A Good Mentor

A major theme in my life is the desire to add value to people and make a difference in their lives. One of the ways this happens is in a mentoring relationship (see yesterday’s blog – “Christians Can’t Be Passive). A mentor can be a great encourager when the person they are mentoring is wanting to grow and develop in the Christian faith and in their calling. In other words, they are not passive but are willing to invest time, effort, and even money to move forward in their knowledge, understanding, and application of biblical principles. To mature as a believer and minister.

In our world today we often substitute other words for “mentor.” The most familiar and common is the word “coach.” A coach is someone who carries a valued person from where they are to where they want to be. The key is ‘they want to be.” Otherwise, as I mentioned yesterday it just ends up in frustration… like pushing a parked car with the brakes on uphill by yourself. Not interested. 

In an article called, “A Coach By Any Other Namer” Kevin Hall describes what it means to be a coach. He writes,

      • In other cultures and languages, coaches are known by many different names and titles.
      • In Japan, a “sensei” is one who has gone further down the path. In martial arts, it is the designation for master.
      • In Sanskrit, a “guru” is one with great knowledge and wisdom. “Gu” means darkness, and “ru” means light – a guru takes someone from darkness into the light.
      • In Tibet, a “lama” is one with spirituality and authority to teach. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the highest ranking leader.
      • In Italy, a “maestro” is a master teacher of music. It is short for “maestro de cappella,” meaning master of the chapel.
      • In France, a “tutor” is a private teacher. The term dates back to the fourteenth century and refers to one who served as a watchman.
      • In England, a “guide” is one who know and shows the way. It denotes the ability to see and point out the better course. 
      • In Greece,. A “mentor” is a wise and trusted advisor. In The Odyssey, Homer’s Mentor was a protective and supportive counsellor. 

All these words describe the same role: One who goes before and shows the way. No matter what word you use to describe them, coaches make a difference in others’  lives. They help them grow. They improve their potential. They increase their productivity. They are essential to helping people effect positive change. 

Andy Stanley in “The Next Generation Leader” states, “You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better when someone is watching and evaluating … Self-evaluation is helpful, but evaluation from someone else is essential.”

John Maxwell states, “In my opinion, good coaches share five common characteristics. They…

      • Care fort the people they coach
      • Observe their attitudes, behaviours, and performances 
      • Align them with their strengths for peak performance
      • Communicate and give feedback about their performance
      • Help them to improve their lives and performance 

We all need at least one mentor in our lives. 

Christians Can’t Be Passive

Jesus said, “”From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

The Passion Translation reads, “From the moment John stepped onto the scene until now, the realm of heaven’s kingdom is bursting forth, and passionate people have taken hold of its power.”

The original language reads, “The kingdom of heaven is entered into by force, and violent ones take hold of it.”

The message of this verse and others like it in the New Testament indicates that you cannot be passive and a believer. You Can’t get saved and then simply sit. You were not saved to sit. You were saved to serve. You cannot be laid back and letting life just happen to you and still call yourself a believer.

A true disciple of Jesus, a believer, will be aggressive. They will be passionate about Jesus and the cause of Christ. Their love for God will grow and overflow onto those who do not yet know the love of God. They will not be passive about sharing God’s love. They will be seriously intentional. 

In their own personal lives they will have a deep hunger to know and to grow. The major constant in their life, other than Jesus, will be change. And, this hunger to know and to grow will not settle for anything less than becoming more and more like Jesus and more alive and active for Him in their relationships. 

Again, this hunger, this passion to learn and grow,  will cause them to look for leaders who will disciple and mentor them. They will be constantly reading, applying what they are learning, and assimilating the lessons and insights into who they are and how they live. 

If you want to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit that you receive when you are Baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can’t be passive. You need to be passionate, aggressive, on fire, and even “violent” in the Bible sense of that word. The power is only released by those who are aggressive and passionate. The apathetic and passive need not apply. 

I have personally found that most people who ask me to mentor them are approaching the mentoring relationship passively. They are not taking the lead. They are expecting me to contact and connect with them. They do not come to a coffee appointment or an on-line connection loaded with questions that they need insight into. They apparently see the time as more a fellowship occasion than an opportunity to learn, to grow and to mature. So, they are passive. And boring!

