As Christians, we are called to be loving, even when we disagree with people. But voicing disagreement in love can be incredibly difficult, especially online. When we interact with others on social media, we are unable to see each other’s body language or hear each other’s tone, so a simple disagreement can turn into a heated argument quickly. This is why it is so important to be careful how we disagree with others. A disagreement is an opportunity to irreparably damage a relationship or an opportunity for the Spirit’s fruit to be seen in us. So, here are 10 tips for disagreeing in love.
1. Use Relational Language
The most important aspect of any conversation should be relational. The goal is not to win an argument or to show them how ridiculous they are being. The goal is eliminate something that is dividing you from the other person in order to make the relationship stronger.
Because the goal is relational, make sure to use relational words. Call them your brother, your sister, or your friend. Express your desire to maintain, strengthen, or restore your relationship. Consider how the apostle Paul expressed his gratitude for his relationship with a church before he corrected their behavior (see 1 Corinthians 1:1-10).
Example: “Brother, I am so thankful for our friendship and I want this conversation to draw us closer together.”
2. Express Agreement
There are very few conversations in which you will have no common ground with the other person. In fact, most of the time, you will agree on more than you disagree. Rather than fixating on your disagreement, ask yourself where your perspectives overlap and agree with one another. Notice how the apostle Paul does this masterfully in the city of Athens (Acts 17:22-33).
Example: “I completely agree with you on the point that you made about…”
3. Offer a Compliment
Especially when we are disagreeing with someone on social media, our body language, tone of voice, and non-verbal cues are completely hidden from the other person. They cannot hear the compassion and kindness in our voice. This is why we must verbalize our respect, esteem, and admiration for them.
Every person in the world has admirable qualities and if you do not admire anything about someone, you either hate them or do not know them well enough for your opinion to matter to them. So, if you can’t find anything to compliment, you should likely refrain from comment.
Example: “You seem like an incredibly thoughtful person and I really admire your passion for this subject.”
4. Give the Benefit of the Doubt
Regardless of how well you know this person or how well you think you understand their position, there are countless assumptions being made. In the absence of information, assume the very best about the other person, their motives, their intentions, their attitudes, and their goals.
Paul says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). It is not loving to assume the worst about someone, refusing to hope in them or believe in them. If it is possible they have good intentions, then believe and hope they do.
Example: “I’m sure you and I have the same goals in the situation; we just see things a little differently.”
5. Consider Them Superior
This may be the most difficult one, but also the one that is the most distinctly Christian. Christians are told to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). The Greek word translated “more significant” (ὑπερέχω) means to be in a superior position. We are to treat others (even those with whom we disagree) as if they were our superiors.
After all, no one appreciates condescension. You don’t like when others are condescending to you, so never be condescending to others. Be humble and speak “up” rather than “down” to others.
Example: “You have likely studied this topic far more than I have and I could very well be wrong on this.”
6. Request Consideration
We cannot demand others listen to our opinions and thoughts. We cannot force them to hear us out. All we can do is humbly request they consider our position. In fact, it’s often better to express disagreements as questions rather than statements.
Example: “Is it possible we could also think of the situation like this…?”
7. Show Gratitude
From the beginning of the conversation until the end, with every comment you make, express gratitude. They are not obligated to listen to you or engage with you. They have every right to ignore or dismiss you, but they are taking time to have a conversation with you. For that, you should show your appreciation.
Example: “I really appreciate you hearing me out. It means a lot to me.”
8. Wish Them Well
Chances are, you would never walk away from an in-person conversation without at least saying, “Good bye.” Unfortunately, we tend to walk away from online conversation without any conclusion or well-wishes. We leave the conversation smoldering and the person wondering where the relationship stands.
Even if the disagreement itself is unresolved, try to leave things on a positive note. Continue to reinforce all the love you have for the person and the hope you have for resolution of the issue.
Example: “I can’t wait to see you soon, so we can catch up.”
9. Remove the Sarcasm
The wonderful thing about having a conversation in written form is the opportunity to edit yourself. Before you send or post anything disagreeable, take out anything that might come across as rude, snarky, or sarcastic. Try to read it from the other person’s perspective.
Remember, “Love is patient and kind…it is not arrogant or rude…it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). If anything might be taken as arrogant, rude, irritable, or resentful, take it out. Make it abundantly clear that even though you disagree, you have every intention of being patient and kind.
10. Consider Deleting
Even after you’ve drafted a letter, an email, a comment, or a private message, you may still need to consider deleting it or saving it for later. Maybe this isn’t the right time, maybe you’re not the right person, or maybe this is not the right platform for this conversation. Maybe a phone call, or an in-person conversation, might be better.
Telling someone you think they are wrong is sometimes necessary, but always risky. Ask yourself:
- What are the possible benefits?
- What are the possible consequences?
- Is this something that even needs to be said?
- Is this the right way to say it?
I hope and pray these tips can be helpful to all of us as we strive to communicate in love.
I love you and God loves you,