Leadership is not for sissies.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in almost nine years of entrepreneurship, this might be one of the reoccurring lessons I have to face on a regular basis.

I’m not one that looks for confrontation, but I’ve also learned that in leadership, difficult conversations can’t be avoided forever. And many times, the longer they’re avoided, the worse off everyone ends up.

But it’s important that when handling difficult issues, we follow Paul’s advice to Ephasus, and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

So before I follow through with a difficult conversation, here are the five steps I follow to ensure I’m as prepared as possible to speak the truth in love:

1. The goal for the conversation is to help them, not to hurt them. 

Loving instruction helps more than it hurts. It doesn’t mean the truth won’t be slightly painful to hear in the moment, but the reality for that person must mean that long-term, it will help them much more than it will hurt them.

2. I’m not afraid of the truth that needs to be said.

Not all truth is easy to say, but the more vague we are in our communication, the less likely we are to reach a different result. We need to be able to be specific so that the facts can anchor the emotional response.

3. I realize that the right thing said in the wrong way is more wrong than right.

If what you need to say can’t be said in love, you’re either not ready to say it yet, or it doesn’t need to be said. Pray for discernment and wisdom to know which one it is, because truth without love is likely to create more division and rebellion than healing and solution.

4. Bookend the conversation with prayer.

Pray with them before you share the truth, and pray again at the end. God brings a peace to the conversation that your words can’t, and let’s be honest – to do this requires way more of His presence than our own! If the person you’re addressing keeps a hard heart on the issue during prayer, it will probably only confirm there’s more going on than what you’re addressing that will require God’s conviction, not just your correction.

5. Control yourself so that no matter how they choose to react, you could call them on their birthday and not feel awkward. 

One of my favorite truths from Dave Ramsey: If you can’t call someone on their birthday after you’ve had a difficult conversation with them, it probably means you were cruel. So make sure you enter the conversation bathed in prayer with a commitment to control yourself so you could call them on their birthday guilt-free, no matter how they choose to respond.

Please don’t expect your flesh to be able to respond this way. Prayer is required! I’ve been the recipient of an undeserved verbal tongue-lashing from someone who was unprepared for the conversation we had to have. Without prayer, I would have lashed back out, and probably somehow in my mind, tried to justify it. However, because I entered the conversation after hours of prayer, I was able to remain calm, and I even took notes as she accused me of many things to pray over so I could see if even behind her hurt and anger, there were truths for my own life that I needed to examine. I assure you – that’s a result from prayer alone!

Any other tips you would add on how you prepare yourself to speak the truth in love? Leave them in the comments.