conflict, fighting, arguing, relationships, marriage, couples

Agreement and harmony are too often celebrated as the cornerstones of strong relationships, it is only in the presence of healthy disagreement that truly adds depth, resilience, and growth to these bonds. Disagreement, when approached constructively and respectfully, can foster better understanding, promote critical thinking, and lead to enhanced empathy and connection among individuals. When people stop avoiding hard conversations and plunge in to the risk of disagreement there is a deep richness to the more honest conversation.

From Clashes to Connection: Using Disagreement to Deepen Relationships

Agreement and harmony are too often celebrated as the cornerstones of strong relationships, it is only in the presence of healthy disagreement that truly adds depth, resilience, and growth to these bonds. Disagreement, when approached constructively and respectfully, can foster better understanding, promote critical thinking, and lead to enhanced empathy and connection.

In fact, I tell my dating couples or my newly married people that they’re not really in the middle of a relationship unless they’ve had some disagreements.

When people stop avoiding hard conversations and plunge into the risk of disagreement, there is a deep richness to the more honest conversation. Our world is saturated in deflecting with a smile or ghosting which gives the other person no information as to what really went wrong. Relationship longevity relies on developing respect for the differences.

Hard conversations that reveal the more truthful differences must be embraced because they enrich the infrastructure of the relationship. When individuals express conflicting viewpoints, they’re compelled to articulate and defend their perspectives. This process of explaining one’s own stance not only helps clarify personal beliefs,

but also encourages active listening on the part of the other person instead of thinking about what you’re going to say. Engaging in meaningful discussions about differing opinions prompts both parties to delve into the underlying reasons for their viewpoints. This exploration fosters intellectual growth and enables each person to refine their ideas and evolve their perspectives over time.

Most importantly, I’m such a fan of disagreement, constructive disagreement stimulates critical thinking. When faced with opposing viewpoints, individuals are encouraged to question their assumptions, assess the validity of their arguments, and seek out evidence to support their claims. This analytical process not only strengthens one’s cognitive skills,

but also allows them to engage more thoughtfully with the world around them. Through these mental exercises, individuals develop a capacity for discernment and rational decision-making, qualities that are vital for both personal and relationship development. So at Chautauqua, I attend lectures on vacation, a little bit weird, but really cool. And one speaker explained that the terms East-West,

first world, third world, do not capture the present experience of the world, and that the more accurate words are emerging nations, developed nations, global south and global north. Another speaker from Bangladesh, a photographer and activist, said he prefers the majority to global south.

This made me really stop to consider the need for critical thinking, which helps all of us course correct while expanding and developing our understanding of both people and places. The value of disagreement in relationships is undeniable when individuals can navigate their differences with respect and a commitment to improved understanding.

They’re able to unlock benefits that contribute to the strength and resilience of their bonds. So why do we take the easy way out and stifle our true selves? Because we don’t want to rock the boat. Because we want to be liked. Because we don’t like the messiness. Because we are cowards. And because we allow our fears to make bad decisions and we cop out.

Empathy, a cornerstone of successful relationships, is also nurtured through disagreement. When individuals respectfully engage with differing opinions, they are prompted to step into the shoes of the other person and attempt to understand their perspective. We appreciate there’s a greater complexity of experiences, which is why I am such a fierce reader.

And reading is one of the ways for everyone to increase their empathic understanding of others. Thanks to Sean Duffy, the character created by Adrian McKinty, I recently finished the eighth book in the series and experienced the troubles in Belfast through the eyes of a Catholic cop who lives in a prod or Protestant neighborhood in the 70s and 80s. It’s wonderful.

Disagreement fuels deeper understanding, sharpens critical thinking, nurtures empathy, all of which are vital for personal growth and the development of meaningful connections. When we embrace the richness that diverse perspectives bring to relationships, we pave the way for more profound connections if we can find the courage to risk disagreement.

In January of 2008, research reported in the Journal of Family Communication that in couples where one partner habitually suppressed anger, both partners tended to die younger. So the goal is to determine how have healthy and productive disagreement so we can live longer and help each other grow and learn more.

about what it means to live in a complicated world. One possible solution offered in the Atlantic magazine in September, 2021 is that saving disagreements for scheduling meetings is more likely to benefit couples because they will be more patient with discussions.

