Based on a recent article I wrote for Catholic Exchange, I was invited to briefly discuss how to argue (perhaps heatedly) with someone, even someone close, without severing the entire friendship.  Let’s be clear about something before I begin, however: Some people do not want to work out problems.  They allow their assumptions and poor communication skills to cloud their ability to work through conflict.  If you find that a friend has dropped out of your life, and even after you have made concerted efforts to rectify the wrong, s/he remains silent, move forward and pray for that person.

Thankfully, most people are amenable to the suggestion of hashing out differences.  You just need to know 1) whom you’re dealing with (e.g., in terms of temperamental differences), and 2) the best approach to conflict.

Sometimes the best approach is to listen (usually more often than not), while at other times it’s best to respond (with charity).  Handling conflict can be broken down into these three rudimentary components:

  1. Pray
  2. Listen
  3. Respond

When you pray, ask God to give you wisdom and to open your heart so that you can hear the other person through any expressed anger or irritation.  We often become defensive, rather than reflective, listeners when someone is hurling the verbal assault.  It may well be that he isn’t angry at you personally, but just needs to vent and feels comfortable with you.  Always begin and end with prayer.

Listening involves much more than hearing.  When you practice reflective listening, you are listening with the heart.  To do this, you must access empathy and use it to listen to any ulterior emotions lingering behind one’s statements of thought.  Anger, for example, might be expressed inappropriately through foul language or name calling.  Despite the temptation to retort in defense, pray silently, pause (while the person is still yelling), and respond, “It sounds as if you are really upset about your job layoff.”

Responding should always come last.  We should never dispense unsolicited advice.  Only give your opinion if it is warranted, appropriate, and explicitly asked for.  Some of us may have trouble keeping our mouths shut, while others of us struggle to speak up.  It’s important to discover a balance between the two and respond with as few words as possible to get your point across.  Always speak calmly and charitably, avoiding insults and personal blows to the ego.

Here’s the conversation on Relevant Radio, which was a little over 10 minutes in length:

Text Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.