In one particular case I am facing the person does not initiate the mentoring appointments. Coffee yes, mentoring no! This person does not read on a regular basis. It takes forever to get through a simple and relatively short book. And then the discussion is painful with me asking all the questions. Where, in a mentoring relationship they should come with all the questions ready to be asked. We work through life issues after I bring them up because they are so obvious. But, there is no follow through. So, a year or two later we are facing the same life situations again. And again and again. Although I have not asked I can almost guarantee that this person is not reading the daily blogs I post. Nor are they reviewing the teaching that come out every week. But, time for a coffee. Certainly. Passive, not assertive and aggressive.

Passive people are not moving forward in their personal lives. Nor are they grabbing hold of the Kingdom. And, they have absolutely not “taken hold of its power.” So, I am hoping that one day I will meet a passionate disciple who really does want to reach his or her full potential in the Kingdom and who actually wants to be be mentored. A person who is “violent.”

Hammering Home Your Point – Part Two

We looked at the four Ts of preventing a crisis when dealing with relational issues (see yesterday’s blog – Hammering Home Your Point – Part One). Let’s talk today about trading in your hammer and then treating people with dignity and respect. 

Some people seem to think that a hammer is good for anything and everything. I guess you could say they take a hammering approach to life. This attitude is most often observed among high achievers. When they give something their full attention, they go at it full bore. That’s usually a good approach to tasks. It’s a terrible way to treat people, however. As psychologist Abraham Maslow observed: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” People require more judicious treatment than that.

If you desire to develop a softer touch with people, take the following advice to heart:

1> Let the past stay in the past

Resolve an issue when it occurs And once you have done that, don’t bring it up again. If you do bring it back up later, you are treating someone as a nail.

2> Ask yourself, is my reaction part of the problem?

When a person’s response is greater than the issue, the response is about something else. Don’t make things worse by overreacting.

3> Remember that actions are remembered long after words are forgotten

If you have a high school diploma or college degree, can you recall the message the commencement speaker delivered at your graduation? Or if you’re married, can you recite your wedding vows from memory? I’m guessing the answer to both questions is no. But I bet you do remember getting married and receiving your diploma. The way you treat people will stay with them a lot longer than the words you choose. Act accordingly.

4> Never let the situation mean more than the relationship

I believe that if I had not made my relationship with my wife a higher priority than always being right, we might not be married today. Relationships are based on bonding. The more important the relationship, the greater the bond.

5> Treat loved ones with unconditional love

Because ours is a society with lots of broken and dysfunctional individuals, many people never had good models of unconditional love. In “The Flight,” John Whit shared his perspective on where we fall short in our treatment of important people in our lives: “We gossip because we fail to love. When we love people, we don’t criticize them. If we love them, their failures hurt. We don’t advertise the sins of people we love any more than we advertise our own.”

6> Admit wrongs and ask forgiveness

Chicago mobster Al Capone reportedly said, “You can get farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” Despite the humour, I can tell you this: forgiveness is better. Admitting you’re wrong and asking for forgiveness can cover a multitude of sins. That approach is also one of the best ways to try to make things right when you find that you’ve used the hammer when you should not have.

The problem with most individuals who use the hammer all the time is that they may not know that they do it. If you might be one of them – let some people who know you well hold the mirror and tell you what they see. If you don’t believe them, do the same with your loved ones and friends. If you do that, you will find out whether you treat others as people or as nails. If you do the latter, then you need to make a change. 

Hammering Home Your Point – Part One

When I was younger one of the hit songs was “If I had a Hammer” by Trini Lopez. I know, I am dating myself. You can watch a live performance of the song at: https://binged.it/2oChE2H

I was thinking about that song a few morning back as I was thinking of some people I minister to who seem to use a hammer to solve all their relational issues. They enter into the situation and just hammer away at people, beating them down and, in some cases, destroying them. 

