Yesterday in “When in doubt talk it out” using the illustration of two small stools, I focused on the attitude of humility and non-judgment with which to approach difficult conversations. From personal observation (ouch) I have determined there are at least five times when it would be best to grab some stools and talk it out. These are warning indications that we should pick up on in our relationships with others that we would do well to heed.
I’ve learned that when I recognize these I had better do something about it. That means praying seriously about it and most likely taking the initiative to talk about it with the person of concern. Now in this setting I am talking primarily about a person with whom you have a significant relationship either at home, work, church, school and/or neighborhood etc.
You had better TALK IT OUT WHEN:
1. You notice that someone you are close to is not acting like themselves. Maybe they seem down, irritable, withdrawn etc. and it may likely not be related specifically to their relationship with you. Regardless, love for our neighbor dictates that we as a caring people see if there is anything we can do. Bill Hybels has an axiom that says “if it feels funky, engage.” Simply taking the opportunity to sit down with a workmate, or a son or daughter and ask “Is there something wrong? Is anything troubling you?” is first and foremost an expression of love. And most often it has a way of opening up a helpful conversation that allows the person to share their heart and receive your support.
2. You notice a reserve just when they are around you. You sense a less than normal warmth in their reception of you, even an apparent avoidance of conversation with you. If they are caring a dagger and positioned to pounce watch out, it may be too late. But if not, grab a stool and go sit down with them and ask “Are we OK in our relationship?” or “Is there anything between us?” Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Ask forgiveness where necessary and affirm your love for them.
3. When you are struggling with personal issues in your life and its affecting the people around you. Giving people a heads up when it’s obvious that you are having a bad day is often wise. It diffuses any temptations people might have to take it personally. And it also garners their support, understanding and prayers at a time when you most need it.
4. When you are offended by someone and acting with reserve around them. Ever feel like “I loved them until I saw them”? Most of us will not admit we are “offended” by someone. I’ve notice Christians do not like to use the “O” word because that is the word Jesus used. We’ll maybe admit we’re “bugged” by someone, or we have “trouble with” or “questions about” what or how they are doing things. Many times this stems from suspicions that we have about their motives. That of course crosses the line into judgment.
Hidden suspicions are best dealt with by walking them in the light. Some great advice I once heard from another pastor was “say what you see, say what you feel.” Grabbing a stool and sitting down with that person to talk about what you are “feeling” or “seeing” in your relationship can go a long way to healing it. And when you do that you can be sure that the Holy Spirit will take it from there and bring healing.
5. When there is confusion. Whenever communication, particularly involving more than just two people, is getting garbled its time to all sit down and talk it out. When the emails are flying, the phone lines are buzzing and the defenses are on high alert it’s time to talk. I’ve found it best to declare a moratorium on all means of communication until everyone can sit down together in person and talk it out.
Any other warning signs and/or lessons you’ve learned about talking it out? I’d love to hear them.