In the last two posts on this topic (Part 1 and Part 2), I talked about deciding when to deal with conflict by asking the question: Can I drive this truck over that bridge? The truck is the conversation–and the more difficult the issue the heavier the load. This post deals with the last 2 of 4 sub-questions that help me decide when to press the gas pedal and launch into a confrontation.
MAKE IT UP THE BRIDGE
3. Do I have the relational capital to issue this challenge?
Compare the “weight” of the challenge and the “strength” of the relationship. The stronger your relationships, the heavier the load you can carry on your truck.
One way that helps me is to think about my relationship like a bank account. The more I do to encourage, help, and serve the other person, the more I have in the account. But when I criticize, correct, or hurt the other person, I make a withdrawal. Make sure that you have enough in your account to cover the cost of the conversation. If you attempt too much, your check can bounce, so to speak, and not only do they not change and grow, but they usually charge your relationship an extra fee for reaching too far.
Or, to return to our main metaphor, not only does the truck not get there, it breaks the bridge and crashes into the water. You’re worse off than when you started.
MAKE IT DOWN THE BRIDGE
4. Does my client have the energy to implement this change?
Change requires energy. Have you ever started working on a new habit, only to quit 3-4 weeks later? It’s likely that you didn’t change your mind–you still wanted to make the change. But you ran out of the energy to keep working on it.
For years, I tried to implement morning exercise habits and never made it past 2-3 weeks. I wanted to do it, but among my mistakes, I didn’t pay attention to the energy required.
This is one of the reasons that I’d recommend tackling one issue at a time. It is possible to convince someone who trusts you to attempt to change far more than they have the energy to actually pull off. You’ll get the truck up the bridge, but crash with success almost in your grasp.
In the end, like a real truck driver, you don’t get paid for driving almost the whole way and losing your cargo in the river. You drive the truck so you can get to your destination, not just to see what happens. How often in your confrontations have you driven a truck into the river? Which of the four supporting questions is the one you most often forget?
What’s the one change you can make to increase your chances of truly helping others grow when you offer challenging feedback?