Hard conversations eased with simple agreement

difficult conversation

In this time of extreme opinions and divisive conversations, I find it helpful to ask myself the question, “With which part of this can I agree?” Of course, it’s not always possible. There are times when conversations are so contentious that you need to use other tools. But often, this strategy can be very helpful.

College student examples:

Comment: Majoring in History is foolish. You’ll never get a job in that!
Response: Yes, some people do say that. That’s not my opinion, but I can see why you think that.

Comment: University of Academics is the best school in the country! You have to go there!
Response: Yes, University of Academics is considered an excellent school and I am pleased I was accepted there.

Agreement in conversationsHealth related examples:

Comment: Low fat diets are better than low carb ones. If you want to lose weight, it’s the only way.
Response: Yes, I know a lot of people have succeeded using that strategy.

Comment: Unless you exercise in this particularly trendy way, you are wasting your time!
Response: Yes, I know a lot of people have succeeded using that strategy. I find my way works well for me.

Religious examples

Comment: The church is full of hypocrites! I don’t want to associate with people like that.
Response: Yes, the church is full of real people and some of them act hypocritically. No one is all one thing–all good or all bad–though, and I enjoy knowing all kinds of people.

Comment: People who worship God in This-Way-That-Is-Different-From-My-Way are going to burn in hell.
Response: Yes, people worship God in many different ways. I figure the decision about eternity is God’s to make, not mine. Anyway, I’m too busy trying to love people as Christ directed to figure out eternal life.

In time, you can begin to disclose more details of your opinion, but start by naming something you can affirm; then move into the more difficult aspects of the conversation. Of course, you may need to return to this method frequently throughout the discussion.

What other tips do you have for improving communication during difficult conversations?

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.