It has been said, “Never use a hammer to swat a fly off someone’s head.” And often we enter into relational conflict to win the argument and not salvage or win the relationship. In other words, don’t put winning the argument over winning the relationship. Alexander MacLaren states, “If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it.” So the question we should ask ourselves and maybe others is: “Would others say I overreact to small things in a relationship?

We need to realize that having the right attitude is more important than having the right answers. We need to soften our approach, listen more, and stop making a big deal out of little things. In other words, put the hammer away.

To put the hammer away we need to consider four Ts…

1> Total picture

Do you come to conclusions long before the problem has been laid out before you? That is a common occurrence for most of us who have strong personalities. That is why we need to train ourselves to follow a process to keep ourselves from hammering people with answers before they are finished asking the question. When someone is sharing his point of view with you, try to:

      • Listen
      • Ask questions
      • Listen again
      • Ask more questions
      • Listen some more
      • Then respond

You will find that if you slow yourself down, see the big picture, you will be more likely to respond patiently and appropriately.

2> Timing

It has been said, “It’s what you do, not when you do it, that counts.” That’s not always true. If the general doesn’t order the attack at the right time, the battle is lost. If the parent doesn’t get the injured child to the hospital quickly enough, her life might be lost. If you don’t apologize to someone when you’ve wronged them, the relationship might be lost.

When you act is as important as taking the right action. Even knowing when not to act can be important. Someone noted: “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

It seems to me that the most common cause of bad timing in relationships is selfish motives. For that reason, when little things bother us, our number one objective must be putting our personal agendas aside and building the relationship. If you have examined your motives, and you can be certain they are good, then you need too ask yourself two timing questions:

      • Am I ready to confront? That’s a pretty easy question to answer, because that’s really a matter of whether you have done your homework
      • Is the other person ready to hear. If you have laid a relational foundation and the two of you are not in the “heat of battle” then the answer may be yes.

3> Tone

People often respond to our attitudes and actions more than to our words. Many petty conflicts occur because people use the wrong tone of voice. The writer of Proverbs states, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Haven’t you found that to be true. If not, try this experiment. The next time someone says something to you in anger, respond with gentleness and kindness. When you do that, the person who spoke harshly is likely to tone down, if not soften, his attitude.

4> Temperature

As tempers flare, people are prone to dropping bombs when using a slingshot will do. And that can cause a lot of trouble because the size of a problem often changes based on how it is handled. In general…

      • If the reaction is worst than the action, the problem usually increases
      • If the reaction is less than the action, the problem usually decreases

That is why we need to follow a simple personal rule. Take thirty seconds to share feelings – and then it’s over. Anytime we let a little thing create a big reaction (one that lasts longer than thirty seconds), then we are using a hammer.

Next time … Trading in your hammer

Confrontation – Speaking the Truth in Love – Part Three

The last two times we have seen that:

There are two relational truths: 

1> Conflict is unavoidable

2> Conflict is difficult

We then looked at how to handle relational conflict:

1> Confront a person only if you care for that person

2> Meet together as soon as possible

3> First seek understanding not necessarily agreement

4> Outline the issue.

5> Encourage a response.

Let finish this series today…

6> Agree on an action plan.

Most people hate confrontation, but they love resolution. And the only way to achieve resolution is to take positive action. By developing and agreeing to an action plan, you place the focus on the future, not on the problems of the past. If the person you’re confronting wants to change, they will gravitate towards the possibility of making things better.

A good action plan should include these points:

    • Clear identification of the issue
    • Agreement to solve the issue
    • Concrete steps that demonstrate the issue has been solved
    • An accountability structure, such as a time line and a responsible person
    • A deadline for completion
    • A commitment by both parties to put the issue in the past once resolved.

If your confrontation is formal, such as in a work setting, then put the action plan in writing. Then you can always go back to that document if resolution doesn’t go as planned.

Successful confrontation usually changes both people, not just one. Positive change is the first measure of success when resolving conflict through confrontation. The second is the ongoing growth of the relationship. Any time you truly do resolve conflict in a relationship, it doesn’t hurt the relationship; it actually strengthens the bond between the people. 

