Difficult Conversations

Dr. John Townsend

April 16, 2018

Great conversations can lead to equally great personal development. But, as we know in life, we sometimes have to contend with those not-so-great conversations.

You will, more often than not, find yourself facing a difficult conversation or confrontation.

A successful confrontation will always involve balancing grace and truth. Grace is you being an advocate for the other person, while truth is whatever you need to say about the challenge at hand.

This balancing combination is referred to as being neutralized. Being neutralized doesn’t mean being neutral about the problem. In fact, the clearer you express your opinion, the better your chances of success.

Instead, being neutralized means that having grace and truth together counters the bad effects of having one of these by itself. In other words, grace or truth alone can have a negative effect in a confrontation.

People need both in their relationships.

For example, think about a time when someone told you the truth without love. You probably felt attacked, judged, or condemned. No matter how accurate the truth, it hardly mattered, because the hurtful feelings erased the truth in the confrontation.

Now reflect on a time you received grace without any truth.

Grace comforts us and keeps us safe and loved, but it doesn’t provide reality, structure, direction, or correction. You may have come away from that encounter feeling refreshed and encouraged, but without the path or insight to know what to do next. Truth neutralizes that problem and provides the way we need.

Here are some ways to keep both aspects in balance when you are having the talk:

  • The Other Person’s Grace and Truth: Even though you might be upset with someone, their ability to take in truth will also require love and grace, just as yours does. Your intent is not to fix, straighten out, or punish. It is to provide enough amounts of truth and grace to reconcile and solve the problem.
  • Lead With Grace: Tell the person you care about them and are on their side.
  • Keep Grace and Truth Together: You’ve got to have both elements woven into your difficult conversation. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for an unhealthy outcome, which no one wants.

A TownsendNOW membership means you get practical, Christian-based insight for having those difficult conversations.



Originally published by Faith Gateway. Taken from How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, copyright Zondervan, 2005.

Related Articles

NYT: How to Set Pandemic Boundaries for Relatives

NYT: How to Set Pandemic Boundaries for Relatives

Dr. Townsend had the privilege of being interviewed for this informative and timely article by the New York Times. Article Excerpt: Be a conduit, not a lifeline ... "When you feel overwhelmed, Dr. Townsend recommends that you create a list of all of your...

read more