First, express your opponent’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that he would say, “Thank you, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.” Obviously this forces a person to thoroughly understand his opponent’s ideas. Second, list any points of agreement you have with your opponent, especially points that are more than matters of general acceptance. This pushes us to establish some common ground. Third, tell your opponent what you have learned from them. This would cause us to communicate respect for our opponent. It is only at this point, Rapaport says, that you should proceed to say even a word of rebuttal or criticism.
The arena I have in mind is interpersonal conflict of all kinds. I especially think his ideas could have some serious positive effect on conflicts between husbands and wives. Unfortunately when a conflict arises emotions tend to take over. We start to react emotionally rather than lovingly and reasonably. We tend to become totally focused on protecting ourselves, proving ourselves right and on getting our way. What if, when we have a conflict with someone, perhaps even a spouse, we start by striving to understand their ideas and feelings so thoroughly that we could state them “clearly, vividly and fairly”? Generally one of the most common desires people have in the middle of a conflict is to be heard. What Rapaport is recommending really amounts to seriously listening to an opponent. It comes down to making them feel heard. His suggestion also has the possible effect of causing us to realize that maybe our opponent has a good point. It can make us much more sympathetic to their feelings and ideas.
James 1:19-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” I don’t like to be told that my anger doesn’t produce the righteousness that God wants. I want to be told that it is justified! But if my goal is to glorify God and to do so by loving everyone, especially my opponent in a conflict, then I will accept and obey what James says. I will see my opponent not as an enemy, but as a person to be loved. I must start loving that person by listening to them. Perhaps Mr. Rapaport’s suggestion will help me do that.