There is a natural tendency in all human beings to become defensive if challenged. Nothing is more threatening than when we are challenged on an emotional level. We can easily feel hurt or angry when our internal emotional opinion on a concept is criticized or challenged. A good example of this is teenagers and their music. Deep meaningful conversation often can leave us feeling exposed and emotional. As we engage in meaningful conversation, we need to watch how we respond and process our responses correctly.

When we have meaningful communication we will be expressing our own attitudes, feelings and conclusions regarding a topic. We need to understand that our opinion is not who we are. Our opinion is the current conclusion we have reach though our experiences, what we have learned and the conclusions we have come to. We need to allow our opinions and conclusion to be challenged if we are to grow. Ernest Renan put it this way; ‘Our opinions become fixed at the point we stop thinking.’ We need to keep a clear distinction between who we are and how we view things.

Here are a few pointers to help us guard our heart, not become wounded and withdraw from meaningful communication.

  1. It is important to know who we are as a person. Our self-worth and value is important in dealing with how we respond. If we have poor self-worth we will usually respond from feelings of inadequacy.
  2. We need to know we are loved and that our relationship is not threatened because we have differing opinions. If we can believe that their desire is for our good we can deal with differing opinions constructively.
  3. We should feel comfortable about our opinions being challenged. If they say something that is different to our point of view, we can re-evaluate our opinion. If we think our opinion is still valid, we can discard their opinion – we don’t ‘discard’ them. We can agree to disagree. They don’t have to agree with our opinion just as we don’t have to agree with theirs. What we need to be careful of is the feeling that they must agree with us.
  4. We need to nurture a curiosity and a desire to understand our partner. When we can begin to understand the reasoning behind their thinking we are then more able to explain the way we see things in a manner they can understand.
  5. It is helpful to know which are those areas within ourselves that we may find threatening. This helps us firstly to communicate that we find this topic difficult and secondly, we can then begin to explore why we feel vulnerable and threatened. Often we may discover that our fears are unfounded. This cannot happen if we continue to avoid a topic.
  6. It is always helpful to ‘get inside their shoes’, to try and experience emotionally what others are saying. A good example of this is the emotional feelings of women disliking the toilet seat left up. If, we as men could for a moment, experience their feelings of distaste, we would never leave the seat up.
  7. We should never take comments personally nor see them as an insult or an attack on our character. Rather we need to view comments as a platform for personal growth.
  8. By allowing ourselves to be challenged we can develop, learn and discover something new.
  9. It is useful to explore our own opinions and attitudes. We need to discover why we see things from a particular viewpoint. Have we just adopted a position because that is how we grew up? Is that viewpoint still valid today?
  10. One of the tasks of being an adult is to accept that we may have an incorrect or distorted opinion. None of us are perfect and we have all grown up in a broken world and as a result developed distorted viewpoints. Having a distorted viewpoint is not the end of the world but remaining in ignorance can be disastrous.
  11. Lastly, when it comes to differing opinions, we should always ask the following question: ‘How does this impact the future and eternity’. If is has no real consequence, it is not that important. If it does have a consequence, we need to explore it and find a resolution, not matter how difficult.

We need to remember, the one we are communicating with is also experiencing as much as we are. It may be an act of enormous bravery for them to discuss topics that make them feel threatened, so do not miss the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation.

To all my readers, thank you. Have a blessed Christmas and an enjoyable New Year.