Learning to handle DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS…

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

GODLY CONVERSATIONS – blog by Andrew Ironside

I want to encourage you to take a moment as you read this to consider the words and conversations that are coming out of your mouth and the kind of conversations that you’re having on a daily basis.

As Christians, I think we have a responsibility to be careful and even more aware of the conversations that we have both verbally and on social media that they remain pleasing and honouring to God.

This blog will challenge you every step of the way because we all engage in many conversations each day and I think, we can still do even better with a bit more conscious lining up with God’s pattern that has been set out for us in His Word.

  1. Conversations That Build Up

This is sometimes harder to do when we’re not feeling well, having a bad day or feeling condemned and worthless ourselves.

Eph 4:29 (KJV) “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

The NIV translation says it even more specifically to think about the question: Does it benefit the hearers?

Eph 4:29 (NIV) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Lets make our conversations, not just about what we want to say, but more about listening and benefiting those we’re conversing with.

Maybe its a good idea to stop and think about what you’re going to say before we say it; “Is this going to benefit this person? Is it going to impart grace or just more strife to these people’s lives?”

2. Conversations That Produce Life

I find this is an interesting journey of sequential verses…

Proverbs 18:20-22 “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

And those who love it will eat its fruit.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing,

And obtains favour from the Lord.”

In v20 he’s talking about what you put into your mouth and being satisfied with it, in V21 the proverb mentions what comes OUT of our mouth and in V22 it goes straight onto talking about finding a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour of the Lord… Hmmm??? “Out of the overflow of the Heart the mouth speaks” Luke 6:45

Can you see the connection between what we put onto our lives and what comes out of our lives and to really obtain favour from the Lord, be careful how you speak your wives (the “good thing” God has provided for us)?

As a christian and a worship leader, I find these next verses really convicting.

I think that our praise to God is somewhat shallow if we think that we can say anything we want wherever we want and even curse other people and then come together in the assembly of God’s people or into His presence and pretend to praise Him.

James 3:9-12 says; “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.

My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

In fact these verses seem to indicate that; its impossible to praise and honour God at the same time as cursing, putting down, judging or criticising others.

3. Every Word Counts

Matt 12:37 (NKJV) Says: “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

From the Message translation Matt 12:37 Says: “You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded?”

“It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.”

“A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard.”

“Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you.”

“There will be a time of Reckoning.”

“Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

Wow! Let’s endeavour to be mindful of every word and the tone of those words. I so appreciate my wife Desma pulling me up on not just on my words but even the very tone of my voice can be somewhat condescending at times.

You’ll probably find that God has given you people around you to assist you in growing in these areas, that are not there to judge you, but help you with your language, your tone and your words. If we’re humble, open and teachable enough, we can receive their help and correction in these areas of conversation and really grow.

4. Truthful Conversations

This is a good thought hey? What about our default conversation method and responding mode as followers of Jesus, be to always speak the truth? Just being humble enough as Christians to take responsibility anytime that we want to protect ourselves by telling a little white lie, but instead we intentionally tell the truth and face the consequences.

Ephesians 4:25-32 Reads: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.”

Colossians 3:8-17 Says: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”

Matthew 5:37 tells us: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

I don’t want to come across as harsh and about this point of speaking the truth because there are sometimes in our lives out of shear kindness and sensitivity to others that we withhold the “absolute truth” in order to preserve their dignity. Now, I’m not saying that we should lie, but sometimes you don’t have to answer questions directly, but divert the question with a related answer. I personally don’t think anyone can handle “the absolute truth”, but I also think that we can be truthful without being nasty.

Like, how do we respond as husbands when our wife says? “Honey does this outfit make me look fat?” Ha! You’ve all been there hey? This such a complex issue, because most women would say: “I want you to be honest with me”, but really meaning: “Please be nicely honest, but please remain tactful.”

You could respond many different ways, by asking another question, or offering an alternative suggestion and even humorous ways to answer the “Honey does this outfit make me look fat?” question like;

“Would you feel more comfortable in another outfit?”

