Based on everything I have learned over the last several years, here is my current practice for how to confront someone I love that I am concerned about.
It reflects many painful learnings about what I have found to be counterproductive, but I am sure there is still room for improvement. Let me know your thoughts!
- Try to get myself into a place of peace and security. When someone I love seems to be acting irrationally, my emotionality will only aggravate the situation. The temptation is to fixate on what will reduce my own stress, which usually is not what will actually help them.
- Try (on my own) to get inside their head, to understand the narrative they are using to make sense of the world. That will help me build a mental model of both where their narrative diverges from reality, and what sort of intervention might help.
- Try (with them) to help them feel seen. Create a safe space for them to talk about the area of concern. Seek common ground where I can affirm them. Attempt to gently highlight areas of possible disagreement, to discern which issues they are and are not flexible on.
- Repeat steps 1-3 until I feel I have an accurate mental model of what is going on with themselves, and me.
- Attempt a “conversational gambit” to see if this is an issue we can resolve by sharing information or learning a new technique. Pull back if I encounter unexpected resistance, indicating my mental model was wrong.
- If I am in a position of power or authority over that person, put safeguards in place to limit their ability to hurt themselves or others while I seek God for next steps.
- Ask God what they need to move forward in a more healthy way.
- Pray and ask God to heal them, or show us what we can do to help them be healed.
- If that doesn’t work, ask God where I myself need more grace to see more clearly and pray with greater authority.
- Do whatever God tells me to do.
If necessary, go back to (1) and keep repeating these steps until the relationship (trust) is restored.