Let’s face it, not everyone is going to agree with you. Or with me. Even Jesus couldn’t pull that off. But does disagreeing have to lead to hatred, hostility, and name-calling? There’s a better way.
When faced with disagreement, no matter the subject, here are six helpful steps to a better way to disagree. I believe these are actually modeled in Jesus’ own record of disagreements with others.
- Ask why. The other person has reasons for believing what they do. And while it can be tempting to assume those reasons are stupid or ignorant, why not give the other person an opportunity to clarify? Asking why is a great way to foster better understanding, even if you still disagree.
- Listen. The reason it’s hard to listen is we’re often formulating our own response while the other person is talking. But there will be time to formulate our response later. The only time to really listen is when they’re communicating. If we’re honest, most of us know when someone is truly listening to us. It feels so much different than when they’re simply waiting their turn to present their case.
- Remember that you’re on a journey. You arrived at your position/beliefs over a period of time. Probably most of your life. There’s a good chance that you haven’t always believed/thought what you currently do. And there’s even a chance you may one day change your beliefs. This step helps create a respectable level of humility as we engage with others.
- Remember the other person is also on a journey. I’ve had countless conversations with people who are on similar journeys to my own. They’re simply at a different place on the journey. Let them proceed at their own pace. Give them time and encouragement to think, reflect, engage, and even possibly come around to your beliefs. It won’t happen overnight.
- Remember that you’re created in God’s image. When your beliefs or your personhood is attacked or belittled, rest in the knowledge that your value is unaffected by the words and accusations and beliefs of anyone else. God made you, and God gave you value and worth. Whether you’re in the right or in the weeds, you are still an image bearer of your Heavenly Father.
- Remember the other person is also created in God’s image. When you’re tempted to think or say unkind things about the person who disagrees with you, when you want to challenge their intelligence, or their morality, or their culture, or their track record, remember this is a person who is deeply loved by your Heavenly Father. Imagine someone saying those same unkind things to your precious child…would you want to hear that? We can be honest and even disagree without destroying or dehumanizing someone made in God’s image.
Six simple steps to avoid being a jerk. Simple doesn’t mean easy, but it does mean we can choose to implement them. What will you choose the next time you face disagreement?