Or

You could try not actually answering her question directly by saying: “You are beautiful anyway, in that outfit or any outfit”

Or

If she has a great sense of humour and you have a great way with humour and can maybe say it with jest: “No, your fat makes you look fat, don’t blame the outfit honey.”

I wouldn’t attempt this one as I don’t have that humorous flare to be able to get away with it…

Or

You could look at it this way; the correct answer is “the truth.”

You shouldn’t patronise women. Don’t think they won’t know when you’re not being honest…they will otherwise over time learn to disregard your opinion.

If she looks fat, maybe tell her, but in a sublimely subtle, kind way. If something doesn’t look good on her, and she asks, let her know nicely. She may be slightly annoyed at that instant…but it will pass. Then later, when she puts something on and does look good and you tell her – she will glow with confidence. Why? Because she knows it’s true – you never lie to her. If you say she looks good, then she does.

The other side of the coin of never telling petty lies is; your wife will value and trust your opinion. And why not? It’s worth something…

By the way, my wife Desma is not fat, I think she looks great in EVERY outfit!

5. Speak God’s Word

When you don’t know what to say or how to respond, let God’s word come out of you and it will if that’s what you’re feeding on.

Please be careful using the Word of God, when trying to get your point across, it is a double edged sword. I recently heard a brother quote “by your fruits, you will know them” and analysing the situation, the Word of God that he used against another brother actually in my opinion, made him look worse, because the “fruit” that he was demonstrating by his words, emotions and actions was showing that he was ‘insecure’, ‘angry’, ‘territorial’, ‘defensive’, ‘offensive’, ‘indignant’ and holding onto a grudge, when all the other brother had done was make an innocent, but insensitive mistake out of an enthusiastic attitude for God’s Kingdom.

When I say; SPEAK GOD’S WORD, make sure its spoken from a sweet spirit with the purpose of “building others up” not putting them down with your self righteousness. Speak God’s Word over your finances, over your physical body, over your relationships and family, over your workplace or wherever you need God to move.

1 Peter 4:11 “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.

If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Ex 4:12 “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

6. Learn To Have Crucial Conversations

This point of: Crucial Conversations is really the crux of this blog.

Last year I read about 30 books and other than the Word Of God, this book Crucial Conversations has helped and impacted me personally more than any other book.Crucial Conversations

It’s really about tools for talking when the stakes are high. I highly recommend you buy it and read it several times. I haven’t met anyone in the world that doesn’t need to improve and grow in this area of having better Godly crucial conversations.

As I was reading this book for the first time, I began repenting from all the hurt and pain that I’d caused Desma and other people we have been close to throughout my life over the past 50 years or so because I haven’t done crucial conversations very well at all, or in a Godly way. So I apologise to all those that I have hurt by not being more emotionally intelligent and strong enough to see through many of the crucial conversations that have come and gone or been avoided over the years. I repent and say, I am truly sorry!

So I want to explain and reference a few of the highlights from the book that have really helped and impacted me. i feel like a changed person, yet I also know that I have a long way to go when it comes to truly having Godly crucial conversations. We can learn new things as we age and get older!

What is a crucial conversation?

A crucial conversation is when casual interactions that we all have daily, turn crucial.

Its a conversation where – opinions vary

Its a conversation where – the stakes are high

Its a conversation where – emotions can run high

Its a conversation – that is so important that the outcome effects the quality of your life

When it matters most we seem to do our worst, when it comes to having high stakes crucial conversations.

When conversations turn from Casual to Crucial we’re usually not ready to handle it.

Matt 18:15-17 (ESV)

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

SCIENTISTS say: Your brain gets drunk on adrenalin when a crucial conversation takes you by surprise and many times the outcome is not always good.

A GODLY CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS IS: The ability to talk openly, safely & honestly about high stakes emotional & controversial issues.

At the heart of almost all chronic problems in our relationships, our church, our team and our organisations is: The ability to hold crucial conversations involving politically controversial, risky opinions without becoming defensive or angry.

