My colleague, Paul Homoly, once told me that my message, speech, and offerings on any subject would get better once I wrote a book on it. Already a published author, he knew from experience that the rigorous process of organizing your thoughts, proving the argument, providing a clear process, and inspiring the reader to action is required for a well-written book. The discipline of writing pushes you to do the research, make the case, and squeeze out the clarity which extends to all your forms of communication, creating more impact.
I’m proud and happy to report that the first 20 pages of my book on Courageous Conversations are done and in the hands of my editor. My goal of completing the entire manuscript by August seems well in hand. And Paul’s statement has already proved true.
One piece of clarity that has been squeezed from my thoughts so far has been that love is at the heart of confrontation—love, not anger or bitterness or hate (though they may all be present). Love, it seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
When we think of confronting someone, we worry about their reaction. Will I make them angry or make the situation worse? Will they retaliate? Will they leave? Of course, we have reason to worry about all these things and more because they can and do happen. But confronting an important issue is not typically done with the intention of driving someone away. If that is what we really wanted, we wouldn’t even bother. Inherent in our effort to confront is our desire for the relationship to improve. We are essentially loving into the relationship by stepping into the conflict. It doesn’t get better by avoiding it or lashing out with the intention of hurting someone.
When issues are left to fester or boundaries are repeatedly breached, the relationship stagnates (at best), intimacy disappears, and respect is damaged. If you genuinely want to improve a relationship, confrontation will be a necessary part. If you want to do it well, remember that it will always work best when you come from love. When the driving force behind setting your boundary, making your request, or asking your question is motivated and driven by love, you’ll do better. When your intention in stating your case and confronting an issue is to create a better relationship, you are essentially trying to protect this relationship from the very things that might destroy it: detachment, self-centeredness, immaturity, defensiveness, apathy, control.
In my research for the book, I found that the origins of the word conflict are from the Latin word conflictus which means “to contend, fight, struggle.” However, the origins of the word confrontation are from the Latin word confrontationem which means the action of bringing two parties face-to-face or to turn your face toward something. When you don’t look away but rather turn toward and face your relationship, and you come with the desire to heal and protect it, the confrontation actually serves and preserves love.
Someone asked on my Facebook feed last week, what is one song you would like to have played at your funeral? I thought of several but one on my list is this song written by John Denver, Perhaps Love. In it he says, “Perhaps love is like an ocean, full of conflict, full of change. Like a fire when it’s cold outside or thunder when it rains… Perhaps love is like a window, perhaps an open door. It invites you to come closer, it wants to show you more.”
I hope this week, you will lean into love and consider confronting the conversations that will strengthen your relationships at work, home, and in your community. Coming from love, you can’t get it wrong.
“The extent to which two people in a relationship can bring up and resolve issues is a critical marker of the soundness of the relationship.”
~ Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend,
authors of Boundaries: Face-to-Face