Them is Fightin’ Words!

A grumpy cat
Cartoon of man and woman in a conversation that isn't being understood

Whenever you notice resistance to your exciting new idea, project, or mission, pay attention to the feedback you are getting.

The art of listening well is not just about understanding what a person is saying; it is identifying their belief systems.


Years ago, I had a groundbreaking revelation about belief systems. As a recently retired pastor’s wife, I was attending an entrepreneurial event where I enjoyed fascinating conversations with people who thought very differently from me.

Much to my surprise, I learned more about my faith through people who thought very differently than myself and had very different beliefs. In addition, the culture in this particular organization was warm and welcoming, and I quickly embraced the lively and supportive conversations I could access there.

Once home, I found a very different response from a good friend when I attempted to have a conversation about what I’d learned. When I made the mistake of beginning with, “This is what I learned from them (name of the group’s belief system) that I wasn’t receiving in our group (belief system).”

Immediately she took offense at my comment, and what I wanted to share with her became hijacked with concerns over my becoming deceived or judging “our group” too harshly.

I never got to share the revelation I learned because I made the unfortunate mistake of naming two opposing belief systems in the same sentence.

Them is fightin’ words!

It was vital for me to share what I had learned because I knew from previous conversations with her that she’d be excited and run with this information. But once I named the two opposing names, she was stuck at that wall and framed anything else I said from that point forward through the mindset of having to defend our faith.

As I noticed my wording and how it positioned me, I started noticing how similar conversations and messages went awry in the same manner. OPPOSITION is the result when two opposing forces are identified to clarify an idea or event.

Cartoon of a woman pulling her hair out.

The names can be of individuals “Jill versus Jack,” “Right versus Left,” “Men versus Women,” etc. Anytime I used opposing words or unfamiliar words to address an unrelated idea or concept, it became fightin’ words.

Instead, highlighting the problem paves the way for presenting your solution or idea. 

It is getting on the same page as quickly as possible with those we wish to help or serve. Gaining trust is a non-negotiable when presenting a solution that will require an open mind to receive it. Opposition is the last thing that opens ears or minds as the opposite happens.

EXAMPLE: Instead of saying, “Women get tired of trying to communicate with men when …” Reframe the thought with something both sides can relate to, such as, “When communication fails because of …”  By repositioning the initial view, the listener is not taking sides but will relate to needing a solution for the problem which your idea or project solves.

Keys of all sizes and shapes in a pile


A child understands on a certain level, and when we speak to that child, we most often will speak at a level this child will understand. The same is true with adults. But we don’t often recognize that because we are busy assuming that just because we know something, others will too.

A few years ago, eating “healthy” was considered a fad or something that only hippies do. So it was laughable when someone would say, “I don’t eat healthy because I’m allergic to that kind of food.”

Not only was that an illogical statement it also revealed a belief system and a bias. The belief was that healthy food tasted weird, and only hippies ate it.

As our knowledge of science and health advanced, I’ve encountered many people who are highly offended when I use certain words such as “frequency” or “vibration” or even “Jesus.”

Depending on their belief systems and experiences, I will get one of three responses from them.

  1. They resonate and immediately connect with my use of these words.
  2. They immediately see these words as opposed to their beliefs and have a bias.
  3. They are open-minded enough to be curious and may say, “Tell me more.”

When you see a negative response to your message or project, consider these two frameworks within your communication.

Know who you are speaking to and speak the language they are the most familiar with so that they can join you in your mission and vision.

Not everybody is your mission or will support you in your vision. Speaking clearly and listening deeply to what is said will help you to find clarity, effectiveness, and joy in your efforts.

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