What happens when you are in a conversation with someone and they share a belief, or statement that clashes with what you believe or where you stand on a topic? What is your first response? Are you quick to defend or correct? Do you go silent? What could you do to keep the conversation going, which will also keep the relationship going?
This was the topic of our recent lifeGroup leader retreat. We actually took the time to practice having conversations and trying to respond in a new way. Here are some of the statements that we tried.
“Tell me more.”
“Seems like you’re really passionate about this, can you help me understand?”
“You sound really sure about that, what’s led you to that conclusion.”
“That’s interesting. I’ve never heard that perspective before. Where did you learn about that?”
We do not have to debate or argue or correct people who think differently than we do. We can seek to understand, listen and learn where the person is coming from. Listening, and asking clarifying questions will keep the conversation going. If you disagree on one topic or one issue, there may be several other areas you have in common with the person.
We all learned an important lesson at the leader retreat as we took the time to role play and practice having conversations. Practice helps. The first time it was very uncomfortable. The second, third and fourth times were a little easier. Practicing in a safe place gives us confidence for when we are in a real situation.
Perhaps you could practice in your own lifeGroup using the above statements, or you could practice as a family. Conversations with clashing viewpoints can be very difficult because there is usually a lot of emotion and passion attached. Take a deep breath, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to speak and the heart to listen and understand. Respond like Jesus did. He did not condemn. He did not condone. He cared. Surprise people with grace and love the next time someone says something you disagree with. Hopefully the conversation will continue and you will build trust in the relationship. Practice listening, you might be surprised by what you learn.