If you are a typical Canadian Christian, chances are you are a very nice person. Your man- ners are impeccable, respect is a virtue that you think is im- portant. People like you.
That’s the good news.
Now for the bad. In most cases
you don’t tell the truth very well.
It’s not that you are a liar, but when
it comes to holding difficult conversations that involve hard truths,
you don’t do it very well.
Perhaps our national politeness is
to blame, or maybe it is rooted in a
misunderstanding of the Christian
virtue of love, but one of the more
significant disabilities limiting the
health of the Church in Canada – or
anywhere – is our aversion to hard
Joseph Grenny, speaker and co-au-thor of Crucial Conversations: Tools
for Talking When Stakes Are High
(McGraw Hill, 2011) explains it this
way. “I don’t want to say anything
uncomfortable to you, so I back into
all kinds of justifications not to.”
This malady of avoidance affects
every dimension of our lives – our
marriages, parenting, businesses
and, of course, our churches.
Saying everything is fine,
even when it’s not
You’ve probably experienced this
scenario. A controversial topic,
such as the performance of a pas-
tor, is discussed at a church leaders’
meeting. It is the appropriate time
and setting for such a discussion.
But the comments are vague and
obtuse, leading the chairperson to
summarize the discussion with
this statement, to be recorded in
the minutes – “Although our
church hasn’t flourished for the
last few years, given the difficult
times in which we live, we are
doing fine and affirm our pastor’s
leadership going forward.”
Moments after adjournment
several clusters of folks gather in
the parking lot. In those parking lot
meetings, the comments are not
vague at all. With crystal clarity the
issues are identified and debated
– and solutions proposed.
This all too familiar occurrence
robs the church of the truth. The
pastor is robbed of an opportunity
to grow. Leaders are left feeling
frustrated, and the health of the
Body is seriously damaged.
At its core the problem is two-dimensional. It is a function of both
courage and skill.
It is a matter of courage because
hard truths are just that – they are
hard. Grenny and his colleagues
define a crucial conversation as the
intersection where high stakes, high
emotion and a difference of opinion
collide. The most common response
to such moments is to back away, tail
squarely between your legs. It requires a rare level of maturity to
view crucial conversations not as
pain to be avoided but as crucibles
of character possessing disproportionate opportunity for growth.
Grenny and his group are emphatic that the starting point for holding
a crucial conversation well is not
technique but rather a thorough
examination of your own heart.
It is only when your motives and
goals are clear and pure that you are
postured to engage in a crucial
conversation well. When your love
for your spouse, children, calling or
church outweighs your fear of re-
jection or pushback, you will find
the courage necessary to persevere
through a difficult conversation.
Building a culture of honesty
The avoidance malady is not only a
function of courage. Often, even
when we have a willingness to ad-
dress challenging issues, we lack
the skill to do it effectively. The
majority of us do not possess the
tools necessary to navigate critical
moments well. “When it matters
most, many of us do our worst,”
observes Grenny. But there is a way
to be 100 per cent candid and 100
per cent respectful at the same
time. It is a skill that can be learned.
Bill Hybels, leader of Willow
Creek Community Church in Chi-
cago and author of many books, is
one of the most high-profile practi-
tioners of what Grenny advocates.
When asked what caused him to
engage in the concept of being fully
candid and fully respectful, Hybels
immediately replied, “Necessity.”
Hybels says he simply can’t stand
to see the church function at less
than optimal effectiveness, can’t
settle with a willingness to ignore
the root causes of the struggle. If
You are having a crucial
conversation when you…
offer your pastor feedback on how to improve her
critique the work of a colleague or ministry coleader
confront a Sunday school teacher about a negative
ask a worship leader to occasionally use a different
style of music.
Crucial conversations abound in family and personal
relationships. When you talk to your spouse about
issues of sexual intimacy. When you deal with a
troubled relationship with your teenager. When you ask
a friend to repay an outstanding loan. When you ask
your in-laws to stop offering unwanted advice. All of
these are crucial conversations.
PERCEN TAGE OF
ADULTS WHO CAN’T
GO 10 MINU TES
WI THOU T TELLING
A LIE (UNIVERSITY
BE TWEEN T WO OR
MORE PEOPLE WHERE
(1) STAKES ARE HIGH,
( 2) OPINIONS VARY
AND ( 3) EMOTIONS
RUN STRONG. ( W W W.