Building Trust Through Disagreement

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by Dan Weyerhaeuser, Senior Pastor

Trust is such a powerful act. When you trust someone, you open yourself to them. The more you trust someone, the more you bring them into the vulnerable parts of who you are. You allow them know and speak into your core thoughts and feelings about yourself. You bring them into a place where they can share love and good with you where it matters most.

Of course, such a place of influence is also a place of vulnerability. Someone that close can also bring harm to you. It is out of a fear of such harm that we are guarded. If we think someone might harm us, we keep them out of our most vulnerable places. If someone feels threatening, we “defend” ourselves by keeping them at a distance.

This can be especially true when we are in conflict with another person about something important. When these conversations come, they can feel threatening, and when we feel threatened, we decrease our trust in them. But what if conflict could actually be an opportunity to increase your trust in someone else, and them in you? What if disagreement created the context for increased trust more than agreement? How could this be?

We have been learning a strategy for communication we call R.E.A.D. When we are talking with someone, we want to Repeat what they say until they agree we got it. We then want to do our best to label the Experience the person must have been having in the story they are telling or position they are taking and feel it with them. Often this means taking a stab at what it must have felt like to be them. Next, we want to Affirm every true thing we can about what they have said. Nowhere is this more important than when you are in conflict with someone else.

Check this out: When you are in a passionate discussion and the other person is talking, do you suspend your own argument completely and enter into what the other person is saying, “trying on for size” their point? OR are you formulating your response, hoping to overcome their argument with one final, devastating statement?

Put another way, when a person you disagree with is talking, are you listening, or re-loading?

Here’s a question: In an argument, are you aware that two things are going on? The first is the effort to persuade the other person of your position. The second is what is happening in your relationship. I promise you, if you will put the “re-loading” aside and actually listen, your conflict will become less conflict and more redemptive dialogue.

How do you do that? By not only Repeating what they have said, and summarizing their Experiences, but also be Affirming every true thing they have said before you respond with your view.

Most people you talk to are reasonable. If they disagree with you, odds are good they have valid points. You may not end up landing on the same page, but if you are just re-loading, you are giving no credit to true things that matter to them. If you respond to their statement with a statement of your own, you have simply convinced them that you see no validity to what they see as important, with REDUCES influence, not increases it. Bad move.

Recently, I was in a discussion that became a passionate exchange. Afterwards, I went back to my friend and said, “I didn’t do a very good job listening to you. I’m sorry. There is a lot of truth in what you are saying.” I tried then to name every true thing he’d said and validated the those truths. This does two things. First, it does keep before you both valid considerations. Your friend probably has some good points, and whether you end up agreeing with them or not, you want to take those true points into account. And you definitely want your friend to know you heard them. Second, it tempers your response so that when you do finally respond with your view, you are not talking like you have all truth… just some of it.

Here’s my challenge: Next time you have a conversation with someone, try to affirm every true thing you can before you respond with your own position. “You are right that _________________.” you might say, or “”I get why you come to that conclusion,” and then explain why. Only after that do you follow with, “But here is what I am still wrestling with…”

Affirm every true thing someone says, and you will become better friends, even if you don’t agree.

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