James 1:19 Says: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

A GODLY CRUCIAL CONVERSATION is knowing how to stand up to the boss without commuting career suicide.

The important question for you is: “How many crucial conversations are you currently avoiding or having badly?”

I love the way the book describes conversation as a “pool of meaning” and both sides are contributing to that pool until it becomes “unsafe” and then it turns into a crucial conversation.

Keep the POOL OF MEANING SAFE – people become defensive when it’s not safe. You can keep the pool of meaning safe by being aware of your emotions, your physical responses and keep your words and tone in a safe zone and sometimes that even means apologising even when its not your fault, or taking responsibility even if you’re the one who’s right, in order to help the other person/s feel safe so that the conversation can continue.

Actually, when a conversation is really safe, you can say anything.

This is the point that really got to me; In CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS we tend to either go silent or violent.

This next point is what has lead me on a path of true repentance; I’ve always been the “silent” one when it comes to crucial conversations and I discovered as I read that being silent is just as abusive as being violent when it comes to conversations.

Now I slap my face and remind myself to stay in the conversation!

Here are some examples from the book that reveal us silent ones: SILENCE – purposefully withholding meaning from the pool of dialogue as a means of AVOIDING potential problems. Ouch!

SILENCE comes out in the form of –

MASKING – selectively understating, or withdrawing our opinions, sugar coating or vouching, talking about other issues,

AVOIDING – steering completely away from sensitive subjects, we “talk” but without addressing the real issues

WITHDRAWING – pulling out of the conversation altogether, we either exit the conversation or exit the room.  Eg: “Excuse me I’ve got something to do”

On the other hand: VIOLENCE – is any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control or compel others to your point of view.

It violates “safety” by trying to force meaning into the pool.

Violence comes out in the form of: name calling, monologuing and making threats.

Violence manifests as: Controlling, Labelling or Attacking.

CONTROLLING – consists of coercing others to your way of thinking.

CONTROLLING – Is done by forcing your point of view or dominating the conversation

The Methods of violence is: Cutting other’s off, Overstating the facts, Speaking in absolutes, Changing subjects.

Hmmm? Have you been in one of these conversations? It just means the other person feels unsafe and so is becoming verbally violent and thus causing the silent one to shrink even further away…

Violence is also: Using directive questions to get control of the conversation.

Violence uses LABELLING – It’s putting a label on people or idea so that we can dismiss them under a general category; Eg: “What can I say, they’re musicians, need I say more?”

Violence uses ATTACKING  – this is were the conversation begins and suddenly has an aggressive tone and even volume from one side – it includes belittling and threatening.

SO THE BIG QUESTION IS: Which style are you when you’re under stress? SILENT OR VIOLENT?

I’ve found the most difficult part of this whole process is monitoring your own behaviour while carefully observing the behaviour of others while in a crucial conversation.

I’m so inspired to continue growing in this journey of Godly Crucial Conversations that I want to spread the new and teach others about this wonderfully, liberating truth; You CAN in the future have great crucial conversations

I believe the answer is Jesus, look at the red lettering in the Bible, the words that Jesus spoke and his conversations and see how he handled the crucial conversations in a Godly way. Jesus knew when to hold his tongue, he knew when to be forthright, he knew when to speak in parables and stories, he knew when and how to bring a rebuke and when was the appropriate time to really express love, mercy and compassion.

I love these verses in 1 Corinthians that we often share at weddings, but in the light of Godly Conversations, I think we should meditate on it and read it daily:

1 Cor 13:4-8

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;”

“Love does not rejoice in iniquity,

but rejoices in the truth;

Love bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails!”

If we can truly walk in this kind of love, the God kind of love, we’ll be able to engage in any conversation without becoming defensive or angry.

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Enjoy growing in your – Godly Conversations

This blog is just the brief version. If you want to hear the complete blog in the form of an inspiring audio sermon or video sermon and enjoy the full message you can download the mp3 here

Godly Conversations – Sermon – Mp3