Confrontations don’t have to be so risky. In my last post, I challenged you to think about when you confront, not just whether you’re right. And I revealed the question that has made a huge difference to the confrontation conversations in my life:
Can I drive this truck over that bridge?
In the last post, I offered some principles that change how you think about hard conversations. In this post, I’m going to dive deeper into the diagram and help make it very clear how to when it’s the right time to confront.
Specifically, there are four questions I ask. Their answers add up to the final answer to the big question above:
LOAD THE TRUCK
1. How challenging to the other person is the issue I’m bringing up?
The more emotionally difficult the issue is, the “heavier” the load in your truck and the stronger your bridge (relationship) needs to be.
In general, start with the easiest issues and as you experience success your relationships and their maturity grows. You can then work your way up to the heaviest issues.
Also, I strongly recommend taking one load at a time (dealing with only one issue). We all have multiple areas of our lives that need improvement and change. But the best people developers I know accept us before we fix all our issues AND therefore have the freedom to challenge us to work on only one or two substantial changes at a time.
CHECK WITH THE BRIDGE GUARD
2. Do you have permission to proceed?
Just because you see an issue doesn’t mean you are allowed to address it. And just because you have permission in one area of life, doesn’t mean you have it in another. Correction without permission feels like an attack. Ask permission and respect their answer. (Note roles like being a boss or a parent have built in permissions–even obligations–to offer challenges. The other 3 questions need to be addressed, but this one should be clear for them.)
Note: Sometimes you have to proceed anyway. There is a place for major life interventions, when someone is about to ruin their life long-term. It’s like trying to jump the truck over the bridge. Oh, and it’s about as easy to do successfully as it would be to really jump a huge 18-wheeler over a bridge. Do it only when you really believe there is no other choice and the rest of their life hangs in the balance.
In my next (and final post on this diagram/metaphor), I’ll cover the last two sub-questions.