But it all starts with genuine concern for the other person. President Abraham Lincoln summed it up when he said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend … Assume to dictate to his judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself … you shall no more be able to pierce him than to penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw.” 

Confrontation – Speaking the Truth in Love – Part Two

Last time we looked at two truths:

1> Conflict is unavoidable

2> Conflict is difficult

We then began to look at how to handle relational conflict:

1> Confront a person only if you care for that person

2> Meet together as soon as possible

3> First seek understanding not necessarily agreement

A significant hindrance to positive conflict resolution is having too many preconceived notions going into a confrontation. There’s a saying that the person who gives an opinion before he understands is human, but the person who gives a judgment before he understands is a fool. So, go in prepared to listen and don’t pre-judge.

United States President Abraham Lincoln was well known for his tremendous people skills. He remarked, “When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third off my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say – and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.” That is a good rule of thumb. You cannot reach understanding if your focus is on yourself. 

As engineer Charles F. Kettering said, “There is a great difference between knowing and understand; you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.”

4> Outline the issue.

When it’s your turn to speak and to make yourself understood, it’s important that you take a positive approach. Here is what I would suggest:

    • Describe your perceptions. In the beginning, stay away from conclusions and/or statements about the other person’s motives. Just tell what you think you see, and describe the problem you think it’s causing.
    • Tell how this makes you feel. If the other person’s actions make you angry or frustrated or sad, express it clearly and without accusation. 
    • Explain why this is important to you. Many times when a person finds out that something is a priority to you, that is enough to make him want to change.

Engaging in the process without emotional heat or bitterness is essential. You don’t have to turn off your emotions; you just need to make sure you don’t verbally assault the person you are confronting. 

5> Encourage a response.

Never confront others without letting them respond. If you care about people, you will want to listen. Besides, “One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.” (Politician Dean Rusk).

Sometimes simply having the discussion helps you realize that your perceptions were wrong. Other times you discover that you need to take extenuating circumstances into account. Encouraging a response helps you better understand the person and the problem.

It also gives the other person a chance to process the issue emotionally. Most of the time when you confront people, they will have an emotional reaction. They may be shocked or get angry or feel guilty. They may want to share those feelings with you, or they may not. But no matter what, you should encourage them to give you a genuine response. Why? Because if they don’t have their say, they won’t be able to move toward a resolution to the problem. They will be so focused on their response that they can’t hear anything else.

When confronting people, you will discover the following:

    • 50% of the people don’t realize that there is a problem
    • 30% of them realize there was a problem, but didn’t know how to solve it.
    • 20% realized there was a problem, but didn’t want to solve it. 

The bad news is that one out of five people doesn’t want to seek a positive solution. The good news is that 80% of the time there is great potential to solve the conflict.

Confrontation – Speaking the Truth in Love – Part One

Paul writes to the Ephesian Church and tells them that, as believers, we are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Most people I relate to see this as “confrontation.” And, worst still, they see confrontation as negative and difficult. So, let’s look briefly at this whole area of speaking the truth in love.

The question we always need to ask: Do I care enough to confront the right way?

When working with relationships we instinctively know the following:

1> Conflict is unavoidable

Perhaps we ought to add conflict to death and taxes as one of the things we can count on in this life. The only way to avoid conflict is to isolate ourselves from all other people on the planet. So, we need to learn to deal with issue that cause conflict because they are inevitable.

2> Conflict is difficult

No one likes confrontation, so almost everyone avoids it. And those who do like it have their own psychological issues! Why is it difficult to confront? We fear being disliked, misunderstood, or rejected. We fear the unknown. We are not use to sharing our feelings. And we worry that we will just make things worse. Let’s face it: few people have been taught healthy confrontational skills.

But this I know: How we handle conflict determines our success in tough relational situations

So, how do you handle conflict in your relationships? Did you know that conflict always compounds when confrontation is not done quickly and correctly? That’s why your approach matters. Here’s a sampling of harmful strategies that we see people using when they deal with conflict:

      • Win at all costs. It’s like a shootout at the OK Corral. It’s quick, brutal, and destructive.
      • Pretend it doesn’t exist. If you hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil, evil will not exist.
      • Whine about it. Winners aren’t whiners and whiners aren’t winners. Playing the victim doesn’t cure conflict. It just irritates everybody.
      • Keep score. People who keep a record of wrongs can’t ever start over fresh. And nobody can ever get ‘even.’
      • Pull rank. Using position never really resolves conflict. It merely postpones it.
      • White flag it. Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

None of these approaches will give the help a person needs to resolve conflict in a healthy way. 

