UNITY - Lesson 3 - Understanding Even if You Don't Agree

If you find yourself in a disagreement or quarrel with another person, your first step should be to try to understand him from his point of view.


We are here to improve our relationships with others

in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.


Lesson #3

Understanding Even If You Don’t Agree

If you find yourself in a disagreement or quarrel with another person, your first step should be to try to understand him from his point of view.

What usually happens is that both parties start by trying to convince the other side to change position.  “I am right and you are wrong,” is the way to summarize the first step that is commonly used.

When you try to understand why someone thinks the way he does, you might find that you agree with some of the things that he is saying.  You might find that you weren’t aware of all the facts.  You might find that the other person has made assumptions that you can easily show are not valid.  And, when you show understanding of the other person’s position, he will usually be more open to understanding your position.

Some people are concerned, “If I try to understand the other person’s position, he might assume that I agree with him.”  Of course, he might.  But then you can explain that even though you understand him you still disagree.

When you understand why a person thinks, speaks or acts the way he does, you will find it easier to work out peaceful solutions.  The very act of being understood will usually influence the emotional state of the other person.  He is likely to become calmer.  Being calm, he will tend to become more reasonable.

To gain greater understanding, say, “Why do you think the way you do?”  When the person does start explaining, listen to what he has to say.  There is often a strong tendency to keep interrupting him and arguing.  Remember that your goal is to understand him.  Wait until he is finished explaining before you present your own case.

(Reproduced from "Harmony" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, with permission of the copyright holders,
ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

Story:  (based on a true story)

I was ready to hang up my shadchan hat for good.  Meeting with man after man throughout the day, hearing their endless requests for 'Miss Perfection' was really starting to make me crazy.  Were these guys anywhere as perfect as what they felt they needed in a wife?  Did they think about how they looked, what they said, what they wore and how they acted in every interaction like the hundreds of young ladies I had come to know, love and respect?  But today, I just thought I’d lose it.  Today’s young man walked in, gave the same speech I knew I’d hear and then ended with, “I know you may not like this but I’ll only go out with someone if I’ve seen a photo of her first”.  “What?” I blurted out.

“Please don’t judge me.  I know it sounds very arrogant but it’s the only thing that makes sense for me.”

I politely ended the meeting, thanked him for coming and told myself, “Well, THAT boy will never get a date from me!!”  Who do these boys think they are?  Besides, is it really even appropriate to be looking around at photos of these young women?  I felt personally violated on their behalf.

I spoke with another shadchan friend of mine later that night about this and she said she felt the same way at first.  But, after really sitting down and hearing one of these guys out, she came to understand their point of view.

“Listen, most of the guys that I meet come in from out of town.  They have to take off time from college, Yeshiva or work.  They are at the beginning of their careers and money is often very tight.  Their vacation days are limited.  Sometimes they are extremely self aware of their likes and dislikes.  Most of them are aware that it could be offensive but when I actually sat down to listen and hear what they had to say, I came around to understanding their predicament.  I can’t say I necessarily agree but I am more understanding if they do make the request and don’t jump to judge them.”

Well, maybe she had a point.  It didn’t feel good always thinking negatively about these young men and the truth is with a son coming of age in a year or so, I was a bit more understanding.


Discussion Questions:

Do I have anything to lose by agreeing that the person I disagree with “has a point"?

What can we do to calm a person down to be open to listening to our side of an argument?

When a person can’t understand the viewpoint of someone else, what character trait is a person lacking?


Stretch of the Week:

When having a disagreement with someone, be sure to state what you think the other person is saying.


Stretch Of The Week