“I TOTALLY disagree with you!”
When I hear that statement, delivered with heated flair, I know it’s time to apply some wisdom from Proverbs:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
We can disagree without being disagreeable. We need to disagree on issues where truth is being opposed, twisted, or maligned. But when we’re involved in a discussion with a friend, family member, coworker, or just an acquaintance, we need to approach disagreements with wisdom.
7 Tips for Diverse Dialogues:
- Listen well.
Don’t assume you know where your opponent is going with his argument, listen to him. If you’re preparing your rebuttal while he’s talking, you won’t hear what he’s saying. Demonstrate respect for your opponent, even if you don’t agree with his position. Thoughtfully receive what he’s telling you and consider it slowly before jumping in to respond.
“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” (Proverbs 11:12)
- Practice Empathy
Consider where he’s coming from: Does he have experiences that are vastly different from yours that have shaped his perspective? Does he have factual information you need to consider? Consider why he adopted his position and open up dialogue about what originally led him to that perspective. Seek to understand your “opponent” in order to minister to and bless them.
- Seek Common Ground
Look for a point of agreement in your discussion and build on that. Partner with your opponent to come to mutual agreement where you can and allow him to see that you aren’t his enemy.
- Hold Opinions Loosely
Hold your opinions loosely. Opinions are just that—your personal beliefs. Opinions do not rise to the level of absolute truth. The only thing we should hold unwaveringly is the revealed truths of Scripture. And even when we hold to those doctrines, you should be fiercely loyal to the truth, but never arrogant or hostile because of it. Humble orthodoxy is the way of Christ.
- Provide Winsome Counters
Present your opposing view in a manner that doesn’t insult your opponent. Don’t resort to emotional theatrics or deliver loaded messages. In a respectful tone, deliver your thoughts in a way that invites your listener to investigate other options to his position. Gently challenge your opponent to consider whether he is open to the possibility of thinking differently on this topic.
“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Prov. 12:26)
- Don’t Burn Your Bridges
Don’t present your opinion in such a way that it will alienate you from your opponent. You need to maintain a “respectful opposition” in order to continue your relationship. Offering opinions in a way that crushes a tender heart, or incites anger in an opponent, does not benefit anyone.
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)
- Guard Your Heart
After a discussion where extreme differences in opinion have been uncovered, guard your heart from taking up an offense against your friend. Remind yourself that your strongly held opinions have sometimes been proven wrong and take that into consideration. Value the relationship and the individual more than you value winning them over to your point of view. Consider ways to bless your opponent and look for opportunities to revisit the dialogue in a positive manner.
How do you approach difficult dialogues with those who hold different opinions from you?
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