Scheduling offers the opportunity for emotions to cool down and be more balanced with thinking, so you can digest another point of view. I often tell people, take Sunday night, spend 20 minutes, talk about the week coming up, use it for disagreements, money conversations, sex is missing conversations, etc. The psychologist John Gottman, who is the biggest researcher on couples,
has found that stable and happy marriages have a roughly five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. So it is clear negative interactions are a part of every relationship. The secret is how you manage it to be constructive. Today, I’ve invited my first ever minister to talk about managing disagreement for better relationships.

Today’s guest is Reverend Dr. Daniel C. Cantor, and he is the Senior Minister and CEO of First Unitarian Church of Dallas, and author of the book, Faith for the Unbeliever, published by Skinner House Books in 2017. For those of you who may not know, Unitarian Universalism is, quote,
“a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” It is the most liberal of religions because you decide what you believe. There is not a prescribed religious belief system. In your sermon at Chautauqua, you quoted George Bernard Shaw who famously said, progress is impossible without change. And those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

Would you share your perspective on the importance of change and how disagreement is a part of that? And thanks so much for being with me today.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (08:37.75)
Thanks for having me. And I love your introduction. I think actually just to, it’s always good to start with an agreement with the podcast host. So I wanna agree with you that John Gottman actually has it right about couples. He also has it right about congregations. That stable and happy congregations also have not only healthy dialogue, but also ways to address conflict and ways to work.

I’ve seen so many times, uh, congregations that, uh, get stuck in conflict and just perpetuate a sort of spiral of, of disagreement, um, as a, as really, uh, something that’s, uh, symptomatic to something that’s really deeper a problem in the congregation. And so, um, you know, the old story is, you know, the guy’s on the island, uh, deserted island and he’s-

they get rescued and they say, well, what’s that building over there? And he says, oh, that’s the second church. We had a falling out in the first one. So we’re not immune to conflict and congregations. And certainly with all that’s going on in the world, it brings up a lot of trauma and a lot of opinions and congregations at their best are places that can digest.

some of those things for better or worse, to get to healthy spiritual nourishment. And that’s, I think, where I come into this conversation with you. And change is an inevitable thing. We all know that. The Buddhists say that the only thing permanent in the world is change. And we’re all dealing with that. We know that from our bodies. We know that from—

you know everything we see around us … you know that the old hymns say that … decay and loss are really the only things that we all not really know deeply uh… so the bernard shaw quote is really saying that i mean he’s talking about progress and that’s a different thing that we really are addressing here but i kinda was using that to say that’s the only way forward
in a debate or a dialogue is to be able to change your mind and not to just stand firmly on one position. And that’s, I think, one of the places where we get really caught, not only in relationships, but in communities and in politics and in all these settings. We cannot, we, we cement ourselves into one.

idea about what is right and then we have to protect that idea. I mean we’re seeing that in so many different ways. We’re seeing that in banning books in Texas where I live. You know, people are absolutely convinced that, you know, certain books will corrupt people’s minds and they probably haven’t even read these books. So it’s

It’s when you stand so firm in a position that you have to then defend it with all your life that it can create a sort of fragility, a way in which we can’t adapt and move in heart and soul. So I did want to also point out one thing just before we go on and that is,

There’s something about conflict and in your intro you’re talking about how disagreement can fuel understanding. I think that is absolutely true. It’s also true mostly when there’s a level of safety. There are times in which we have to protect ourselves from people who really want to hurt us.

Trying to understand someone through disagreement when we are actually in danger is not a good thing. So I thought, I don’t know if we wanna talk about that, but I thought in your, I made a note while you were talking.

