Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions
One of life’s tricky problems is in the area of disagreements.
I know a few people who love to engage in a conversation which becomes a fiery disagreement – but by and large most of us don’t especially like having a disagreement because of its potential to turn nasty. And they often do – especially in a family blow-up when the results can be most upsetting.
We can’t always think the same or have the same attitude. And when these issues collide, there is the potential for a sharp, and sometimes intense, disagreement. That’s the way life goes sometimes – and there’s no point trying to deny this. It happens every day. Yes, life would be a lot easier if you could just ignore things you didn’t want to deal with. Unfortunately, usually when you ignore problems, they get worse.
I think there are a few tips worth exploring today because conflict will come into your life. There’s nothing more certain. If you’re working, it will happen at your work place. You can’t work closely with others without clashing at times.
There is a way to disagree respectfully. I know it’s easy to say, not so easy to put into practice. You don’t have to back down and capitulate your opinion to avoid an argument. You do need to express your opinion, without having to back down. You still want to have self-respect. But don’t make it personal. This step is the hardest one to pull off, so we’re starting here.
Attack the Opinion but Not the Person
When dealing with personal opinions, even the thickest-skinned can get offended. That’s why it’s important to attack the opinion, not the person.
“I don’t agree with that opinion,” is a whole lot easier to swallow than, “You’re wrong! You have a dumb idea!”
Remember to put a little linguistic distance between the person and their opinion.
Listen and try to understand. Often times, even the craziest opinions have a kernel of truth. Look for that kernel. For example, this person might be trying to solve the right problem; they’re just taking the wrong approach. The kernel of truth is that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Perhaps you can direct the conversation towards that problem and get away from the crazy solution they are presenting.
Also, stay open-minded. Their so-called “crazy solution” might actually make sense if you let them explain the whole thing.
And make sure your own thoughts are clear. While it’s important to listen and stay open-minded, make sure you explain your side of things. Remember, the goal is to respectfully disagree, not just respectfully listen. If you don’t agree with someone, make sure you say that. If you have an alternative idea, make sure you present it. If you don’t, you run the risk of the other person walking away thinking that you actually agreed with them.
For resolution to happen, both of you need to feel like it’s the right outcome. If you can respectfully disagree with someone, you’re a lot more likely to find that. Even if we disagree about everything, we can still be kind to each other.
Learn Not to Get Bitter Over Disagreement
We need to learn how to navigate through life not getting upset because others don’t agree with us. Surely we can disagree without becoming bitter and twisted and disagreeable.
The Bible gives some valuable teaching here. Think about Paul and Barnabas. Over in the Book of Acts, we read that Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement about John Mark as they were getting ready for their second missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark with them, but Paul said no. John Mark had abandoned them before, and he didn’t trust him on this trip. So Paul and Barnabas argued and eventually they split up. Paul and Silas went one direction and Barnabas and John Mark went the other. But the thing to see here is that even though Paul and Barnabas couldn’t work together anymore, they could still love and support one another. They were not bitter enemies. They still had the same goal: to bring people to Christ. They were still in relationship with each other, they still loved each other, they just disagreed on this one issue.
In his book Unoffendable, Brant Hansen makes this point. He wrote, “Forfeiting our right to anger makes us deny ourselves, and makes us other-centred. When we start living this way, it changes everything.” Along those lines, Katherine Miracle recommended, “When you have a disagreement with a loved one, I challenge you to say, ‘I love you more than this argument’”. You don’t have to win every fight.
And the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:8-9 “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” (MSG)