The best books to avoid an argument with someone close

Tim Muehlhoff Author Of Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church
By Tim Muehlhoff

The Books I Picked & Why

Argument Culture Moving From Debate to Dialogue

By Deborah Tannen

Book cover of Argument Culture Moving From Debate to Dialogue

Why this book?

If we want to avoid unproductive arguments with people we care about, then we need to know why arguing has replaced dialogue. Today, many experts describe our current communication climate as the argument culture where we respond to differences of opinion as if we were in a verbal fight. How did this toxic climate come to be? Though written by a linguist, this accessible book allows us to see how argument replaced healthy communication in the realm of education, politics, and religion. What I find most helpful is how the author helps us diagnose if we enter conversations as a debater—only interested in winning—or as a learner who exhibits both convictions and humility. And, if we are only interested in debate/winning how can we change our disposition toward people who matter to us that includes empathy and compassion?


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Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate

By Roger Fisher, Daniel Shapiro

Book cover of Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate

Why this book?

Even if you have the best intentions heading into a conversation, powerful emotions can easily derail the entire interaction. You headed in wanting to stay calm, but something your spouse, co-worker, or fellow church member said triggered your hot button surfacing powerful emotions. Soon, voices are raised and feelings are hurt. How do you manage powerful emotions when they surface? If you’ve never read a book by the creators of the Harvard Negotiation Project—the leading experts in mediation—this is a must-read by experts who have had to manage the most difficult and potentially explosive conversations imaginable. They remind us that emotions are “powerful, always present, and hard to handle.” Yet, the authors offer practical ways to recognize the emotions you have heading into a conversation with someone you care about and how to deal with them once they surface. 


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Communicating with Grace and Virtue: Learning to Listen, Speak, Text, and Interact as a Christian

By Quentin J. Schultze

Book cover of Communicating with Grace and Virtue: Learning to Listen, Speak, Text, and Interact as a Christian

Why this book?

In discussing difficult issues with those close to us we all know the importance of listening, empathy, and the power of stories. However, is it possible to do this when communicating via text, email, or Facebook?  What Schultze has taught me is how to utilize these communication skills not only in face-to-face encounters but also when discussing issues via social media. How can I discern which media platform is best suited for sharing my opinions or perspective on potentially divisive issues? While social media is often cast as a source of our collective incivility, this book gives hope that it can also be part of the solution. While written for Christian communicators, the principles he shares are applicable to anyone interested in fostering productive conversations either in person or via social media.  


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An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked in Half

By David Murray

Book cover of An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked in Half

Why this book?

As the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project, I am committed to re-introducing civility back into our public disagreements. However, civility is often a misunderstood concept. Murray does a wonderful job pointing out what civility is not—mere niceness without purpose. He reminds us that civility is not the ultimate goal in our disagreements. Rather, it is a means of communication—rules we can agree on—that allows us to dig deep into the issues which easily separate us. If you find that politics are putting emotional distance between you and those close to you, then this is the book for you.  


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Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World

By Richard J. Mouw

Book cover of Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World

Why this book?

In today’s often argumentative world, we need someone who not only understands what true empathy and civility are, but also practices it. I can think of no greater ambassador of compassion and civility than this author. Not only does this book give a wonderful vision of empathy, perspective-taking, and caring for the stories of others, but it is filled with Mouw’s attempt to put those virtues into practice. He seeks out those that disagree with him and models what humility and love look like to be embodied.  


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