I absolutely loathe “sticky” situations, do you?
I am extremely uncomfortable with confrontation, with discord and often even with strong differences of opinion.
I have been known to wilt like yesterday’s lettuce when others have forceful points of view that don’t match up with mine. Often, rather than speak up for what I believe in, I change the subject to safer ground that contains no invisible mine fields!
When just the hint of disparity arises on the horizon of friendship, I quickly smile with glossed-over eyes, swallow hard and then move the conversation into safer, less troubled waters.
I just want everyone to be sweet … all the time … every day … to infinity and beyond!
Why can’t we all just agree to agree?!
I have dear friends who are able to calmly state opinion, preference and contrast without the least bit of animosity. They are able to smoothly bring understanding as to why they adhere to a certain point of view other than the majority opinion.
I know other people who stir up trouble everywhere they go, rarely listen to someone with an opposing thought and use passive-aggressive techniques to intimidate the listener. Oh! How I don’t want to be that person!
However, at 60-something years young, the lessons that I have learned during 6 decades of living may have qualified me to offer wisdom to difficult conversations.
I do have some acquired wisdom in the important arenas of motherhood, of marriage, of friendship, of Biblical application, of setting priorities, of service and even … of … gulp … politics!
What actually needs to evolve is a maturing in my thought process and in the way I deal with potentially divisive conversations. It is necessary that I am the one who internally grows up enough to realize that my opinions matter and that as long as I share them in a compassionate and non-volatile manner, people actually might listen to what I have to say!
And if they don’t listen, that’s O.K., too.
One of the most vital aspects of pursuing communication that deals with uncomfortable topics is to first of all determine, “Is it worth it?!”
“Is it worth it to bring up this sticky subject?”
“Is it worth it to make this one issue into a potential deal-breaker?”
“Is it worth it to possibly wound our relationship with this difficult encounter?”
“Is this a minor issue or a major issue? Is it worth it?”
I have developed a few “Rules to Live By” when it comes to dealing with fractious conversations and differences of opinion. Perhaps my guidelines will enable you to bring peace to your challenging conversations and unity to your valuable relationships.
1 – Listen more than you speak. Spouting, ventilating, and talking incessantly never brings unity. Listen with your heart and not just your ears.
2 – Repeat back what you have just heard spoken. “So, what I hear you say is that the reason you believe this is because ….” Take the time to clarify the other person’s point of view as well as their motivation.
3 – In a gentle tone of voice, with absolutely no animosity involved, it is now your turn to state your opinion. Try to keep emotional inclination out of your voice and out of the words that you choose as much as possible. Don’t “over talk” but choose a few meaningful words that explain who you are and why you have chosen to believe this particular philosophy.
"A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
4 – Always encourage the one with whom you are having the crucial conversation. Tell them what you appreciate about them and how thankful you are for your relationship.
“You are one of the best moms that I know!”
“I so appreciate your wisdom and insight.”
“I love being your friend and I know that even though our opinions might differ, our hearts are in unity!”
“Thank you for being so open and candid with your point of view.”
5 – If the conversation is with a brother or sister in Christ, always close the conversation with prayer. Ask God to bless your relationship, to bring wisdom to the issues discussed and unity in the days to come.
6 – If the difficult exchange has been with someone outside of the household of faith, tell them that you will be praying for them and that you value their input.
“Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. As you know, I am a believer in Jesus Christ and so I pray about everything in my life. I will be praying that God gives us clarity to understand one another and that our friendship remains intact and warm regardless of contrasting points of view.”
7 – Follow-up the painful exchange with tangible evidence of friendship. Send the person a kind e-mail, take them out for coffee, bless them with a bouquet of flowers or speak kindly about them in front of others. It is so true that actions really do speak louder than words so allow the actions of your life to bring blessing to those who differ from you in judgment and in viewpoint.
Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!