The goal of healthy communication is understanding. So often we don’t have healthy conversations because we think the goal of communication is agreement.
For the good of a relationship both people have to work hard at putting themselves in the other person’s shoes. You can disagree with someone and still be friends. It’s possible. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
I love what pastor Danny Silk says, “Most often in communication, the goal is agreement. But if our goal is agreement, then what happens when we disagree? I must persuade you to agree with me, or vice versa. But unfortunately, persuasion has a way of slipping into pressure, manipulation, and control.”
If agreement is the goal of conversation when we disagree we will forget about our connection together and separate on different sides of the battlefield.
This is not easy. I love to be right. I love when others agree. It’s easy for me to find my worth in my opinions. So when someone disagrees it feels like a personal attack.
Think about it this way. Have you ever had your feelings dismissed?
Have you ever shared a vulnerable feeling only to have it dismissed?
Here’s the scenario. The lights go out because your house loses power in a storm. Your spouse says, “I don’t like this. I’m feeling scared.” You are an adult. If there was no fear in the light there shouldn’t be any fear in the dark. In your logical brain this un-rational fear does not make sense. Your response is, “You are being silly. There is nothing to fear.” What your spouse hears is, “Your feelings don’t matter unless they align with mine.”
Or you could replace this situation with driving. If you are driving down the road and your spouse communicates a feeling of fear because of your driving, it is easy to become defensive and dismiss their fear.
Dismissing others’ feelings is easy to do. If it’s not my opinion it can’t be right. If it’s not my perspective it can’t be right.
So we push to help others see the situation from our side. If the person doesn’t respond like we want we push more. Eventually we become angry because the person’s perception is wrong and they won’t submit to seeing the world through our lens.
Whenever we dismiss the feelings of someone else what we are communicating is, “I matter, and you do not.”
Sometimes I’m not a good listener.
This morning I was reading about the riots in North Carolina. I don’t care if you are white, black, or polka dot this should break your heart.
From the safety of our computers I see a lot of different narratives being shared. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of listening.
When my black friends share posts from their perspective I am reading to listen. I don’t agree with the narrative of all the articles I read. But the goal is not agreement, it’s understanding.
So I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of my black friends.
It stinks to share a feeling only to have it dismissed.
When I write a post I write from a pastor’s perspective. Last week I shared about some fears I have about finishing strong. There are currently 369 comments on that post. Some of them are great. Some of them are full of crazy. And a few of them dismissed my feelings because they disagreed.
One comment, among other things, said, “Sorry, I have been there, done that, etc. as a part of a pastors family, I repeat……..big freaking deal. Go work a real secular job and come back and try to complain about how hard you have it and you are burnt out. Zero sympathy here. Most pastors have no idea what their average parishioner face out in the real world every day. If they did, they would quit all the whining.”
This person left multiple comments on the post. From their perspective I was whining. From their perspective my opinion wasn’t valid. My thoughts were dismissed because they were different.
Now, he may be right in his assessment, but we aren’t going to have a conversation. He went on the attack and dismissed my feelings. Even if my feelings are wrong, they are my feelings.
To dismiss how someone else feels communicates that they do not matter.
So, as a white pastor I’m trying to listen and not dismiss the feelings of my black brothers and sisters.
I won’t agree with everything, but the goal is not agreement. It’s understanding.
Understanding doesn’t mean one opinion is right and the others are wrong. Understanding doesn’t mean I don’t support our police officers. I love the police officers I know. They are incredible people and give above and beyond. Understanding doesn’t mean I agree with everything someone does.
I can try to understand even when I can’t relate.
I don’t have a lot of answers.
I do have two ears. I’m trying to listen by understanding.
The temptations is to devalue someone when you disagree. If I’m right and they are wrong they have less worth. This goes for any conversation, you cannot have a healthy relationship if you aren’t willing to disagree and still value the worth of the other person.
So best I can I want to listen in order to understand. At the end of the day even when we disagree we can still be friends. I matter, and so do you.