Conversations are not always easy. Every parent knows the pain of confronting a child when you can see and anticipate how difficulty the conversation will be and how unlikely it is that either side will completely hear or understand the other. Even when both sides are open for true dialogue, the “listening with the intent to learn” type of participation, the process can be slow, problematic, and challenging. Yet when words are shared in a dialogue, when two people are able to be open and transparent, something mysterious and miraculous occurs!
When I think of difficult work conversations I think of conducting performance reviews of my best managers. No negatives! Our conversation was only filled with opportunities. The challenge came through the words of change that I knew the future required. Could I paint the right picture? Would the individual hear my intent? Would their response be “carpe diem!”?
The challenge is the shared trust that needs to exist between the parties. If one simply reads about new ideas in the paper one often finds the motives of the person leading the idea pulled into question. When a politician challenges a pensioner over paying her taxes the first challenge comes in how much the politician earns and how he lives. Yet there is an element of truth buried in the accusation on both sides.
It is easy for me to criticize others for their inability to participate in tough conversations. Yet, am I any different? What prevents all of us?
There is a harsh reality that I find myself denying. John documents God’s words. “Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure.” (John 3.20)
What would happen if I was like some I have known – always listening, learning, and taking things on? There are great examples of others doing it in my life and I am sure that there are others in yours. What if we followed their examples; with God, with those who love us, even with our enemies?