A difference of opinion? Listen before you respond
When Jesus was asked which commandment is greatest, he said we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. And, he added we are also to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-39).
Yet, isn't it true that finding a reasonable and respectful and loving conversation about almost any topic is a rare thing? Especially for controversial topics, the discussion seems to lack a sharing of information, but rather deteriorates into name calling and character assassination.
At a convention I recently attended, I went to a workshop with the title of "Engaging in Courageous Conversations," by a speaker named Juli Stratton. She gave us so much information regarding several aspects of having deep conversations with people who have ideas very different than our own while still maintaining the dignity of each person.
Among her many suggestions regarding conflict transformation, she spoke of the importance of not using the time that your conversation partner is talking to prepare your next comment. The conversation is better if we truly listen without preparing our next response. It is good to listen with curiosity and the intention and desire to learn more about the other person's perspective, listening to understand, not for agreeing or disagreeing.
Stratton offered three questions to ask when we find ourselves uncomfortable in a conversation. "Tell me more." "Help me understand why this is important to you." "Help me understand why you don't agree with a particular idea." I invite you to try one or more of these three lean-in-and-ask questions the next time you find yourself in a hard conversation and see what happens.
Katherine Brick serves as the pastor for the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
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