cow·ard: a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.
Although we typically think of cowardice on the battle field, it can extend to almost every aspect of life. Even conversations. Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say something to another person, but lacked the courage to say it? Maybe you didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings. Maybe you didn’t want to swallow your pride. Maybe you didn’t want to risk rejection. Whatever the motivation, you discovered a massive roadblock between your mind and your mouth.
I just finished an interesting read, Crucial Conversations. This bestselling book explains how honest, respectful conversations from the family room to the boardroom impact our relationships perhaps more than any other factor. The authors’ research of over 100,000 people reveals “the key skill of effective leaders, teammates, parents and loved ones is the capacity to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues.”
For many of us, it only takes a few crucial conversation attempts gone bad to transform us into cowardly communicators. We become experts in avoidance. Specialists in self-preservation. Our conversations become safe, saltless and unsatisfying. Why risk potential unpleasantness?
Maybe we should be asking “why not?”
Do we really want to get to the end of our life and regret not having had crucial conversations that should have taken place? Do we want to be wishing we would have gently confronted a fellow believer for not living up to his call? That we would have explained to our boss how he was out of line? That we would have told a friend how her actions hurt us rather than erecting a silent barrier?
Cowardly conversations, in the end, turn out to be non-conversations. And when there is no conversation, relationships deteriorate. Why not put someone else’s welfare above our own? Why not try to find common ground in the face of differences? Why not embrace a little unpleasantness for the hope of something better?
None of us have to be locked into cowardly communication. Proverbs 18:4 assures us that the words of the mouth are deep waters. Take courage my friend to draw from those streams of honesty, of truth, of love.
It may be more crucial than you think….