Conflict resolution isn’t complicated. Intellectually it’s simple. But emotionally it can be difficult. It requires honesty, humility, and dedication to the relationship. Let’s look at the first two points of what is a six-step plan to help you tackle the task of confrontation. 

1> Confront a person only if you care for that person

In rare instances people must confront someone they don’t care about, such as in legal trials or when abuse has occurred. But there are not typical relational conflicts. In nearly all relational situations, it is most productive to go into a confrontation keeping the other person’s interests in mind.

In the past when you attempted to resolve conflict with another person, what has been your goal? Sympathy? Quick relief? Victory at all costs? Next time try to go into it with the goal of making it a win for both parties. And if you attempt to ensure that the other person wins first, then you know you have the most beneficial perspective.

2> Meet together as soon as possible

When conflict arises, we are tempted to avoid it, procrastinate dealing with it, or ask someone else to resolve it for us. But the truth is that anytime you let conflict go – for whatever reason –  it only gets worse. If people are put in a position to start speculating about another person’s motives to figure out what might have really happened, they often think their worst. Putting off confrontation only causes the situation to fester.

So, don’t store up issues. It is never a good idea idea to save up a bunch of stuff and then give a person a history lesson during a confrontation. Instead meet together right away, face-to-face. If that’s absolutely impossible, then consider a conversation by phone. But under no circumstances should you confront a person via e-mail.

Conclusion next time…

Social Issues and Jesus

I believe that I am fairly in touch with the social issues of the day. I work with people who are on the frontlines of drug addiction and alcoholism. I work with people who were prostitutes both male and female. I see the violence that is involved in many marriages – not just physical but emotional and verbal; and not just the men abusing the women but also women abusing men. Social issues are many. Some are as old as the Bible and some are relatively new. 

I am currently reading a book called “Beautiful Boy” written by a journalist who is telling the true story of his son and the family as the son slowly defends into serious drug addiction. I am reading it to become more familiar with what happens in and to the family of an addict as they watch a loved one decent into serious addiction sometimes ending in death. The house church I belong to is about to watch “Stopping Traffic” a real life story about sex trafficking of young children and young adult. A current form of slavery. We have a person who is involved in ministering to this group of people and we all want to know more so we can pray and even help end this epidemic.

Have you noticed that Jesus never spoke about social issues current in His day. In the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus there was rampant homosexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, unwanted children were taken to the fields to be left to die, slavery (the backbone of the labour force for the Empire), women were not treated with respect or dignity, prostitution (male and female), and on the list of social ills could go. In spite of all this Jesus never spoke about these issues nor did He directly address them in His teachings and in His discipling of the leaders of the Church – the early apostles.

Jesus simply treated people with dignity and respect. He introduced people to the Kingdom of God through His teachings and the miracles that He did among the people. He spoke of God the Father and how deeply and unconditionally He loves them. He spoke about being born again and having a relationship with the Living God, the Creator. 

When people become part of His Kingdom through being born again the issues of the day, society’s problems, can be addressed and changed. These issues we face are really issues of the heart. So, Jesus aimed at the heart. Change the heart you change the attitude and motives, values and beliefs of the people. Then society’s issues can be addressed and changed. 

The Church today is often so preoccupied with addressing the external problems that we forget the real root of these problems. So, we come across negative as we oppose so many things. People don’t see the love of Jesus. They see the judgment, condemnation, and rejection of those who do not believe as they do. Thus they see the Church as narrow-minded and of little relevance to the world in which we live. 

And, because our focus is addressing the issues we forget or neglect to speak about the Gospel of the Kingdom which is the power of God unto salvation. And, we run programs in the hope of interesting those who are not part of the Church to join us. And, we wonder why the born again Church is not growing and has, in many places, a seriously negative reputation. 

