Leveraging The 3-Step Confrontation Process of Jesus

Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.    - Isaiah 42: 1-3 (NLT)



Miscommunication occurs daily, if not hourly, in the workplace and marketplace. Lack of clear and concise communication leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding, which can ultimately lead to confrontation.


Being a humble servant of God does not mean that you can’t be confrontational. The key is in the way in which you manage the situation and communication with the people with whom God leads you to confront. Notice that I emphasize here that we should be led by God in our confrontations with others as opposed to just being led by our personal agenda, anger, frustration, or other selfish inclinations of the flesh. If God desires for you to confront someone, He will send the Holy Spirit to encourage and guide you. And He will provide the appropriate opportunity and setting.


When we are led by God to confront someone, it’s critical that we approach confrontations in a respectful manner regardless of whether we are dealing with a person who is a colleague, a superior, or a subordinate. Galatians 6:1-10 encourages us to always seek to do good for one another and to confront or restore others with a spirit of gentleness.


Let’s consider our professional coach and role model, Jesus, as an example. Jesus was confrontational. The Bible describes numerous incidents in which Jesus confronted others, but He was confrontational in a respectful way that conveyed kindness, wisdom, and compassion. For instance, when Jesus corrected Martha in Luke 10:38-42, He did so in a kind and respectful manner, saying:


Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.

- Luke 10:41-42 (NKJV)


In this passage, Jesus employs a 3-step process when He confronts Martha by:


  1. Acknowledging feelings and concerns (e.g., “you are worried and troubled”).


  1. Sharing godly wisdom and advice (e.g., “only one thing is needed”).


  1. Offering practical suggestions and examples to enhance learning (e.g., “Mary has chosen that good part").


Another example of the confrontation methods of Jesus involves times when He healed individuals who were blind and mute and cast demons out of others. The Pharisees had the audacity to question His ability to cast out demons without the help of a demon (Matthew 12:22-30; Mark 3: 20-27)!  In this particular case, Jesus used the same approach He used with Martha in confronting the Pharisees to help them understand how preposterous their questions and comments were.


In confronting the Pharisees, Jesus, 1) acknowledges their feelings and concerns by asking them a number of thought-provoking questions such as, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”(Mark 3:23, NKJV).


He then, 2) shares godly wisdom with them regarding the fact that “if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:25-28, NKJV).


And Jesus, 3) offers practical suggestions to the Pharisees by clearly affirming truth and encouraging them to be with Him and not against Him, because this is the only way to achieve forgiveness and eternal salvation (Matthew 12:30-32).


How might you leverage the 3-step confrontation process of Jesus with your colleagues, employees, clients, customers, suppliers, and others?


Jesus is a living testament of the effectiveness of following God’s communication guidelines and confronting others in truth, peace, and wisdom. His three-step confrontation process of acknowledging feelings, sharing wisdom, and offering practical suggestions worked for Him, and it will work for you. It is a wise, straightforward, and powerful approach that you can use during those times when God leads you to confront others.


The Teapot Technique of Management

Have you ever used an old-fashioned teapot to make tea? You put water in the pot, turn on the stove, and put the pot on the burner. When the water comes to a boil, the pot “whistles” as the steam comes out through a narrow opening in the spout. (Think back to the childhood song, “I’m a Little Teapot.”) While this is a good way to make tea, it’s a terrible way to manage people. What do I mean? Far too often when we notice a performance issue, we don’t address it immediately. For example, a staff member was assigned to create a presentation, and it has several mistakes in it. This annoys you and causes some inconvenience (time spent correcting the mistakes), but you decide that it’s not worth the time or the drama to talk to the staff member. Instead, you just hope that the problem will magically correct itself. And in that moment, you put your “teapot” on the burner.

Over the coming months, there are several similar incidents – a poorly written email is sent to a large audience, some important details are overlooked for a major event, the person isn’t prepared for staff meetings. And each time, you decide to “wait until next time” before having the performance conversation. The temperature in the teapot continues to climb.

Until the day when the staff member makes one more mistake, and you reach the boiling point. Except your “boil” doesn’t come out as a nice “whistle” from the teapot – it erupts in a way that seems completely out of proportion for the specific incident. And just like mis-pouring the hot water from the teapot, one or more people will probably get scalded.

What’s the alternative? Obviously, don’t wait for things to reach the boiling point, but what does that mean in practice?

  • Some issues are truly minor, and don’t need to be addressed. In those cases, you need to let them go rather than putting them in a mental file of grievances against a staff member.
  • When something truly is a problem, address it as soon as possible. Then you can deal with the specific concern in a meaningful way, long before the boiling point is reached. This practice of “real time coaching” is lacking in most organizations.
  • Be aware when your internal temperature is rising. If you feel that happening, take the time to assess why you’re upset and find ways to release the “steam” that you’re feeling.
  • Learn how to have these conversations. It is possible to redirect performance in ways that are non-threatening and productive.

So be honest, at least with yourself: Is the teapot technique part of your management style? If so, how is that working for you?