This is a follow up to the post ‘Overcoming Fear In Your Relationships’. That post addressed our fears of taking action in our relationships. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with that post before trying anything in this one – otherwise you may just make things worse. In four steps, we shared how to identify and explore the fear, the need to know the benefits of overcoming the fear, and the need to plan your next moves. Once you’ve got a firm grasp on why you are afraid to tackle a relationship issue and what the benefits and consequences will be when you tackle it, you are ready to start making a plan.
One thing to note early – if you’ve done your analysis and determined that the issue doesn’t need to be addressed at this time (or ever) – then you’re done! No need to agonize over a decision or issue that doesn’t need to be engaged. But, if you’ve determined that something needs to be done, it’s best to prepare.
Here are a few of the things you will need to prepare:
Yourself. Face it, the reason you were afraid in the first place was that for whatever reason, you didn’t have the confidence to confront the issue – or the person. Now that you’ve analyzed the issue and have compelling reasons to make a change or confront the person, you’ve won the hardest part of the battle. Being convinced of the right direction has a wonderful effect on our determination. You only need to translate that conviction into action. And that’s not as hard as it seems once you have all the facts. All you need to do now is to arrange those facts into a plan and take the steps to make that plan happen.
I realize that ‘plan’ sounds very businesslike. I don’t mean to reduce relationships to projects. What I mean is that there are heart issues involved in relationships. Those heart issues need to be thought about – and deeply. Planning means that you are thinking not just about your own needs, but about how your loved ones’ heart and how it may be affected. Understand his or her heart will help you express your motivations in ways he or she can hear.
To Explain Your Motivations. This is a powerful step for yourself that carries over to your ability to convince others. If you can clearly explain your motivations (i.e. I want to connect, we need resolution, I’m hurt), you will solidify your own convictions. Conviction is 90% of persuasion. Your passion for the issue will carry you through the conversation.
The key here is to make your explanations crystal clear while anticipating any possible objections. One extremely important point is to refrain from making accusations like, ‘You don’t care if I’m hurt or not.’ Say something like that and you’ve just lost any advancement you might have made. Instead, if you can anticipate and answer any objections before they come up, you will satisfy those who would normally push back, before they even have a chance to object.
If you can target and disarm that person whose personality is most difficult for you and your ideas, you will have a much better chance at persuading them. Anticipating and answering their likely objections shows that you thought things through from their point of view. It may surprise them that you did, but it will be a pleasant surprise.
Practical note: While you are talking don’t say things like, ‘I know what you are thinking’ or ‘I knew you’d say that’ (as to imply, ‘I have you figured out and have a great comeback for your normal rant’). No one likes to be shut down like that. It’s true that if you prepared well, you will have anticipated his or her response, but that should be your secret. Instead, simply respond with appropriate emotion, acknowledge what was said, and continue to gently engage.
To Support Your Conclusions. Change or confrontation always has the potential to deliver some surprises. You may get resistance you didn’t anticipate. Part of your preparation is to be completely vulnerable and have the best reasons for having this conversation or making this decision. There is no such thing as over-preparation here. Because you don’t know how he or she will respond (even though you think you might), it’s wise to continue to be vulnerable and let them know how you feel. That this is not about facts and figures, but about your relationship. If you anticipate the most arcane and petty arguments the person may come up with, you will be ready to overcome the emotional intensity of the conversation. Remember, the person or persons you are talking to will have fears as well. If you can ease those fears before they become resistance, you will have a better chance to move forward.
Remember that in the case of a disconnected man, his fear is intimacy (even though he probably doesn’t know it). He will resist because something inside him is growing intensely uncomfortable. But you need to connect. Those two things are magnetic opposites. Trying to explain your needs will not help. He desperately wants to meet your needs already, but doesn’t understand them, even if you tell him. And if he did by some miracle understand them, it would scare him to immobility.
Here is where a wise woman will give her man simple steps toward the goal. She will give him illustrations of what her heart needs that he can grasp. Like, ‘Honey, you know how an engine seizes up when you it doesn’t have oil?’ (He’ll get that one!) ‘Well my heart is like that and the oil my heart needs is your attention.’ Then you have to describe EXACTLY what you mean by attention. He knows exactly how to add oil to the engine but has no clue what attention means to you. Keep it simple, give him attainable goals, and then heap praise on him when he does even the slightest thing. I know that sounds like you’re dealing with a toddler – his heart is a toddler. He hasn’t learned how to use it yet. He needs your patient guidance to figure it out!
To Be Honest About the Downsides. One thing people hate is spin. Painting with roses and kittens to obscure the difficulties or potential pitfalls of your idea or need will only backfire. Be honest. If this change is going to cause some personal pain, tell them. Tell them how painful it might be and how long the pain will last. Also tell them how the pain can be dealt with, then you can emphasize the benefits that will be gained.
There are downsides to meeting the needs of others. We have to sacrifice. Dishonesty about that will only breed contempt.
To Be Upbeat About the Benefits. Once they know the pain, the costs, and the reasons you needed to have this discussion or make this decision, wrap it all up with the benefits. It’s always good to end on a positive note. Make the benefits as compelling as you can without stretching the truth.
Remember what motivates people, less conflict, more peace, more money, less effort, less stress, less confusion, fewer arguments, etc. List absolutely everything you can think of. Make it personal if you can. Gives details of how his or her life will be better, or the kids will benefit, or whatever things are personal motivations. We all love to have our needs considered. If we can meet your need and one of ours too, it’s a win.
Once you’ve successfully navigated the conversation, answered the objections, appealed to personal needs, and fully explained the potential pain while emphasizing the benefits, you will know if you’ve made any progress. If so, then keep moving forward with your plan or decision. If not, then take what you learned and determine the next move. Either way, you’ve won. You overcame your fear in order to have a needed conversation with the person, or about the subject you were originally intimidated by. That’s something to be excited about!
A final reminder. Regardless the response – keep loving. Ask the Lord for strength and then endure. You never know when the Holy Spirit will break through and give you more than you could have asked for or imagined!