Arguments are unpleasant. They make us angry, devolve to shouting matches, and usually don’t actually solve the problem that started them. If we never listen to why the issue was important to the other person, then we’ll never be able to resolve the conflict. We might stop shouting eventually, but the conflict will still sit below the service.
So instead of arguing, we should try listening instead. But that’s not easy to do, since we’re usually just waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can get our point across. Fortunately, this article has some helpful tips for how we can be better listeners:
When we actually stop and listen to what the other person is really saying, we often find (1) more common ground than we anticipated and (2) what the person really wants is something we are glad to give them. When we listen to each other in this way, we move from having winners and losers in our relationship to seeking the common good.
That’s right: as Christians, we’re not supposed to fight to get our way, we’re supposed to work to help others. And Christians have believed since the very beginning that “when society benefits as a whole, its individual parts also benefit.”
Even going back to the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to Jews who had been taken into exile in Babylon and told them seek Babylon’s prosperity and pray for the people who exiled them, because when Babylon prospers, so will they (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Talk about a hard thing to do. It’s as hard as “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-48).
So let’s practice attentive listening and working for the common good. Ask someone who disagrees with you about an issue on why they feel the way they do. And don’t just wait to jump in with “corrections”; listen respectfully.
It can be hard to do, but remember the words of James: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19-20