In a new blog post this morning, author Donald Miller provides what he calls “Five Principles of Civil Dialogue” to help people when they have disagreements.
I’m still digesting these this morning… but I thought I’d throw them out to you all so we can contemplate together. See what you think. Here’s the short version:
1. The truth is not MY truth, it’s just truth.
Miller says it’s important to remember that your ideas not not really YOUR ideas. You got them from somewhere. Chances are, you’re not the first person in the world to think the way you do. And in many cases, we stumble on our ideas from other people, things we read, our experiences, etc. The point: Don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t agree with the way you think on a subject… they’re rejecting your idea, not you. (I don’t think Miller is saying that there is no such thing as truth (at all)… I think he’s saying that we all take proprietary ownership of thinking that our way is the only or right way. That’s something totally different.)
2. Methodology is part of the message
Don’t be condescending or defensive when you have the conversation. People see right through that. And the response is rarely ever what you’re hoping for.
3. Without a loving heart, I am like a clanging cymbal.
You have to genuinely care. Miller cites that the Bible says we talk with not just our tongues, but also with our hearts. That’s true. Don’t be the resounding gong. It will get you nowhere.
4. The other person has sovereignty.
I often tell my kids that you can change other people, you can only change yourself. Don’t try to pressure or bully someone into your point of view. It won’t work. And when you walk away, realize that the other person still has the right to view your topic of your disagreement differently. There are some great Biblical examples of people that didn’t see eye to eye, and separated. While that’s not the goal… sometimes it happens.
5. I could be wrong.
When we enter these types of discussions with people that don’t agree with us, our goal is clear: we usually want to win them over to our side of thinking. But what if we’re wrong? An important part of listening is… (wait for it)… listening. Listen to the other person’s perspective. Be open to their point of view. Maybe it makes sense. Maybe you didn’t have all the information, and what they tell you will make you reconsider your decision. And perhaps you’ve been dead wrong the whole time.
I hate being wrong. We all do. But I’d much rather admit it early than to continue being wrong over a longer period of time in front of more and more people. Because usually when I’m wrong, it becomes pretty obvious to those I’m trying to lead.
So… who do you have that disagrees with you today? How can you Biblically and civilly remedy the situation?
Maybe these 5 ideas starters will help.