It is time to address the heart issue that causes the societal issues we get so upset about. It is time to focus on the Gospel releasing people from spiritual bondage. Shine the light in the darkness and stop yelling at the darkness. 

We have the answer but we need to earn the right to be heard and taken seriously.

Confrontation –  Speaking the Truth in Love

Paul writes to the Ephesian Church and tells them that, as believers, we are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Most people I relate to see this as “confrontation.” And, worst still, they see confrontation as negative and difficult. So, let’s look briefly at this whole area of speaking the truth in love.
The question we always need to ask: Do I care enough to confront the right way?
When working with relationships we instinctively know the following:
1> Conflict is unavoidable
Perhaps we ought to add conflict to death and taxes as one of the things we can count on in this life. The only way to avoid conflict is to isolate ourselves from all other people on the planet. So, we need to learn to deal with issue that cause conflict because they are inevitable.
2> Conflict is difficult
No one likes confrontation, so almost everyone avoids it. And those who do like it have their own psychological issues! Why is it difficult to confront? We fear being disliked, misunderstood, or rejected. We fear the unknown. We are not use to sharing our feelings. And we worry that we will just make things worse. Let’s face it: few people have been taught healthy confrontational skills.
But this I know: How we handle conflict determines our success in tough relational situations
So, how do you handle conflict in your relationships? Did you know that conflict always compounds when confrontation is not done quickly and correctly? That’s why your approach matters. Here’s a sampling of harmful strategies that we see people using when they deal with conflict:
Win at all costs. It’s like a shootout at the OK Corral. It’s quick, brutal, and destructive.
Pretend it doesn’t exist. If you hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil, evil will not exist.
Whine about it. Winners aren’t whiners and whiners aren’t winners. Playing the victim doesn’t cure conflict. It just irritates everybody.
Keep score. People who keep a record of wrongs can’t ever start over fresh. And nobody can ever get ‘even.’
Pull rank. Using position never really resolves conflict. It merely postpones it.
White flag it. Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
None of these approaches will give the help a person needs to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
Conflict resolution isn’t complicated. Intellectually it’s simple. But emotionally it can be difficult. It requires honesty, humility, and dedication to the relationship. Let’s look at the first two points of what is a six-step plan to help you tackle the task of confrontation.
1> Confront a person only if you care for that person
In rare instances people must confront someone they don’t care about, such as in legal trials or when abuse has occurred. But there are not typical relational conflicts. In nearly all relational situations, it is most productive to go into a confrontation keeping the other person’s interests in mind.
In the past when you attempted to resolve conflict with another person, what has been your goal? Sympathy? Quick relief? Victory at all costs? Next time try to go into it with the goal of making it a win for both parties. And if you attempt to ensure that the other person wins first, then you know you have the most beneficial perspective.
2> Meet together as soon as possible
When conflict arises, we are tempted to avoid it, procrastinate dealing with it, or ask someone else to resolve it for us. But the truth is that anytime you let conflict go – for whatever reason –  it only gets worse. If people are put in a position to start speculating about another person’s motives to figure out what might have really happened, they often think their worst. Putting off confrontation only causes the situation to fester.
So, don’t store up issues. It is never a good idea idea to save up a bunch of stuff and then give a person a history lesson during a confrontation. Instead meet together right away, face-to-face. If that’s absolutely impossible, then consider a conversation by phone. But under no circumstances should you confront a person via e-mail.
3> First seek understanding not necessarily agreement
