As leaders, it is our responsibility to create an environment where people feel honored, and therefore, safe to be confronted. There will be no culture of honor without the active use of effective confrontation. The skill of combining these two relational elements-honor and confrontation- is the key to sustaining an environment of grace.
A foundational key to leadership is: I will not work harder on your problems than you are willing to work. It can be challenging to lead others when they are not willing to work on their own problems. To be aware of what is happening inside of me when I feel I cannot control another person is critical to my ability to have influence in the lives around me.
Here are three common ineffective ways we respond when choices affect us:
I know I cannot control you, so I will not get involved. If I get involved, it could get messy. Other people might get hurt. I might get hurt. You might get hurt. I would rather keep the peace and do nothing to engage.
I believe it is my job to “fix” your problem. This might take the form of giving a lot of advice and solutions. When my advice is not received, I might feel angry and attempt to convince or demand that my way is right and my advice needs to be followed.
I will feel angry and possibly hostile about the way I am being affected. I might make back-handed or sarcastic comments about the way those choices are causing problems for me. When asked, I choose to disengage or pretend everything is fine. I may deny it is affecting me at all, though my emotions are sending the signal that something is clearly wrong.
The effective ways to respond:
I will tell you about what is happening inside of me, and how your behavior is affecting me.
I will actively engage with compassion and gentleness.
I will ask questions, putting the responsibility upon the person being confronted.
I will offer support by listening without judgment.
I will offer my unconditional love.
I will only offer advice or counsel when it is being asked of me, and it is clear it will be valued.
I understand it is not my job to fix you or tackle your problem for you, no matter how powerless you are presenting yourself to me.
I offer support, encouragement, belief, hope, and assurance.
I will be willing to set boundaries with someone unwilling to see how behaviors are affecting myself or others.
The process of confrontation is a process of empowerment, not domination. When we demonstrate the effective use of tools for confrontation, guided by gentleness instead of control, the people around us will feel safe to become who God has created them to be.
Take a moment to think about the way you are leading. Are you setting an example of healthy confrontation for those you lead? Lasting change always comes from the top down.