Rhoda Sommer (13:12.224)
That’s fine. So yeah, I completely agree with you and but the focus of the podcast is about relationships and couples and Thinking about how to make them

help people. I think that’s what the scheduling does is it makes it feel safer. It’s not in the heat of the moment, fueled by emotions. So I agree with you that thinking about safety and there has to be room and there has to be openness and there has to be some measure of vulnerability. One of the things I’ve taught people to do

ask is why is this particular thing so important to you? What is it that it connects to so deeply inside of you? And then hearing that story and I think sharing stories creates safety. So I think I think that’s an excellent point and I

Rev. Daniel Kanter (14:12.146)
Yeah, and of course, we’re not always aware of why we’re protecting our positions, right? I mean, some of it comes from things that were embedded in us before we were fully conscious of who we are as human beings. And so when I meet with couples, I also always ask them this same question that you’re asking. And I say, you know, what do you fight about? And I know that sometimes they’re trying to impress me.

and a lot of them say, well, we don’t fight. And I actually say to them, that could be a problem, because then if conflict does occur, which it always does, you’re gonna have to figure out a way to get through that. And what fights over who did the laundry or not are practices for bigger issues. And so, whenever I’m marrying a couple, I do counseling with them. And that’s exactly what I’m asking.

I’m also asking them, have they talked about money? Have they talked about children? Have they talked about, do they understand the family systems they’re coming from? Who were their grandparents? How did their parents solve conflicts? These are core issues in premarital counseling for me because not only am I trying to get them to the altar, as it were, but I’m also trying to get them into a healthy.

position for their the long term. And so you’re absolutely right about this. I’m just I just am worried sometimes when we want to throw people into conflict when they’re not prepared. And that’s, you know, certainly something we both have seen as well.

Rhoda Sommer (15:56.488)
Sure. In your opinion, why is it important to address and resolve disagreements in relationships rather than avoiding them?

Rev. Daniel Kanter (16:08.098)
You know, it’s probably a very intuitive answer here, and that is that things fester. And I think the, you know, I grew up in New Jersey, so I know conflict for me comes easily. I also grew up in both a Jewish and an Italian family. So, you know, but, so I don’t understand conflict avoidance. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. I grew up in…

settings where if you didn’t confront an issue head on, you were seen as weak or something. And I know that’s kind of a bad seed planted in me. But I think trying to avoid the real conflict just creates a sort of smoldering fire that doesn’t help us down the road. And we start to make up stuff. We start to…

create stories about the person we’re having a conflict with. And oftentimes we’re not right. And when we are doing that, when we are imagining something about our quote unquote enemy, whether we’re in Israel and Palestine, or whether we’re, you know, sitting at the kitchen table, it’s the same problem. We start to…

compartmentalize someone into what they can and can’t do, what they are capable of in their heart and soul, and often we don’t know. So the best question in a conflict is often one that leaves with curiosity. And that would probably be a good strategy for most things. It’s just…

If you’re avoiding, it helps solidify or cement those positions, I think, and the fantasies of the other position. And I think that’s, I’ve seen that so many times, not only in my own life, but also in the congregation.

Rhoda Sommer (18:16.472)
I loved what you said about people make up, and I know people have dialogues with their partners in their head, and they’re making up both sides, and they come to a resolution within themselves without risking that engagement with the other person. And I think there’s just something so important about being willing to be surprised.

and being willing to be curious. I agree, it’s also the way to crawl out of depression is curiosity. So I think curiosity is one of the top three, four things that makes people happier and all that happy research that went on for a while. So I agree, I think that’s really important.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (18:58.846)
Yeah, the image that comes to my mind when we’re talking about this is, I don’t know if your audience or if you ever watched Groucho Marx, Marx Brothers films, but there’s that famous one, I think it’s in, I can’t remember what it was, but Groucho is, he’s got this long dialogue about complaints about this supposed enemy and the guy walks in and he walks up to him and he slaps him and he says, this is war.

Rhoda Sommer (19:28.005)

Rev. Daniel Kanter (19:29.194)
They hadn’t even had a conversation. Because Groucho was creating this whole scenario in his head about how this other person wanted to get him, I think we do that. That’s what we do. And it’s so hard because it’s so hard to really understand another person without opening space for them. And we all fall prey to that.

Rhoda Sommer (19:42.655)
Absolutely, at no question.

Rhoda Sommer (19:57.448)
I agree. One of the things I believe is that trouble is usually found in the extremes, both sides of things, whether it’s the conspiracy right or the overly sensitive left. Could you share your thoughts on this? And how do the extremes contribute to us losing track of our own centers?

