A side profile of a woman in all black seated on a stool

At the start of the pandemic, which seems a lifetime ago, I couldn’t be happier. My whole family was together under one roof, with no place to go. As a mother and fervent nest-builder, this felt as a bonus opportunity to kindle togetherness. 

Our normal life was so very different from this with a traveling husband and four children who were about to fly the coop. Now, in a not-so-normal COVID-19 world, they were all home with me. 

That’s how it all started, in March. It was spring, for goodness’ sake! In the mornings, we would drink coffee outside with the hummingbirds and baby chicks and talk about everything and nothing. Laugh, tease, go deep and enjoy the vastness of new green around us. 

At lunch, we would make omelets and sit at the kitchen table. During the evenings, we enjoyed dinner together and talked about our days. On some lucky nights, we would play a game of Catan with a cup of tea. Oh, the memories we created. While the world was in turmoil and loneliness and anxiety was inevitable for many, I counted my blessings. 

While the world was in turmoil and loneliness and anxiety was inevitable for many, I counted my blessings. 

The days grew longer, and summer emerged. Summer brought the dryness of the Californian land. With that, our conversations changed ever so slightly. 

I overheard my husband on the phone one day, talking to a friend about the dynamics in our family. “We learn to harmoniously disagree together,” he explained. 

“Harmoniously disagreeing,” I thought, “that was one way of putting it…”

It sounded much like Gwyneth’s “conscious uncoupling” to me, a clever way of saying you’re in trouble without really saying it. That’s what it felt likethose hot summer months. Trouble. Breakfast, lunch and dinner became intense, while the six of us argued fiercely and disagreed enormously.

“But even in that, there is togetherness,” I told myself. 

After all, I want to raise children with minds of their own who can disagree respectfully and listen with an open heart. That is the ultimate crown to my motherhood, I always thought.  

I want to raise children with minds of their own who can disagree respectfully and listen with an open heart. That is the ultimate crown to my motherhood.

“It’s all in the practice!” I tried to convince my (weary) self.

Fortunately, fall swept in with all her distractions. The colors, the elections, the pumpkins and the change in temperature. I welcomed it all. 

A gentle politeness and lighter conversations replaced the arguing, while we learned to pick our battles. Fall gave us time to regroup and catch our breath, as fall often does. 

The early nightfalls announced the coming of winter, and I appreciated our warm house, the fireplace and the time to reflect on the year, the historic 2020. I counted my blessings, once more. Not because it was easy, but because I had discovered something valuable. I learned there is power in harmoniously disagreeing and in love—true love. 

You see, if I disagree in harmony, my message to the other person is, “I hear you. I see you, and while I disagree with you, I still want to know you.”

“I hear you. I see you, and while I disagree with you, I still want to know you.”

By doing so, I create a safe place. Safe enough for me to quietly ask in return, “Do you hear me? Do you see me? Will you listen to me, too?”

I create a place that is safe enough for us to connect. That’s the power and the love. On one of those winter nights, I wrote it all down. I wrote down the rules to create that safe place.  

I call it the R.U.T.H., so I won’t forget. (The fact that it abbreviates into my name is a complete coincidence…)

R is for Reason

Decide on the reason for the conversation. Is your goal to connect or to persuade? Think about this because the way you approach the conversation will be completely different. Keep this in mind, too, when things get tense or difficult. Remind yourself of your reason.

When it comes to topics of the heart (everything personal and emotional), the goal is often connection. Naturally, you like others to agree with you. We all do, but the focus is connection.

Ask yourself questions like, “I can try to manipulate them, but will they still be honest with me?” or “If I persuade them, would it damage our relationship? Is it worth it?” 

Agreement can be the reason for topics such as, driving 90 MPH on the freeway or eating junk food all day. These are the conversations where you need to convince someone. Here I say, go for it! Do your homework, be prepared and don’t hold back!

U is for Understand

To understand somebody, you need to listen. To listen, you need to be quiet. This can be so very difficult. Believe me, I know, but I also know that the other person is more likely to hear you when he or she feels heard. So shush! And seek to understand.

T is for Truthfulness

When agreeing harmoniously, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid confrontations and live without a backbone. Educate yourself, be opinionated and speak truth. However, do so with a gentle voice and an open heart. 

H is for Honest

Be honest with yourself. Could it be that you’re wrong? What does that mean? Are you creating a safe place? Can you let go? How? Or why not? 

That’s it. The R.U.T.H. of harmoniously disagreeing.   

You could—of course—disagree with me, but I wouldn’t, if I were you. 

(Kidding. But not kidding.)

Why is it important to adjust your expectations in communication? What is the difference between communicating to connect and communicating to persuade?

Image via William Hereford, Darling Issue No. 10

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