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Confronting Defensive People

7 steps to better conversations with tough talkers.

"I need advice," Dave began our conversation. Dave is like many pastors who call Metanoia Ministries for counsel about how to handle conflict in their church.

Dave told me about Tom, a founding member and retired businessman in his church. "He acts like he is the boss and I am his employee," Dave explained, "constantly telling me what I did or said wrong."

"Well, how do you respond?" I asked.

"I'd like to tell him off," Dave admitted. "But I'm trying to extend grace. I pulled him aside after service last week and said I'd like to talk to him. I mentioned that his words to me were discouraging. Tom immediately became defensive, telling me he is a 'straight-shooter.' He said that I needed more 'backbone,' or I would not last long as pastor.

"This morning Tom sent me an e-mail warning me that he will be dropping by later today to discuss 'serious concerns about my preaching and leadership,'" Dave told me. "My stomach is tied up in knots. I know I need to confront Tom, but he has a history of ...

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