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How to Respectfully Disagree

2011 April 13

respect

I like to be right. So do you. I mean who really enjoys being wrong? In a world with so many of us believing we are right we are bound to have disagreements (this is especially true for people of faith). Imagine how many church splits could be avoided by simply learning how to respectfully disagree. And on a more personal level, how would learning how to respectfully disagree change your life? What if the next time you found yourself disagreeing with someone you were able to stick to your guns but also make the other person feel respected at the same time?

In this article I will highlight three ways you can practice respectfully disagreeing with people.

But before we do that I want to talk about why this social skill is important. If we don’t understand conflict and how to resolve it then we are a liability in our circle of influence instead of an asset. What I mean by this is that you can either be a peacemaker or someone who is constantly being offended and hurt by others. And I know it’s a cliché but it’s true – hurt people hurt people.

If you want to be an asset to your spouse, family, friends, church and co-workers then I suggest practicing these three things:

1. Honor all people

We know the Bible says to honor all people (1Peter 2:17) but how do we actually do this? Just like love, it’s easier to honor those who honor us. But God has called us to love and honor those who don’t deserve it. If you honor people it’s because you are an honorable person, not because people deserve it.

If we disrespect and make fun of people we disagree with then we are not being honorable. I don’t know about you but sarcasm seems to be my choice weapon when I get in a heated  argument. I can do it in a funny way so I don’t think it’s that bad but I’ve realized it can be really hurtful and disrespectful so I’m trying to cut down my level of sarcasm (what? you don’t expect me to just go cold turkey do you?).

2. Listen with the intent to listen

Are you a good listener? I thought I was until I was tested.

A few years ago I was at an event where we went through a listening exercise with a trained counselor. We split into groups of three and took turns telling a short story. One person was the storyteller, one was the listener and the third would observe.

After my partner finished telling his story I had to tell him what I just heard. I thought I did a good job but found out by both the storyteller and the observer that I missed very important parts to the story and also misunderstood some things too. Everyone took turns storytelling and listening and we learned that we all had room to improve in our ability to listen.

It was in this context that I learned the importance of listening with the intent to listen. This means you listen with the sole purpose of listening instead of just waiting for your turn to talk. It sounds simple but it’s very effective.

3. Be Clear

Part of disagreeing is being able to clearly state what you believe to be true. You do not have to give a 20 minute persuasive speech about why you are right but you do need to be clear. I’ve noticed that people tend to be vague when they fear conflict. Instead of saying, “I understand what you’re saying and this is what I believe…” many people retreat to ambiguous talk.

Remember it’s OK to disagree. Conflict is not a bad thing, it’s just how you go about resolving it.

P.S.-  I was able to write this whole post without writing, “let’s just agree to disagree,” which is a phrase I loathe. Maybe because I feel like it’s a copout and I’d rather argue until we find out who’s right (which hopefully is me).  And I feel like respectfully disagreeing is a more logical thing to do anyways. Well I just thought I’d leave you with that random piece of information about myself.

So what are your thoughts about disagreements? How do you handle them?

About Josh Monen

Josh is born-again believer and the founder of Beyond Cliches. He lives in the country north of Battle Ground, WA with his wife and kids. Josh was a big time drug addict and small time drug dealer before Jesus saved him in 2004. He's been clean and sober since and is still in awe of God's amazing grace.

6 Responses Post a comment
  1. April 15, 2011

    Amen!
    I invite you to follow my blog. Walking in the Light at devotionsbylv.blogspot.com

    • Joshua Monen permalink
      April 18, 2011

      Hi Lv, thanks for stopping by and I will check out your blog. Where are you from?

  2. April 16, 2011

    Hey brother,
    I think “respectfully disagree” is a much better thing to strive for than “agreeing to disagree.” This post really spoke to me about some things I think God is teaching me. I enjoy debating and often when I post things on my blog I’m feeling very strongly about something and I’ve found those things often lead to me being disrespectful and sarcastic. I know that writing or speaking in that way is sinful though and I hope that God will change my character to make me free of that kind of stuff.

    There are a few other things that I think of when it comes to respectfully disagreeing. I think of Paul’s admonishment to the Ephesians to “speak the truth in love”(Eph. 4:15), and also Galatians 6:1 where Paul writes, “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…” I know I have been guilty of often attempting to speak “truth” without any love but I think that ultimately that is worthless although it seems like we are accomplishing something from a fleshly perspective. I also know I have often been guilty of simply wanting to win arguments and not actually desiring the restoration of another Christian I disagree with.

    Well, those are my thoughts bro. Thanks for a posting something I need to be reminded of daily.
    Matt Perkins recently posted..Luther- by the power of free-will none could be saved

    • Joshua Monen permalink
      April 18, 2011

      Hey Matt, thanks for sharing. It sounds like we have a lot in common when it comes to this. I was just thinking of that scripture a couple days ago, “you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” However, my flesh would like to interpret that as “you who are right should beat the other person over the head with the truth.” So, sounds like we are both learning and maturing in “speaking the truth in love.” And I think blogging is a great environment to test out respectfully disagreeing.

  3. Tim Allison permalink
    June 24, 2011

    I love the saying my professor of Hermeneutics would use. “To disagree with honest men, is not to dishonor them”. Daniel Pecota.

    • Joshua Monen permalink
      June 28, 2011

      I like that quote Tim. So did you ever disagree with your professor? :)

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