterness. While most people let it slide (or are unaware of what is even going on), that “seed” needs to be uprooted as quickly as possible, otherwise a weed will grow and choke out anything that is healthy in the relationship.
Hebrews 12:15 says, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
“Watch out…” That means you need to be on the look-out for any type of problems that could grow and choke out a relationship.
I once had a team member make a tiny “humph” at a meeting in response to something I said (I’m pretty sure no one else even heard it), and the next day I was in his office asking about it. And I recently read something in an email that made me think, “I wonder if he’s implying something there,” so that afternoon I was asking that co-worker if we were okay. Why are conversations like this so difficult for people? In one word… fear. A fear of some type of repercussion, of starting a problem, or even needing to address a flaw within themselves.
But in reality, not addressing a small conflict now only leads to bigger conflict in the future.
What to do? Here are your 3 steps:
1) BE AWARE. Watch body language, what is being said and how it’s said, how an email is worded or a change in a persons’ demeanor or attitude. It’s like being a detective into the emotions and experiences of others.
2) ADDRESS IT! Gather your thoughts (even write them down to ensure you address everything). Think about what might be the root issue that is causing the conflict and why that person feel the way they do. Start out with respectful statements like, “When ___ happened, I saw that you___. Is there something going on that I can help with?” or, “When I noticed ___, I felt like you ___.” (People can’t argue with your feelings.) My favorite content on navigating difficult conversations is from the company VitalSmarts, particularly their book Crucial Conversations.
3) ENJOY THE REWARDS. Wait, what? There are rewards?!? Absolutely! Addressing conflict early on deepens the relationship, makes you feel like you’re on the same team instead of opposing teams, and opens up the opportunity for future, positive dialogue. So in the end, IT’S WORTH IT!
Do you have a difficult conversation that you need to have soon? Let me know, and I’d love to help you navigate through it.