We quickly make the leap from “I disagree with you” to “I can’t respect you” in our society. Whether it’s societal issues like welfare or taxes, or ecclesiastical issues like baptism or style of worship, there are ways to talk about our disagreements in a way that honors God and others. Tim Muehlhoff, professor of communication at Biola University, joins us to talk about how to communicate with others in a way that puts unity above our differences, whatever they might be.
What are the keys to navigating a disagreement? Tim details the process.
1. Start with points of agreement, and move to the areas of disagreement.
2. Be mindful of your tone and word choice. “Frustrated” and “angered” have two different meanings and will elicit two different responses from your listener.
3. Listen to understand, then listen to evaluate. Ask questions about what the other person believes, what makes them stand on that perspective, and then move to evaluating their perspective.
4. Never attack the person, even though you debate his or her idea. It’s important to value them as a fellow image-bearer of God even when you believe the perspective is flawed.
5. Make it easy for someone to join your perspective.
6. Stop during a heated discussion and affirm what you like about the other person. Know that the close of a conversation is just as important as the beginning of it.
Tim suggests preparing your own heart before a tough conversation – seek God’s wisdom and strength. Consider fasting to refocus on the goal of the conversation. Remember that your self-control is honoring God and others; you may walk away from a discussion feeling that you weren’t heard or respected, but your commitment to a grace-filled conversation is what will be most important.