Very early in life I was fascinated by people's thought process. I remember in my teen years consciously seeking to understand people whose thought process significantly differed from mine. When others used information common to each of us to think different thoughts, I was fascinated. I cannot give a reason for this fascination. I have no idea why it began early, nor why that observation was important to me.

People process information in different ways. Some processing procedures are radically different. We do not all "think" alike when presented identical information. Early in adult life I realized if I carefully listened to understand another's thinking, the likelihood significantly increased that he or she would listen to my thinking in a sincere attempt to understand me.

No one understands the thinking of others unless he or she learns to listen to understand. Listening to understand does not mean we listen to agree. People have reasons for their thought process. Even people with whom we disagree begin their thought process in a different context with a different set of priorities.

Understanding others who think differently than "I" begins with "my" willingness to understand how they process information. A vast difference separates listening to understand and listening to make counter arguments, or listening for weaknesses, or listening to dominate, or listening to win, etc. More than 50% of communication is listening to understand. We each respond differently to the person who "understands me."

Within the foundation of many marital conflicts, parent-child conflicts, family conflicts, and congregational conflicts is a rejection of responsibility to understand another's thinking when he or she processes information differently. How many conflicts could be significantly improved or resolved if each person in the conflict knew he or she was understood?

If significant progress occurs in today's world to strengthen (1) families and (2) congregations, we must accept the responsibility to understand the thinking of people who process information differently. If we accept that challenge, we will move toward our Lord's objectives and our God's intents. If we do not, family and congregational relationships will continue to degenerate into impersonal associations.

The fact that another processes information differently than "I" is not evidence that "I" am good and he or she is bad. God's highest good cannot be achieved by forcing others to use "my" thought process. God's highest good is achieved by everyone in Christ respecting and understanding each other's thought process. God is not the God of a single thought process. God is the God of all thought processes. For the Christian, each thought process results in surrendering to God through Jesus the Christ.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 28 July 2002

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