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Over the past few years and the present, we find ourselves in conversations and debates with loved ones who have opposing views on life, politics, and religion. God created us for relationships; this relationship snafu has to be a place where we learn and grow. Here is a thinking process that you might be able to relate to that I recognize in myself. 

The first thing to understand is that our foundational beliefs are deeply interwoven with our identity. When we hear someone communicate something opposite of the core beliefs we hold near and dear, we feel personally attacked. 

Next, we will try to discredit the person communicating the opposition. We will look for any reason to tell ourselves why we cannot trust this person or their words. We are now in attack mode. You are trying to kill me! Or at least trying to kill my ego. 

The third state is where we get tribal. We will gather many other people we know who agree with our core beliefs. This will form a human hedge around us. We are now even more protected from being “wrong.”

If we make it to the final step, we will reflect on the new information and allow ourselves to be mentally challenged. We can separate ourselves from our feelings and core beliefs and the other person from theirs.

Dr. John Gottman has devised an acronym for how to listen in relationships. It is ATTUNE. It has been beneficial for me to practice and may help you as well.

Awareness: Being aware and thoughtful of the speaker’s emotional temperature.

Turning Toward: Being emotionally available and willing to engage.

Tolerance: Recognizing, validating, and respecting the other’s POV.

Understanding: Understand that they are coming from a different perspective with different information.

Non-defensive: Repeat what you hear back to the speaker for clarification. Non-judgemental listening and controlling internal emotional states allow you to be a safe listener.

Empathetic: Be able to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

So far, I have only managed to implement “A.” Still, as I get better at ATTUNE, my relationships will grow, my ego will shrink, and I will not have to mentally karate chop anyone with different information and beliefs.

Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfishness or conceit, but with humility consider others as more important than yourselves, looking out not only for your own interests but also for the interests of others.

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Brianna Lehmann

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