Why Bother Having Hard Conversations?

It’s been about six months now that my latest book, The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter has been released and God is using it to release many believers to share their faith, speak truth into hard situations, and be present for others facing tough times. My prayer is that readers like you will be as convinced as I am that we are called to speak the truth in love and will help spread the word about the tools in this book.

Below is an excerpt from The Art of Hard Conversations that you can share with people on your email list, your pastoral staff, small group leader, or others so they have a better feel for the style of the book and the motivation behind making it available. It’s been a powerful time for me these past months to provide numerous churches with Hard Conversation workshops designed to motivate and equip them for the kingdom work we’re all about!

 

Like most things in life, conversations that present the greatest challenge also provide the biggest reward. The keys to transformation, unification, and authentic breakthroughs are usually found on the other side of hard conversations.

If you pay attention to the way God works, you won’t be surprised when I suggest most soul-shaping, life-altering discussions will happen not before international audiences or from televised pulpits but in kitchens, cubicles, and foyers and on front porches. Much like shepherds locating the King of Kings in a smelly stable, seemingly inconsequential settings can provide the backdrop for exchanges that convert coffee shop booths into outposts of glory.

Hard conversations are hard because they matter. You may be the only one who can make this happen for the people (or person) you had in mind when you opened this book. They don’t realize it, but on some level, they’re depending on you to get this right. Whether you’re a hesitant conversationalist or an enthusiastic but blundering one, the tools here will equip you for rapid and lasting improvement when connecting with others using the common vehicle of conversation. Like other ordinary things—bread, water, wine—conversation is elevated to new heights and deeper meanings at the touch of our Lord.

You’re not alone. We all look for help on this topic. When subjects are important, we can let their magnitude either paralyze us into avoidance or push us into premature, often clumsy efforts. Like our Father God, we seek to communicate. Often, the ideas we want to convey have eternal ramifications. But when we do try to speak on weighty topics, discuss deeply personal issues, or explain our perspective to someone who differs, it can be challenging to get out of our own way. We want our words to flow unimpeded, but too often, they crash, causing conversational traffic jams. Our intent gets lost in the clamor of verbal horns honking and emotional sirens blaring.

While hard conversations are difficult, they’re also inevitable, necessary, and often, biblically imperative. Speaking tough truths and comforting people through trials are expected undertakings for Jesus followers. But too often, we either fumble or flee. And there is no scientific formula to successful hard conversations. Because of this, I believe the subject merits an entire book.

Barriers arise around tough talks because our enemy knows they’re a spiritual front line. After decades of study and practice, I’ve come to view hard conversations as an art—usually a language art, often a healing art, sometimes a performing art, and occasionally a martial art.

They are obviously a language art because they involve words. A healing art, because through them, we open doors for God to heal hearts, minds, souls, and relationships—often in ways we cannot imagine. They are like a performing art because there’s significant commitment and practice required (sometimes for years) involving flubs and follies, to produce a work of beauty and awe. And there are others behind the scenes (coaching, praying, and so forth) contributing to any success.

Hard conversations are like a martial art. They are key instruments of deepening relationships, resolving conflicts, encouraging spiritual growth, and spreading the gospel, and the evil one would rather we avoid them in fear instead of facing them in faith. Barriers arise around tough talks because our enemy knows they’re a spiritual front line. Countless people are damaged by situations or conditions that might have been avoided if someone had been willing to have a hard conversation early on.

I believe hard conversations are also a sacred art, a calling by Christ on our lives, a kingdom-building work He compels us and equips us to do. Speaking truth is one way we invoke Jesus in our everyday and represent Him even in common moments.

Like me, you want to follow Jesus, even into hard conversations. Your love for God and for others is prodding you to release your hold on the comfort of silence or relinquish the habit of saying too much too fast. You want your words to make a difference, but you’re worried you don’t have what it takes. You do. I wrote this book with just you in mind.

I’ve designed it for readers who want to have effective, fruitful conversations, even when that’s hard. We’ll discuss spiritual principles and specific strategies anyone can employ to improve challenging conversations. I’ll share some of my biggest failures and you can learn from what I’ve done wrong, as well as what I’ve learned to do right.

As with any art, one may initially learn about it through reading or hearing, but at some point, we must interact with and practice the skills ourselves. I strongly urge you to employ the tools in the ARTwork exercises following each lesson. There are three to five lessons within each unit, fewer lessons when there are more skills to practice. We change best in small bites, so Answering a thought question, Reading relevant Scripture, and Trying a new conversational tool (hence ARTwork) will serve you in improving your ability to talk about hard things. You’ll find I’ve included many examples and stories, from both biblical passages and modern-life situations. In some, you’ll identify with the initiator of the chat. In others, you’ll relate to the participant. There’s something to learn from each. This isn’t a book about good guys and bad guys, “goofuses and gallants.” It’s about complex, faulted, hopeful humans trying to connect through conversations, even when it’s hard, over subjects that matter.

We’ll cover the personalities and styles we bring to conversations. I’ll explain some of the internal walls we must either dismantle, descend, or dismiss for more productive exchanges. I’ll provide a six-question soul preparation that will better equip you to initiate talks. We’ll cover the heart-work we must do to prepare and the hard work of navigating conversations with loved ones about trials, with strangers about salvation, and with friends about faith. These skills will serve us whether we initiate the talks, or they are thrust upon us.

Additionally, you’ll benefit from employing the assignments, Bible readings, and tips I’ve included at the end of each unit. These little “Heart of the Art Practice” sections afford you even more opportunity to grow in your new skills.

We follow a God who calls us into relationship. We’re to demonstrate biblical living. That means obedience and action, but it also means that sometimes we must open our mouths and let words come out. We want those words to reach their mark.

Studying the Scriptures referenced in this book, practicing the strategies, and enlisting the ongoing support of other mature believers will set you on the road of working alongside Jesus in this ministry of hard conversations.

It won’t happen overnight. Every sacred art takes time, practice, and the work of the Holy Spirit. We won’t perfect it until we’re all home, but we can certainly make an adventure of trying.

The Art of Hard Conversations recently won The Golden Scroll Award from AWSA for Christian women communicators and others have said wonderful things about it in interviews – Click HERE to listen to a few – but that’s not my dream for this book. My dream is that God uses it to free everyday Jesus-followers to courageously and lovingly speak truth into a world relentless assaulted by deception. If you’re ready for this adventure, this book will equip you and motivate you to speak the words you’ve longed to speak. The time is now.

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1 Comment

    The Conversation

  1. Charlene M. Ryerson says:

    I read some of your article. My attention span is small and the article seemed a bit lengthy. But I am interested in buying this book about hard conversations