Why do we so often want to find the exception? It’s as if we need an out. Even if we agree on the basics of something, we often respond in conversation with “yes, but…”
It’s not always a detrimental direction. We need to make connections. Issues and challenges don’t exist within a vacuum. The conversation flows differently, however, whether we respond with “yes, but…” or “yes, and what about…?” The latter invites conversation. It invites engagement and consideration. It invites broadening perspective and understanding. The former holds up a hand as an interruption. It points to the fault. It pauses the conversation. It invites defensiveness.
That’s not surprising. Most of the time, when we use “yes, but…,” we are not trying to invite conversation. We are protecting ourselves, proving our perspective, sticking a foot in the doorway, so we can justify leaving at any time. We are both disengaging and pointing to fault at the same time. It is self-protective and passive…and we all do it.
We need to know why we’re responding. We need to check our motivations. If we’re engaging with someone—in person or online—to prove our point and not listen, we’re not actually engaging. We’re simply stating or posting. If we’re not willing to listen, don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t listen in return. Perhaps you’re okay with that, explaining you don’t care what others think. But is that actually true? Why would you respond if you don’t care? Why express an opinion when you have no interest in what others think? Are we willing to give up all influence and connections because of our self-centeredness? If the answer is yes, what happens when there are no more connections, because no one clones or completely mirrors us? Even the people we have similarities with us today will find differences tomorrow. Not to mention, differences challenge and grow us. We cannot grow in a vacuum or in an echo chamber.
If we truly want to engage with others, we need to be better with conversations. We will not master communications ever. We will make mistakes. Our willingness to learn from them and try again is paramount. What works with one person doesn’t work with another, and it’s not always the other person’s fault. Communication requires responsibility if the intent is to establish and maintain a healthy, productive relationship. If all you want is to associate with someone and claim a connection that is shallow at best, the disengagement approach might work. Finding exception might work. Keeping a foot in the door behind you while pointing an accusatory finger at the person in front of you might work. After all, every approach in communication works. Each approach simply works in different directions and results.
We can express our opinions while differing with others. We can be respectful, patient, and humble. We can extend compassion and understanding while standing our ground. Claiming the truth of our faith does not require us to be insensitive. Quite the contrary. Being bold in faith does not include being arrogant and mean. Boldness in faith is authentic, persevering, and gentle. Communicating within faith is loving, honest, and self-controlled. We must get better at communicating, because it reveals our faith and reflects the character of God. We often reflect character that is instead confusing at least and contradictory at worst.
We don’t need an exit strategy. We don’t need to stick our foot in the door as we fire rebuttals at others. We need to pause, take a seat, and engage with others in a way that encourages and builds us both.