I remember my father often used to say “each head is a world” when referring to the different ways of thinking and acting among people. For this reason, communication is an essential element for all human connections. No important and lasting relationship can be established without fluid communication in which ideas and opinions are exchanged. The diversity of perceptions opens the door to healthy relationships through communication, but at the same time creates the possibility of conflict. Therefore, it becomes imperative for all of us, but especially for leaders, that we learn to disagree without offending.
We all have different opinions and ways of seeing reality and we even change our minds with time and circumstances. An opinion is a statement or assertion with fear of being wrong. That is, our opinions reflect what we think is correct, but this does not necessarily mean that it is. For this reason, the exchange of ideas is necessary so that we can understand things better. 1 Corinthians 8: 2 says, “Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” So, it is very important that we are open to the opinions of others because even if they are different from ours, they help us to better understand reality and broaden our horizons.
Obviously, there are also absolute truths that do not depend on the opinion or perception of others. In certain doctrines, for example, we can have the certainty or full confidence that reality corresponds to what we believe or affirm. As Christians, the Scriptures are our basic foundation of faith and conduct and we believe that what God has revealed is not necessarily open to discussion. However, even in these cases we must always speak the truth in love as stated in Ephesians 4:15. Jesus established that love is the essential characteristic that defines his disciples (John 13:35). Sadly, many Christian leaders are known for stating the right thing, but also for their lack of love and compassion for others. In reality, there should be no tension between truth and love but they should be intimately linked. When interacting with others we must always keep in mind that our divine call is to love them even if we do not agree on everything.
In fact, sometimes our lack of love and compassion can be the barrier that prevents us from coming to terms with some who may be unconsciously crying out “I don’t care what you say until I know you care.” We must respect others and encourage them to express their opinions freely. Therefore, listening is essential and perhaps even more important than talking. It is possible that many of our problems and misunderstandings center more on not knowing how to listen. When you feel that the other person is really listening to what is being said, it is easier to reach agreements. For this reason, non-verbal communication is just as important as what we express verbally. Our posture, gestures, eye contact, and tone of voice speak as loudly as our words. We need to remember and emphasize that disagreeing with some ideas or opinions does not mean being against the other person.
Dissent with others is part of life. No two people always think the same way. These differences, instead of being just obstacles, represent opportunities to grow and paradoxically to unite more. When we exchange our opinions in a safe and trusting environment, we strengthen our relationships. Therefore, the most important thing is to start a discussion or brainstorming with the points on which you agree. Once places of harmony have been established, it is easier to begin to address the areas in which there is disagreement and to seek a joint solution. It is normal to disagree, but what is never acceptable is to offend.
NOTE: This article was also published in Spanish at LifeWay’s Liderazgo Transformador.