Think, for a moment, about arguments you might have witnessed or been involved in. The first person makes a statement that is offensive to someone else and they fire back, usually adding a put-down or barbed comment. At its worst, this kind of response calls for some mind reading, “You say that because you are a sexist, racist, homophobe or anti-Semitic” and so on. Then the real fight begins and the subject of the beginning conversation is lost. All that remains can be just a grudge.
St. Paul talks about a “dividing wall of hostility.” I can’t think of a better way to describe these encounters. How can we keep this from happening? A simple way to break through this wall is to use our God given gift of
What if, the next time someone says something that angers or frightens us, we use that anger or fear as a cue to ask a question instead of making our own point of disagreement (even more loudly or forcefully)? We could ask something like, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or “Can you tell me why you think that?”
Such a response opens windows instead of slamming doors. When you and I understand why a person thinks something, we may discover a new and even refreshing point of view. We might even learn something!
And more – when our children say something that irritates us, especially if they are right in their criticism, we tend to say, “Don’t talk to your father (mother) like that!” How would that child’s world change if we were to ask, “Why do you say that?”
We could actually learn something and that child might grow in attitudes towards conversation rather than controversy, confrontation or polarity.
So, as my daughter Heather said to me (when she was about five) “Listen like you want to learn something,” and ask the question.