Rev. Daniel Kanter (20:17.758)
Yeah, I mean, this is a huge problem and we’re seeing that globally and nationally. And we may even, in our news, and we may not even know in what ways we are being trained to live in the extremes. And I mean, I would have called myself something closer to an anarchist as a college student and now, you know, I am an institutionalist with a large

Rhoda Sommer (20:31.048)
That’s right.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (20:47.426)
church and I find myself moving more and more to what I would call the center of most problems. And some would say, you know, well, you have to choose a side. You know, this whole Israel-Palestine issue, you know, I see this happening exactly right now. You’re either, you know, for Israel or you’re anti-Semitic or you’re for the Palestinians or you’re, you know, or you’re somehow, you know.

anti-Muslim or something. And the fact is, what I say is I’m for people, you know, I’m for safe and healthy communities. I’m not for genocide and I’m not for terror, you know. So it’s easy, I think, to live on the far sides of things, the extremes. It’s, in a way, become so much harder to live sort of…

Rhoda Sommer (21:21.725)
Mm-hmm. That’s good. Yes.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (21:44.606)
not only in the center on issues, but also centered. You know, that’s what, you know, we’re right now in the church and in my church, we’re doing this whole sermon series on rituals that ground us because people walking into the church are telling us they feel ungrounded, they feel uncentered or decentered from in their own lives, in their own heart and minds.

and to be able to sort of stand or sit comfortably and not be swayed by what’s happening in the world, but that’s a hard place to get to, spiritually and personally. And the meditation gurus have told us this for many years. And I just think the extremes are like standing on one leg. You know, it’s…

painful and it You know, you might be able to jump high or something, but you can’t you can’t really do anything bad in a balanced way and I mean I’m seeing this in some ways in my own Denomination and I’m seeing it in my communities, you know where If you don’t believe in the way, I believe you’re evil or you’re the enemy and I think we’ve kind of lost

of being able to have different opinions or to stand in different places on those spectrums because it’s easier to be on the far sides throwing rotten vegetables at each other or bombs and whatever. I think this is a huge issue what we’re dealing with in the world and I’m sure it’s affecting people’s family lives. As soon as we get close to Thanksgiving.

In my church, I hear about people bracing themselves to go to Thanksgiving dinner, because my people are progressive on lots of issues and their families are in Texas and typically not. So how do you remain centered in that? And how do you actually make room for someone who’s got different ideas than you do? This is the core, I think this is one of the core spiritual

Rev. Daniel Kanter (24:11.442)
exercises of the day and it’s challenging.

Rhoda Sommer (24:15.608)
Yes, I completely agree. I do. How would you approach a situation where someone disagrees with you and seems to have a strong emotional response? Ha ha ha.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (24:27.598)
I mean, this is like the job description of my life. I mean, my job in some ways is to create both comfort and affliction, to have people have some strong opinions. And oftentimes, they come at me with them. And I’m trying to.

make room for people to express them. And I’m also trying to make room for them to understand if there’s something deeper going on. Because oftentimes someone will come into my office with a problem, and it’s often not about what they bring in. It’s something deeper, some deeper pain or some deeper something else going on in their lives. So the expression of some

Conflict with me is often something else is going on in their lives So trying to invite people into what else is going on? There’s a good always a good question trying to Just Not get hooked and not get you know sort of pulled into someone’s anxiety or some or emotional Ups and downs. This is the thing

You know, we always say, you know, in Buddhist practice, which is where I kind of come from, I grew up a Unitarian Universalist and I had a strong Buddhist practice for a long time. I was almost a Buddhist monk and all that. It’s the taming of the monkey mind, right? It’s the same with your—the idea is that you can either, you know, let yourself be tossed all over the place like a ship on a—

an angry ocean or you can find the ballast and you can approach things with a deeper perspective. And so I always try to tame the monkey emotions and not get hooked by other people’s emotions. That’s them and this is me. And really self-differentiation is the key to this space you can create.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (26:50.934)
I mean, I’ve had lots of training on that. So that’s not the easiest thing for all your listeners to do, but just doing simple things, like just a few meditative breaths sometimes tames those monkey emotions, as I would say, and prepares you to understand that someone else’s emotions aren’t your emotions. Of course, I say that, and then, you know.

