How to have hard conversations

How to have hard conversations

Is it just me, or do you shy away from hard conversations? Maybe you’ve wondered why they happen or why they even need to happen? Might there be a way to figure out how to never have a hard conversation?

Relationships can be challenging because no two of us are alike. Even identical twins have their own unique personalities, opinions, ideas, and dreams. The point is, different perspectives, beliefs, values, and desires will bump up against each other. We can expect that conflict will arise from time to time. 

So, the short answer to our questions is no. There is no magic formula that helps us eliminate the need for hard conversations. As long as we live in this world, we will have to navigate through the issues that surface when we don’t agree. Conflict is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be bad. 

Most people agree that honesty and authenticity are much better and certainly healthier than playing and putting on a false front. Yet, it is also true that most of us struggle to do just that. Why do you suppose that is? 

I suspect it has everything to do with an ongoing battle with fear. On some level we all deal with fear, it may look different from one to the next, but it’s often the seed. Experiences of rejection and misunderstanding create barriers. Feeling unheard and dismissed reinforces the lie that there’s no point in even trying. Here’s the problem, barricading the soul and hiding from confrontation may feel safer, but in the long run it sets us up for more pain.

So, how do we have had conversations when it just doesn’t feel emotionally safe?

Preparing for hard conversations

Truthfully, I think it’s helpful to remember that we need to prepare for having hard conversations. Nothing ever good comes from dumping out all your grievances with little to no thought about what is going on. Emotion is deeply tied to the underlying issue, so it’s important to know what the issue truly is. Understand that communication is much more than a simple exchange of information. It’s deeply layered. You owe it to yourself to do the hard work of finding a way to discern the unspoken things that you struggle to articulate. Take time to process and if that means connecting with a counselor, then do it.

In the process of preparation, another good question to ask is, why do we need to have this conversation? Understand that the reason for a hard conversation is usually compounded because we care for the other person (or work with them). Close and personal relationships will always bump up against conflict. Engaging in the hard work of resolution and understanding needs to be grounded in the right perspective. The point of this kind of conversation needs to be rooted in the desire to protect and guard the relationship, not to secure the win. Healthy hard conversations aren’t about winning the conflict, they are about love and respect.

Helpful tips for hard conversations


Start in prayer. Engage with God and ask Him to help you define the why’s for the hard conversation. Listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying.


Be ready to hear and receive

Set the context

Be intentional

Don’t blindside the other person 

Focus on listening to understand

Consider inviting an objective mediator to help slow things down

Check out this week’s episode on The Pastor and the Counselor, as Pastor Ryan Brown, Jon Burchard, and Corryn Vento talk about why hard conversations need to happen, and how to have them. As always, they offer great insights and practical tips for how we can learn to have healthier conversations that lead to peaceful resolutions, even when we don’t agree.


Written by Maureen Brown

Maureen Is our Worship and Communications Pastor. She has served New Life Community alongside Pastor Ryan for 19 years.  She is passionate about Jesus and His Church, which is why she does what she does. Maureen has been leading worship, teaching, and mentoring her entire adult life. She graduated in 1996, from Emmanuel Bible College with a Bachelor of Religious Education in Professional Studies. Upon graduation, she then married Ryan—the love of her life. Maureen is a blogger so she brings a special set of gifts that are well used in the area of Communications here at NLC.