The very notion of disagreeing well feels like an oxymoron. To be described as disagreeable seems an insult. We do all we can to avoid and sooth conflict and argument, and yet conflict is an ever-present reality in our lives.

Ever since the garden, as God declared it is not good”, conflict has been part of our story and has driven us forward. Without opposition, there can be no momentum, no dynamism. God acknowledged the problem of Adam’s loneliness, which led to the creation of Eve, and the diversity of God’s nature was revealed.

But conflict can also be a cruel disrupter and destroyer of relationships. We all disagree. Whether it’s as simple as what to have for tea or centuries-old intractable geopolitical conflicts, we have a propensity for opposing opinions. And when we voice opposing opinions, it often results in greater problems and broken relationships. So, how can we get better at disagreeing well?

1. Recognise the personhood of the other


It is easy to forget there is a person at the other end of an argument. Every person you encounter is loved by God, made in His likeness and bears His image. When we disagree, it can often become a matter of who’s right, or how can I get want I want? When seeking to honour the other person, Jesus reminds us to move towards them with compassion. Ask God to help you remember this person is beloved and cherished by God.

2. Establish what you are disagreeing about

Many disagreements escalate because neither party fully realises what the other is proposing. Ever since Babel (Genesis 11) our ability to communicate clearly and understand each other’s perspective and meaning has been confused. 

A conflict, in its simplest form, occurs when two or more parties want different and incompatible things. But, finding out what the other person wants, or needs, can help you discover solutions where everyone gets what they want, but in ways they hadn’t considered.

Therefore, listening is the spiritual discipline practiced when dealing with disagreements — listening to the other, God and to one’s motivations, with honesty.

3. Ask better questions

Questions can shut down or open up a disagreement. A good question pushes conflict forward, uncovering previously unrealised solutions. According to author Martin Copenhaver, Jesus asked more than 300 questions. He used questions to lead people to a place of discovery and honesty. 

But questions can be fickle things. Asking how’ or a why’ puts the responder in a defensive place, forced to justify or account for their position. Whereas what’ allows them to articulate and expand their position without the pressure of scrutiny. Consider beforehand what questions you might ask to clarify what is being discussed and which paths could be explored to arrive at a solution.

4. Never underestimate the power of an apology

Apologies can be disarming and restorative. They needn’t be a sign of weakness, but often can be a sign of bridled strength that recognises our need for grace. Apologies are difficult, and we can be poor at apologising; I’m sorry, but…” is not an apology, neither is I am sorry if…”. Thanks to the composition of the English language, it’s easy to confuse an apology with the off er of condolences. I am sorry that I…” is a good place to start when making an apology.

5. Welcome the Prince of peace

Philippians 4:6 reads: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by
prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Peace is a gift from God. It is the hallmark of His kingdom and comes by His grace. Whenever you are facing a disagreement, pray for God to flood the situation with His presence and His peace. And do not worry, our God is faithful.