A significant hindrance to positive conflict resolution is having too many preconceived notions going into a confrontation. There’s a saying that the person who gives an opinion before he understands is human, but the person who gives a judgment before he understands is a fool. So, go in prepared to listen and don’t pre-judge.
United States President Abraham Lincoln was well known for his tremendous people skills. He remarked, “When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third off my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say – and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.” That is a good rule of thumb. You cannot reach understanding if your focus is on yourself.
As engineer Charles F. Kettering said, “There is a great difference between knowing and understand; you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.”
4> Outline the issue.
When it’s your turn to speak and to make yourself understood, it’s important that you take a positive approach. Here is what I would suggest:
Describe your perceptions. In the beginning, stay away from conclusions and/or statements about the other person’s motives. Just tell what you think you see, and describe the problem you think it’s causing.
Tell how this makes you feel. If the other person’s actions make you angry or frustrated or sad, express it clearly and without accusation.
Explain why this is important to you. Many times when a person finds out that something is a priority to you, that is enough to make him want to change.
Engaging in the process without emotional heat or bitterness is essential. You don’t have to turn off your emotions; you just need to make sure you don’t verbally assault the person you are confronting.
5> Encourage a response.
Never confront others without letting them respond. If you care about people, you will want to listen. Besides, “One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.” (Politician Dean Rusk).
Sometimes simply having the discussion helps you realize that your perceptions were wrong. Other times you discover that you need to take extenuating circumstances into account. Encouraging a response helps you better understand the person and the problem.
It also gives the other person a chance to process the issue emotionally. Most of the time when you confront people, they will have an emotional reaction. They may be shocked or get angry or feel guilty. They may want to share those feelings with you, or they may not. But no matter what, you should encourage them to give you a genuine response. Why? Because if they don’t have their say, they won’t be able to move toward a resolution to the problem. They will be so focused on their response that they can’t hear anything else.
When confronting people, you will discover the following:
50% of the people don’t realize that there is a problem
30% of them realize there was a problem, but didn’t know how to solve it.
20% realized there was a problem, but didn’t want to solve it.
The bad news is that one out of five people doesn’t want to seek a positive solution. The good news is that 80% of the time there is great potential to solve the conflict.
6> Agree on an action plan.
Most people hate confrontation, but they love resolution. And the only way to achieve resolution is to take positive action. By developing and agreeing to an action plan, you place the focus on the future, not on the problems of the past. If the person you’re confronting wants to change, they will gravitate towards the possibility of making things better.
A good action plan should include these points:
Clear identification of the issue
Agreement to solve the issue
Concrete steps that demonstrate the issue has been solved
An accountability structure, such as a time line and a responsible person
A deadline for completion
A commitment by both parties to put the issue in the past once resolved.
If your confrontation is formal, such as in a work setting, then put the action plan in writing. Then you can always go back to that document if resolution doesn’t go as planned.
Successful confrontation usually changes both people, not just one. Positive change is the first measure of success when resolving conflict through confrontation. The second is the ongoing growth of the relationship. Any time you truly do resolve conflict in a relationship, it doesn’t hurt the relationship; it actually strengthens the bond between the people.
But it all starts with genuine concern for the other person. President Abraham Lincoln summed it up when he said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend … Assume to dictate to his judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself … you shall no more be able to pierce him than to penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw.”

