Wherever you find people, you’ll find disagreements, too. Here are ten suggestions for how to “fight fair” adapted from Danny Akin’s book on Exalting Jesus in Song of Songs. I think you’ll find them useful whether you’re arguing with your spouse or your friends about politics.
- Confront problems as soon as possible after they arise. Don’t let them fester into bitterness.
- Master the art of listening. Make sure you understand what they actually are saying, not what you think they are saying. Don’t rush them.
- Limit the discussion to the present issue. Don’t bring yesterday’s mess into it. What’s done is done.
- Use “I” messages to make your point and express your feelings. “You” messages are attacks. “I” messages are admissions.
- Avoid exaggerations. “Always” and “never” aren’t helpful. They move us from attacking the issue to attacking the person.
- Avoid character assassination. Don’t insult, don’t demean, don’t patronize. Jesus didn’t use these when he talked to the devil, so you probably shouldn’t use them with other children of God, either.
- Use appropriate words and actions for the discussion. Is this really worth yelling about? Does the way I load the dishwasher really need to get my blood pressure up?
- Don’t focus on winning or losing. If you win an argument with a friend, you’ve won a loser. How well does that work? Focus on understanding. What do you really want? Reconciliation and peace.
- Determine limits. Know what “hot-button” topics do nothing except derail the conversation. Vow not to cross them.
- Choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice. When you hesitate to offer it, remember how often you need it. And if you can’t figure out why you would need forgiveness, think harder. Be willing to say, “I was wrong” and mean it.
Do you think any of these suggestions, if implemented, might change how we talk about politics? Might they change how we relate to that hard-to-get-along-with person in our lives?