My wife says something about the laundry or the dishes and then I’m immediately hooked, right? It’s way easier to do that kind of taming of the monkey emotion with people that you aren’t closely related to. So it’s…

Rhoda Sommer (27:41.418)
I loved it when you said, when we disagree not to be so fragile that the slightest scrape sends us to the emotional emergency room, equally not to shun or condemn each other for our opinions. Share with my audience how we can go about that and why it’s important.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (28:05.15)
Yeah, it’s sort of the same thing in a way. It’s like how close to the surface do you want to walk around with your emotional life? I mean, it’s important to have emotional responses to the world and to the people around us. But fragile identities are, you know, you know, they’re hard to deal with. So I mean, you know, and this it’s sort of similar thing, you know, because what happens if you

Rhoda Sommer (28:07.404)
Yeah, it is. Yeah.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (28:34.798)
It’s like getting a scrape, you know, it’s why you don’t have to go to the emergency, the emotional emergency room just for someone saying something you didn’t like. It’s either that or sometimes the response is the shunning, the condemning and these are extreme reactions. So I mean your audience, you know, I would hope are finding ways to go back to that taming the emotional monkey in their lives.

you know, because that’s really at the core of this stuff. I mean, we all know people who just, you know, as soon as they feel the slightest bit of disappointment or being offended, go off the handle. And all this all that does is their reactions are typically either shutting down or act or taking it out on

you or some or the people around them. This is not healthy. You know, this is not healthy behavior. So it’s important also in communities and in. Movements and you know, businesses and bigger things than our own personal relationships to be on the lookout for this because leadership doesn’t come.

from the extremes. It can’t. It’ll only lead us into war. It’ll only lead us into, condemn into the kinds of condemnations of whole groups of people that, or the banning of books or whatever it is. I mean, we’re seeing this in the state I live in a lot. And when the extremists get into positions of power, whether they’re,

Rhoda Sommer (30:11.4)
Mm-hmm. Battle.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (30:32.242)
at your kitchen table, as I said, or at the UN or wherever, we’re all in trouble. And this is something I preach against all the time. I mean, it’s, and it starts with sort of that, you know, not letting the, every emotion sway you to those extremes. I mean, I don’t know how you, you know, how you in therapy would talk about this, but this is how I would talk about it in congregational leadership.

Rhoda Sommer (31:01.668)
I like different words and people, clients would come in and say, oh, Oprah said blah, blah. And I’d be like, yeah, we were talked about that a couple of months ago. But in my head, of course, I didn’t say it out loud. But I don’t care how people hear wisdom. What matters is it gets in. And sometimes it’s different ways of packaging.

what it is that people say. And so that’s part of why interviewing different kinds of people is so delightful, because there’s different stories and different ways of thinking. So many times over the last few years, many of us have felt like shutting people out because they don’t agree and didn’t confirm who we are. So how can we improve our attitude to include those we disagree with?

Rev. Daniel Kanter (31:55.814)
Yeah, I mean, this is a big problem. And this is at the core of some of our political realities in America. And it goes back to what I what I said earlier, which is that if you don’t agree with me, you must be somehow evil. It used to be if you don’t agree with me, we’ll just agree to disagree. And now there’s become a more

a much more extreme version of this. I mean, I’ve had disagreements theologically with people and then just be completely erased in their minds, even to the point of being

Rev. Daniel Kanter (32:46.77)
almost they’re being weaponized against, you know, and being threatened. That’s all again the sign of some fragile egos. I mean, to shutting people out, we do it also. I mean, I just have to check my reactions sometimes to someone wearing, you know, a hat or a shirt of a…

political affiliation that I don’t agree with or my neighbor with the sign on the lawn. Because my initial reaction is either they’re ignorant or they’re evil or they’re bad. And that’s a terrible reaction. You know, I preached just this week, I preached this sermon about blessing and how whenever you go to the supermarket in Texas.

when you check out or wherever, they say, have a blessed day or bless you. And I had a member of my church say to me, I just feel like that’s code for being a Christian or something and I don’t believe in that’s not who I am. And so I preached this whole sermon about, what’s the downside to blessing people? It’s actually about seeing who they are. It’s about like,

caring for their heart, you know, and if we just practice this a little bit, you know, if we just practice, even silently just blessing each other, like bless you, the original sneezing bless you was because they were concerned that out of your nose would come your soul. And I said to my congregation, as ridiculous as that is, what a wonderful world it would be if we were walking around concerned that we could lose our souls through a sneeze.

