The polarity of beliefs and passions in the world right now seems to be shattering relationships left and right. Last week I was eavesdropping on a conversation in the airport where a grandfather was not going to be able to see his grandchildren for Christmas because of how he voted. His children would not allow their children to be around anyone who would vote for a certain candidate. I constantly observe unfriending project declarations on facebook. Boycotts are declared through hashtags and trends.
I wish that I could say I have avoided unfriending and all arguments and that no one has ever been mad at me, but that would not be true. I have said my share of stupid and enraging comments. But I have also learned from reading, research and experience that there are ways you can state your point without losing friendships.
Listening and learning about others’ point of view is important to earning respect in conversations. Stephen Covey says to seek to understand. Do not assume you know the others’ argument. Ask yourself the question, “why would a rational human being think this way?” Most people are not clearly off their rockers. People are influenced often by people they care about or stories or statistics they have heard. Listen for those stories as well. The LGBTQ community is hurting, minorities have been hurt, Christians are nervous about their rights. Passion is usually not driven by empty substance. Recognize good points and common ground with the other person.
Make observations, not accusations. We are quick to judge. Instead of jumping to the accusation, state how you think they feel and ask if what you are observing is correct. When they reply and you do not agree, talk about the issue, not the person. Attacking someone will rarely win them over to your viewpoint (I only do not say never, because you should never use the word never when arguing). Attacking does nothing positive for any argument. Remember that there is another person on the other end of the argument. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! The popular thing to do is attack and polarize, but how about deciding to be part of the solution here and take steps to building bridges rather than bombing them.
Explain how you feel while being respectful to the other person. Remember, a soft answer turns away wrath. I have witnessed many arguments be defused by a soft answer. I guess people think the cultural norm is to attack and when they realize their responder is not attacking they seem to be pretty likely to calm down. Always focus on the friendship in arguments. Do what is right for the friendship. Abraham Lincoln said “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends with them?” When explaining your argument, talk about how something makes you feel; people cannot argue with your feelings. Also, leave a way out for those with whom you are discussing. Do not back people into corners, they may bite.
If you are a Christian, be salt and light. Someone losing their respect for God because of the viewpoints of one of His people is not worth it. Viewpoints come and go but eternity is forever. Also remember that we cannot expect non-Christians to live with Christian standards (even if the good ole USA was founded on those values).
How about listing some more tips below. These suggestions are not end all. There are many tips that can go with this theme.
(Tips from this article come from Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people, the Bible and Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People).