I appreciate the dynamic conversations we’ve have on the blog. The breadth of perspectives is thought-provoking, pushing us to think beyond our Christian assumptions.
I’ve got a suggestion on how to improve the discussion even more: Use the “sandwich” technique. Here’s how it works.
When you find yourself disagreeing with either the original post or one of the comments, first find some common ground, something you agree with. When you write your comment, start by affirming the person you’re responding to. Then state your disagreement, trying to do so without impugning the person. Finally, end with affirmation. So you’ve got an affirmation-disagreement-affirmation sandwich.
Here’s an example.
“I appreciate, James, how you make Scripture a priority, how you look to it for truth, and how you are really wrestling with its meaning here. I have to disagree, though, on your interpretation: That verse is more an invitation to marry than a command to do so. Such an interpretation speaks of the Lord’s grace, and not so much of His being a dictator. See what I mean? Anyway, I look forward to the ensuing discussion!”
By using this technique, the person you’re interacting with doesn’t feel like you’re dismissing them out of hand, but that you’re indeed interested in understanding them and furthering a conversation. And so the discussion continues, perhaps with one or both sides being able to improve their understanding of an issue.
I’ve found this technique very helpful in my marriage. If I sense a bit of “attitude” in my wife’s response to someone, I might first let her know that I can see how difficult the situation is, that the other person truly has done or said something offensive. And then I encourage her to consider how her heart is reacting; perhaps it’s a bit too harsh or judgmental. And then I try to again affirm that resisting such a negative attitude is hard work, and that I understand why she might find herself grumbling.
What do you think? Is it do-able? Or is it merely psychobabble? I personally think it’s very helpful, and do hope to see more of it used around the blog. Thanks for thinking about it with me!
I’m finding the conversations on this blog to too-easily spiral into ad hominem attacks and close-mindedness. And, frankly, that gets old.
I might post a provocative blog, and then within moments someone finds one little thing that they disagree with. They may agree with 95 percent of it, but they knee-jerk against the precious nugget they’ve unearthed that they find emphatically unacceptable. Like I’m supposed to congratulate them on their insightful discovery of my incompetence and heresy!
And so they jump right in: “Ted, you ignorant slug. Your exegesis is repulsive, your allowing heretical comments to be published is irresponsible, your mandating pet ownership is intolerable, and your use of the term “sandwich” is insensitive to those who don’t like sandwiches. Badly done, Ted. Badly done.”
And the conversation is poisoned.
The next comment may either pile on with “this is just creepy talk” or may rebuke the first comment with “you’re a communist, and probably not even a Christian.”
Soon we’re talking about the relationship between honey bees and Marx, and how so-and-so is a Hitleresque mud baby. And I just feel like deleting the entire thread, turning off comments on the blog altogether, and even shutting down the blog.
I remember one post I’d written over on Boundless, in which I expressed my passionate admiration for an aspect of God’s creation. And, predictably, the very first comment was a downer. It began “I cannot stand …” and ended with “we have some theological differences.” That is not the way to win someone over to your position.
Your communication doesn’t have to be this way. You could try just a bit harder to say something nice once in a while, rather than always hunt for the negative. You could count to 10 before pressing the “post” button and count to 20 before entering in those hard-to-read letters on the confirmation page.
So I implore you: Shape up or I’ll ban all of you. I mean it.
© Copyright 2014 Ted Slater.