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We’ve all been there… a friend of ours has something in their teeth and they don’t know it.

As we continue to interact with them, everything they’re saying and doing fades away as we are consumed with the question of if and how we’re going to tell them.

If we’re honest, this is what it feels like (times a thousand) when we have to have a hard conversation with someone. Whether it’s with a family member, friend or colleague, the uncertainty of risking that relationship through this course of action creates immense internal stress.

Our insides get twisted up and we are unable to move on and focus on anything until the issue is resolved. So what do we do?

Sadly, for many of us we decide to do nothing. We are compelled by fear to force those concerns aside and bury them deep down, never to be asked — all to the detriment of ourselves, families, friends and colleagues.

How should we act when faced with these circumstances? Here are three rules that help when preparing to have difficult conversations.


I’ve found that it’s helpful to identify motivations prior to initiating these encounters. This can be accomplished by running my reaction to the person’s actions through a series of filters.

Run it through the heart idol filter. Identify if your reaction is founded on your defending something your heart holds more dear than Jesus. If you’re not sure what these might be, use this helpful set of questions.

Run it through the personality filter where you assess how your personality is influencing your thinking and how the other person’s is influencing their perspective. If you’re not sure of your personality type, use this test to find it.

Run it through the outcome filter and determine your desired outcome for the conversation.

By filtering your motivation before you start talking, you can gain clarity on the myriad of areas influencing our perceptions, better preparing you for your conversation.


Humility will help resolve a whole bunch of contextual concerns we have when preparing for these conversations. This is because humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less.

If we remain humble, we increase the chances of these conversations increasing unity and strength in our relationship with the other person, not hubris and unhealthy conflict.


The thing that makes these encounters so challenging is the reality that we cannot control how other people will react. These reactions will land somewhere on the spectrum from loving repentance to relationship-ending collisions, but where exactly is unknown. Really, the only thing we do know is that these encounters will inevitably disrupt the status quo.

Before we engage these conversations, it’s imperative that we accept that we cannot and will not be able to control how others react in these conversations.

So the next time you get into a conflict, feel the pressure building up inside and decide to discuss the issue, I encourage you to remember these three simple rules. They will have a positive impact on relationships in every area of your life.