First, ask questions. I should not come into the conversation with guns a’ blazing, firing off my accusations. Here is a wise saying,
“If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.”
Bring up the topic by asking for more information about what happened, how the other person feels about it, or what motivated the situation. Listen to what they say.
Second, be gentle and kind. Even if we are asking questions, we are probably poking into a sensitive area. Another wise word,
“A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
This open and gentle approach often gives the other person space to fess up to their own mistakes without having to confront them.
Now that you have more information, the next task in the conversation is to discern what kind of issue you are facing. I will suggest two basic categories:
a) those of a secondary nature, involving personal conviction or preference
b) those involving violation of central biblical principles
Paul warns the Romans “not to quarrel over opinions” (14:1). On these secondary issues, “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (14:5). “Each of us will give an account of himself to God” (14:12).
Not that I can’t discuss questions of opinion or the best way to get something done. But I will do so with humility and patience. And ultimately, I will be willing to let it go and let the other person live according to his or her own conviction.
There are some issues, though, that we cannot ignore. If so, we must move to the next step, which I will explain in the next post.
Do you have any other suggestions for avoiding dead end conversations?
Next Step: Saying Hard Things to People You Love