- Give the benefit of the doubt – Oftentimes I find myself quick to jump to the conclusion of intentionality. By that I mean I assume that the other person meant to cause the damage or hurt feelings. However, I know in my own life there have been times where my actions have had very unintended consequences. When I can, my first response needs to be to give the benefit of the doubt. This doesn’t mean that I excuse sin; after all sin is an affront to God and needs to be addressed. But it does mean that I can at least start with the presumption that the personal impact was unintentional. Very often this allows me to consider first the good of the other person rather than my own inconvenience. (A Scripture verse that serves as a good reminder in this regard is Mt. 6:14.)
- Ask questions – Perhaps nothing allows us to consider another’s perspective quicker than asking questions. This helps correct the assumptions that we made as well as provides us a common ground upon which we can discuss the situation. Perhaps there’s a reason that the trash wasn’t taken out or the meal wasn’t prepared. Until we ask questions the only information we have is our own. When we hear from the other person, we can understand the misalignment between each of our perspectives and come to a mutual understanding of the situation. (By the way – our questions shouldn’t be veiled accusations. They should be asked with the purpose of gaining insight not reaching a conviction.)
- Remember what’s important – In business, we often talk about the “hill we want to die on” – meaning that there are only so many battles you can have so you need to pick which strongpoints you are going to defend. It may be tempting to act like every disagreement calls for the Treaty of Versailles but that is unlikely to be the case. Scripture tells us that when we can, we should overlook an offense. This indicates that not every disagreement needs a confrontation. When we focus on only those things that are truly important, we are likely to realize that many of the things we argue about aren’t. In those cases, it’s often worthwhile to simply acknowledge that your opinions differ, but that’s ok. The goal of our lives, and especially of our marriages, is to reflect Christ well. If that’s our perspective, many other things will fade from our vantage point.
Walking in another shoe’s can be painful because often times we realize that their shoes don’t fit. Our preferences and our presumptions are different, and therefore are more convenient (to us). However, when we can see things through new lenses, when we can start look from their perspective, the situation may not change, but the manner in which we approach it certainly will.