Hammering Home Your Point

When I was younger one of the hit songs was “If I had a Hammer” by Trini Lopez. I know, I am dating myself. You can watch a live performance of the song at: https://binged.it/2oChE2H
I was thinking about that song a few morning back as I was thinking of some people I minister to who seem to use a hammer to solve all their relational issues. They enter into the situation and just hammer away at people, beating them down and, in some cases, destroying them.
It has been said, “Never use a hammer to swat a fly off someone’s head.” And often we enter into relational conflict to win the argument and not salvage or win the relationship. In other words, don’t put winning the argument over winning the relationship. Alexander MacLaren states, “If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it.” So the question we should ask ourselves and maybe others is: “Would others say I overreact to small things in a relationship?
We need to realize that having the right attitude is more important than having the right answers. We need to soften our approach, listen more, and stop making a big deal out of little things. In other words, put the hammer away.
To put the hammer away we need to consider four Ts…
1> Total picture
Do you come to conclusions long before the problem has been laid out before you? That is a common occurrence for most of us who have strong personalities. That is why we need to train ourselves to follow a process to keep ourselves from hammering people with answers before they are finished asking the question. When someone is sharing his point of view with you, try to:
Listen
Ask questions
Listen again
Ask more questions
Listen some more
Then respond
You will find that if you slow yourself down, see the big picture, you will be more likely to respond patiently and appropriately.
2> Timing
It has been said, “It’s what you do, not when you do it, that counts.” That’s not always true. If the general doesn’t order the attack at the right time, the battle is lost. If the parent doesn’t get the injured child to the hospital quickly enough, her life might be lost. If you don’t apologize to someone when you’ve wronged them, the relationship might be lost.
When you act is as important as taking the right action. Even knowing when not to act can be important. Someone noted: “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
It seems to me that the most common cause of bad timing in relationships is selfish motives. For that reason, when little things bother us, our number one objective must be putting our personal agendas aside and building the relationship. If you have examined your motives, and you can be certain they are good, then you need too ask yourself two timing questions:
Am I ready to confront? That’s a pretty easy question to answer, because that’s really a matter of whether you have done your homework
Is the other person ready to hear. If you have laid a relational foundation and the two of you are not in the “heat of battle” then the answer may be yes.
3> Tone
People often respond to our attitudes and actions more than to our words. Many petty conflicts occur because people use the wrong tone of voice. The writer of Proverbs states, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Haven’t you found that to be true. If not, try this experiment. The next time someone says something to you in anger, respond with gentleness and kindness. When you do that, the person who spoke harshly is likely to tone down, if not soften, his attitude.
4> Temperature
As tempers flare, people are prone to dropping bombs when using a slingshot will do. And that can cause a lot of trouble because the size of a problem often changes based on how it is handled. In general…
If the reaction is worst than the action, the problem usually increases
If the reaction is less than the action, the problem usually decreases
That is why we need to follow a simple personal rule. Take thirty seconds to share feelings – and then it’s over. Anytime we let a little thing create a big reaction (one that lasts longer than thirty seconds), then we are using a hammer.
We looked at the four Ts of preventing a crisis when dealing with relational issues. Let’s talk about trading in your hammer and then treating people with dignity and respect.
Some people seem to think that a hammer is good for anything and everything. I guess you could say they take a hammering approach to life. This attitude is most often observed among high achievers. When they give something their full attention, they go at it full bore. That’s usually a good approach to tasks. It’s a terrible way to treat people, however. As psychologist Abraham Maslow observed: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” People require more judicious treatment than that.
If you desire to develop a softer touch with people, take the following advice to heart:
1> Let the past stay in the past
Resolve an issue when it occurs And once you have done that, don’t bring it up again. If you do bring it back up later, you are treating someone as a nail.
2> Ask yourself, is my reaction part of the problem?
When a person’s response is greater than the issue, the response is about something else. Don’t make things worse by overreacting.
3> Remember that actions are remembered long after words are forgotten
If you have a high school diploma or college degree, can you recall the message the commencement speaker delivered at your graduation? Or if you’re married, can you recite your wedding vows from memory? I’m guessing the answer to both questions is no. But I bet you do remember getting married and receiving your diploma. The way you treat people will stay with them a lot longer than the words you choose. Act accordingly.
4> Never let the situation mean more than the relationship
I believe that if I had not made my relationship with my wife a higher priority than always being right, we might not be married today. Relationships are based on bonding. The more important the relationship, the greater the bond.
5> Treat loved ones with unconditional love
Because ours is a society with lots of broken and dysfunctional individuals, many people never had good models of unconditional love. In “The Flight,” John Whit shared his perspective on where we fall short in our treatment of important people in our lives: “We gossip because we fail to love. When we love people, we don’t criticize them. If we love them, their failures hurt. We don’t advertise the sins of people we love any more than we advertise our own.”
6> Admit wrongs and ask forgiveness
Chicago mobster Al Capone reportedly said, “You can get farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” Despite the humour, I can tell you this: forgiveness is better. Admitting you’re wrong and asking for forgiveness can cover a multitude of sins. That approach is also one of the best ways to try to make things right when you find that you’ve used the hammer when you should not have.
The problem with most individuals who use the hammer all the time is that they may not know that they do it. If you might be one of them – let some people who know you well hold the mirror and tell you what they see. If you don’t believe them, do the same with your loved ones and friends. If you do that, you will find out whether you treat others as people or as nails. If you do the latter, then you need to make a change.