Earlier we wrote about a misunderstanding about grace that makes people hesitant about giving it.
“Remember that grace is something you give to the person, not the behavior. When I act independently and make decisions that impact JL without her input, she gives me grace; and she approaches the behavior.” Grace does not ignore a problem or sweep it under the rug or make the behavior okay.
When you do approach the person regarding a behavior that you feel must change for physical, spiritual, emotional, and/or relationship health; how do you do that?
We must really grasp that you do approach it. We’re intentionally not using the word “confront” here because “confrontation” can carry negative overtones for some. So, if it helps you, don’t confront it; but do approach it with grace.
How does that look?
1. The best way to know how a gracious approach would look like is to ask. At a time separate from an event, ask your spouse, significant other, kids, friends, co-workers, etc. what a gracious approach would look like to them. It is likely different for different people. If the goal is to have a relationship that helps everybody grow, then asking about the best way to do that is important.
Just say, “Hey, I’m curious. I just read a post that suggested I ask about the best way that I can approach people with grace if there is something about our relationship that I think needs to change? Can you paint me a picture of how that would look?”
Then, listen. Listen without defense or rebuttal. You are asking to learn.
2. When approaching a problem, connect with them through your good intentions up front. We don’t mean with something like, “I don’t want to hurt you, but…” You probably already know – that isn’t usually helpful. Get your “but” out of your relationships.
Once JL was really mad about something I did. We don’t remember what. It was something that needed immediate attention, so she came to my office. Sidebar, my office was OK for that. Not every office is. Many of you don’t need to go to your spouse’s workplace or distract them with emails, texts, or calls. You need to wait until they are not a work. You probably know who you are.
JL came in and said, “Richard, I am spitting-nails-mad right now. Please help me say this in a way that helps you hear me!” I could tell by her voice that she was mad. I could tell by her words that she didn’t want to appear to be attacking. I turned to face her, and I was able to engage. She connected with me by affirming her good intentions up front.
3. When approaching a problem, affirm your relationship. Hosea was married to Gomer (I know, right?) and she cheated on him. To put this modern terms, Gomer’s cheating ultimately landed her in jail. Hosea loved her and wanted her back, so he went to court and paid all of her fines. When they were together again, he approached her regarding the behavior. The order is important. He redeemed her, then he called her to higher living.
In your approach, you can connect by saying, “Listen, we are okay. Our relationship is safe. This behavior must change, though. How do we accomplish that together?”
By the way, touching each other is a great way to connect as you approach. At least in relationships where touching is appropriate.
4. When approaching a problem, be nice. Just be nice. You’re approaching them because you want them to behave in some healthier way, so you do it, too.
Being nice can be “sandwiching” what you want to change between two things that you can applaud. If you can’t come up with two, that probably says more about you than it does about them. Appreciation along with challenge. Applause. Desire for change. Applause.
You can be nice by running your words through the E-429 Filter. The E-429 Filter is named for Ephesians 4:29 in the Bible. Whether you are a Christian or not, these words are vital for relationships:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).
If you can’t find a way to approach positively, wait until you do.
Being nice can be listening to the other person’s perspective. In most organizations, including relationships, people are willing to make changes, even changes they don’t like, if they feel like they have been heard. You only see things through your own video. Watch what is going on through their video, too.
What’s so aMayzing about a gracious approach? It works!