Whether it’s a holiday celebration or just the clanking of forks from a meal shared together, there are always lively discussions when a large group of people break bread with one another.
Arguments arise as our emotions take charge.
But maybe there’s a better way. Maybe learning to take even just one step back to understand another person’s perspective could completely reshape our relationships and meals together.
There have been many Thanksgiving meals and Christmas celebrations where someone got upset and walked away in our extended family. And I am sure there are many other friends and family that don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue, especially with such a tumultuous political climate in the world today.
How to see an opposing viewpoint with validity instead of internalizing it as a threat.
First and foremost, let me tell you that what you think, see, and feel are all valid emotions. They are opinions worth having. And what you stand behind is valuable.
Therefore, so is the opinion and viewpoint of the person next to you, down the street, and in the next state over. But here’s the thing. As a Christian, I have found that no person is won to the Gospel through an argument. Nor has almost anyone ever been won to a cause by a fist fight or heated argument.
So even if what you stand behind (no matter how important or trivial it might be) causes passion to rise inside of you, there are some ways to approach it with loving and constructive conversation instead of destructive and hateful attitudes.
The best thing we can do with our children, our spouses, and anyone talking to us is to simply listen.
The moment we tune out, we don’t get all the information. We assume and infer. (And you know what assumptions make? An *ehem* out of you and me.)
Something I learned from formal debate in high school is that if you fail to even address every point of an argument or position, then you concede it. You actually make their point stronger, not your own. So not listening doesn’t help you understand. Nor does it help you respond if a response is indeed necessary.
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Take a deep breath before responding.
Last night I yelled at my husband, walking into another room to slam the door behind me.
Because I didn’t take a deep breath.
I apologized this morning for my failure to handle the situation appropriately.
My hope is that you can take a deep breath and respond with grace rather than have to come back with a sincere apology. And that simple breath can give you 10-30 seconds of extra thinking. It also gives your brain oxygen which literally helps you think more clearly.
Fill your mouth with food when you can’t keep spread kindness (or even walk away respectfully after excusing yourself).
When all else fails, just take a bite.
Chew for a long time.
And if you cannot contain your tongue or rage within your soul, politely excuse yourself from the table.
Because it could save a relationship from needing to be salvaged.
Acknowledge diversity and the other person’s viewpoint.
No matter which route you take when having uncomfortable discussions with friends and family at the dinner table it’s important to remember to have grace. It’s important to remember that a world without diversity of skin, of age, of experience, or even of thought would be quite a boring place.
Our viewpoints stem from our experiences and our personal lives. We get triggered by different things. And we are passionate about a wide array of causes.
So learning to respond instead of react is paramount to ensuring we don’t burn bridges in our relationships.
In case you need help with conflict resolution, here’s a simple downloadable chart.
The image below is a preview. The full chart spells out “RESET” and is for both parties involved in a conflict. Simply input your email address to have an instant download in your inbox!
More relationship resources and teachable moments
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!