You could feel the tension building with each person’s comments and knew it was just a matter of time before the dynamite went off.
It might have been a conversation with your spouse or teenager. Maybe it was a staff meeting at the office. Or, sometimes most volatile of all, a congregational meeting at your church.
Well, here is a creative way to “de-fuse” this kind of dynamite.
Bill and Peggy White, two of our most active Certified RW Instructors, told me about a tense meeting at a Christian school in their community. About fifty parents were gathered together to voice grievances.
The pastor who led the meeting was a seasoned veteran—combat-tested not in Afghanistan but in his local church. He knew how quickly such meetings can escalate into harsh accusations and demands for termination.
So at the beginning of the meeting, he briefly summarized the problem they were there to discuss. Once he got agreement on the issue people wanted to address, he set forth one simple ground rule: anyone who wanted to speak had to follow the same format by answering seven questions in a specific order:
- Briefly stated, how do you feel because of this problem?
- Which fruit of the Spirit are you seeking to display as you speak today (Gal. 5:22-23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”)?
- What have you done that might have contributed to this problem?
- What do you think would please God as we work through this situation?
- What steps have you already taken to make things better?
- What are you now willing to do to help resolve this problem?
- What do you suggest others do to help resolve this problem?
Seven simple questions that helped people to become more God-aware, self-aware and other-aware by remembering God’s involvement in the situation, empathizing with one another, recalling their shared frailty, getting the logs out of their own eyes, showing respect and accepting responsibility, and by being solution-minded rather than attack-oriented.
Now that’s relational wisdom!
Try it the next time you’re faced with a tense conversation, whether at a congregational meeting or with two squabbling children.
– Ken Sande
- How do these Scripture passages support the five questions listed above: 1 Peter 3:8, John 8:1-11, Matthew 7:3-4, Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:1-11, Ephesians 4:29? Can you think of related passages?
- Without identifying individuals, describe a conversation or meeting that escalated into accusations and demands. What were the key relational failures that caused it to go downhill?
- Think of a person who is skilled at managing tense or volatile conversations. What does he or she do that helps others to converse reasonably and constructively?
- How could you apply some of those same skills in your life today?
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© 2017 Ken Sande
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