Listen, even if you disagree. To display annoyance or anger at another’s differing views is to fulfill what Proverbs says, “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an offense.” There are two sides to any subject when it comes to opinions and convictions. We can’t avoid disagreement with people, nor with views that might offend. Many variables are involved in a person’s life: culture, religion, political ideologies, parental upbringing, good/bad experiences—everyone has a grid through which they filter their own opinions and convictions. To get angry or offended over disagreement accomplishes nothing but aggravation. To listen patiently to an opposing view doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with it. You can agree to disagree, without being disagreeable. Or just say, “Now that’s an interesting take on that,” and move on.
Don’t spend time in your mind thinking about your response before the other has finished. Ever experience a conversation like this? Someone presumes they know where you’re going and never let your finish your thought. It’s obvious they didn’t hear a word you said. Instead, their response ignores what you’ve said and goes nowhere near the subject at hand. Or they’ll say something to connect the dots of what they partially heard you say, and not connect the dots at all. Don’t be that person. Let others finish their thought first, and you’ll be more informed to respond accurately and not look like you’ve checked out. James says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak.”
Don’t react in anger by blowing up or clamming up. Again the Proverbs says, “A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm (Proverbs 12:16-NLT).” To clam up is the first step toward blowing up. When an offense or insult comes from someone, whether they’re aware of it or not, you have one of two choices: forgive and overlook it, or nurse it. Address it early on before it simmers and boils long enough to blow and spew lava and a gray ash cloud over everyone and everything. If you react to a conversation angrily and internalize it (clam up), you’ll rehearse it and feed it until the next offense comes along and cause the whole thing to explode. Better to kill the anaconda while it’s still in the egg, than to nurse it and feed it until it eats you alive.
Don’t play “couch doctor” by diagnosing a problem or interpreting behaviors. Most conversations take place at informal settings such as restaurants, homes, and the like. They’re usually informative—catching up on each other’s lives; creative—exchanging ideas over a shared passion; or instructive—as pertaining to receiving direction or a debriefing from a superior on a project or operation. But when someone comes to you as a friend, burdened by something they want to unload and dump on you—they might just be looking for someone to listen and encourage them. Nothing more. They’re not looking for you to fix things, bail them out, or advise them on how they could’ve handled things differently. They’re not asking if “the doctor is in.” They just want someone to commiserate with their pain. I wonder how often Charles Schultz’ Peanuts character, Charlie Brown, left Lucy’s cardboard psychiatric office with more confusion than encouragement. She felt good about her “opinions” and the acquired 5 cents. But is that really what Charlie needed?