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7 Rules on How to Have a Good Disagreement

7 Rules on How to Have a Good Disagreement

America has gone out of control.

Civility, respect, and honor are disappearing.  Anger, vitriol, and assault have become the norm. 

Here are my 7 rules on how to have a good disagreement:

1.  LISTEN. 

  • If I stop listening, the fight is on.  I hear every sentence through my filter of misunderstanding.  Seek to understand.

  • Give a person you disagree with “three" sentences for every “one” you speak.  That means you are focused on listening and understanding rather than fighting. 

2.  LOOK.

  • Look into their eyes.  The eyes are the window of the soul.  Their eyes will communicate their anger, hurt, fear, or pride. 

  • When your eyes meet, they can see your calm, caring demeanor (if you have it!).  You can literally calm them down with eyes that never show anger or fear.

3.  AGREE.

  • Is there anything you can agree on?  Even a tiny point?  Start there.  Hardly ever is someone 100% wrong.  They are seeking to communicate a grievance, even if it is in the wrong way.

  • If you listen carefully and hear a true statement, comment on it immediately.  Build a common humanity before you build a common opinion.


  • Lower the volume.  Loud words inflame “fight or flight” emotions.  When you intentionally lower the volume, their volume will get lower.

  • I have intentionally gone to almost a whisper before and watched the immediate effect on a loud disagreement.  Try it!


  • When you repeat the last few words of a critical sentence, they immediately realize you are listening.  Pick an importance sentence and insert this:  “So, what I’m hearing you say is ___________.”

  • Each time you do that, you are convincing them that you are genuinely interested in their point of view.  After several times of repeating, ask them if you can respond. 

6.  HONOR.

  • Many disagreements are not over issues, but over dishonor.  When a person feels they are being “talked down” to, they react.  When their personhood, race, gender, religious belief, financial status or educational status is belittled, they fight.

  • Look past the outside and see a person in the image of God.  They deserve respect.  They deserve a hearing.  Peter said it this way: “Honor all men.”

7.  LEAVE.

  • If none of the above work, leave.  It’s hard to have an argument by yourself.  Step away and don’t turn around.  Don’t threaten to leave, scowl, or make a gesture.  Just walk off.

  • Wait for a better time to have a discussion.  Tell them you will call them back later.  Nothing is solved when a person is incoherently angry.

The issues we have in America are huge.  There are multiple viewpoints.  We can win an argument and lose a nation.

Let’s calm down.  Physical violence, profane name-calling, social media rants, accosting people in restaurants is for people who have no civil control…and thus no contribution. 

I can treat you like my fellow American.  I can die for you if necessary on some remote battlefield.

I love you, now let’s learn to disagree.

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