Uncommen Habits: Saying the Hard Thing

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Have you ever felt deep down in your gut that you are supposed to say something hard to someone, and you aren’t sure how they are going to receive it? Maybe it’s a warning to a friend who is involved in some unhealthy habits. Maybe it’s a co­worker that’s out of line. Or maybe it’s something you need to tell your spouse that is negatively impacting your marriage. It’s easier to remain silent and hope it passes over in time. But the hard thing is to confront the issue and say that hard thing that needs to be said. Maybe because of the risk, you don’t say anything at all. Usually, the problem for us lies in the fact that we do not want to disappoint someone, feel guilty, hurt someone, or have someone angry with us. If not received well, it could damage or worse, end the relationship.   

If you want to be UNCOMMEN, there comes a point and time where you need to say something. While those words may be hard to take, if they are the right words they may help someone else out in a big way.  There is a process for doing these things that I often suggest that is effective most of the time if done with a compassionate tone. Here are the pieces that need to be in there:

1. Affirm the Relationship: make a statement about valuing your relationship to the person. 

Example:  “Bill, you know that I care about you. You are a good friend to me, and I value who you are.”

2. Make a Self Statement: say something about your motives, intent or being transparent can go a long way. 

Example: “One thing I’m realizing is that sometimes I have a hard time saying things to people because I’m not sure how they will be received.”

3. Say the Hard Thing: set the boundary, assert yourself, say no, make a request, tell the person something difficult

Example. “However, I feel like I need to tell you that I’m starting to get concerned about how much you’ve been drinking and I think others are starting to notice this pattern as well, and I don’t want it to impact your life negatively.”

4. Ask for Understanding: and Reaffirm The Relationship

Example: I’m saying this because I truly care about you, and I hope you can understand and trust that I care about you and want what’s best for you.”

A couple of things to keep in mind: anytime someone corrects our behavior, our natural first response is to be defensive. So, remember that same response when speaking hard things to others. The outcome isn’t guaranteed anytime we bring up something difficult, especially if it may reflect negatively on their character. But if you affirm the connection in conjunction with these other steps, it can be an excellent way to say something hard without hurting someone or being hurt yourself. 

Bible Reference: It says in Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Remember, sometimes saying a hard thing may feel like dealing a wound at first. But it might be the very thing a true friend can say to another to change their life for the better.   

About the author: Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative. He resides in Matthews, NC with his wife and two children.


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