You know, and soul being a metaphor for heart, like who you are deeply. So I asked my congregation to go around and just bless people and things and places, not in some big dramatic or way where you want to get attention, but your uncle at the Thanksgiving table who’s spouting things about Trump or Biden or whatever.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (35:10.678)
that you disagree with, you want to shut him out, instead try to find some blessing on him. You know, that’s one way. I mean, the other way is to actually realize that sometimes when you disagree in disagreement, people are acting through their traumas. You know, and so it’s important to remember even people who, for me, as a theologically

a Unitarian and Universalist that all people are good is essentially good for me as a Unitarian and Universalist, meaning they’re capable of all kinds of terrible things, but it means that their core, their goodness was covered over and layered over with the tar of the world in their lives. But to remember for me that each person has that

kernel of goodness that was planted there by the Divine. That gets me a chance to take a breath, take a step back and say, I can bless this person or I can be in this person’s presence. They might be damaged or they might be difficult or they might be wrong in my eyes, but they’re not essentially evil. And that’s a theologically very different place that I’m coming from as a Unitarian than some.

of my colleagues in other faiths would be coming from. But it’s important to me that that’s how we approach each other.

Rhoda Sommer (36:45.896)
I also think that respect is a valuable emotion because it allows you to not like. There may be something you don’t like, but you still have to respect.

that person is coming from some frame of reference that has meaning to them. And I think that’s why, and I forgot what Hillary said about Republicans that was so contemptuous, but the word began with a D. I just can’t remember the word.

disreputable, I don’t remember, yeah, something. But it was contemptuous and that contempt, and I think respect is such an important force in relationships altogether that it’s incredibly, it’s like grease that allows the gears to interact.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (37:24.298)
Yeah, something like that, yeah.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (37:47.39)
Yeah, hard to do though sometimes. In the extreme, you know, we had Nazis on the corner in front of a church here in Dallas, you know, with flags and dressed up, you know, and Nazi and I can’t, I don’t respect that. But what I understand about them is that they’re deeply damaged people, because they’re, yes, but they’re right deplorable, right. And I don’t call them deplorables.

Rhoda Sommer (37:49.197)
Yes, absolutely.

Rhoda Sommer (37:56.678)

Rhoda Sommer (38:04.55)
No, no, no.

Rhoda Sommer (38:10.608)
Deplorable was the word. No.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (38:17.23)
But I deplore their actions. That’s why I try to keep it. And I don’t respect them, but I do, those Nazis on the corner, but I do understand that at the core there’s some deep trauma and damage. Because either they don’t understand what they’re promoting or to promote this sort of like hatred. It
has to come from something that’s just very, very damaged to me. And so I try to keep that perspective.

Rhoda Sommer (38:56.42)
I think a lot of times when people disagree, they’re so busy clutching at their own agenda they contaminates their ability to listen. They may hear, but they are not listening. In fact, a test of listening, I often suggest, is to stop if either person sniffs ugliness in a disagreement. That they both grab a piece of paper and write down what’s important to you in the argument, which lifts the agenda out of the way.

And then write down what’s important to the other person, which requires a lot of thinking and sometimes no answer at all. Because that’s, you wanna lift up your emotional defense system and you wanna try to think, what is it that’s important to this person that you love and care about, if we’re talking about relationships?

What advice do you have for being open and letting go of your agenda?

Rev. Daniel Kanter (39:56.518)
Yeah, I like that. I like that practice. I think it’s hard to do. You know, I used to do a lot of teaching and meditation and I used to do this practice myself. I haven’t done it in a long time, but it was to try to take the perspective of the other person and to actually like change the way you you’re seeing. So I would

So I started this practice when I lived in Boston and I took the T, the train in to downtown Boston and I would sit there and I’d start meditating. And then I keeping my eyes open, I would literally try to change the perspective where I was sitting to where someone across from me was sitting so that I could look back and see myself, but see from their eyes. And I think there’s something.

to like to trying to do that, right? That’s what your practice in a sense is doing. It’s trying to see from someone else’s eyes. And that’s incredibly hard. It’s not only hard in meditation, it’s also hard in real life. But if I think the only time when that really softens our own agendas is seeing another’s perspective.

and having them write it down or trying to imagine someone else’s perspective, I think, is the beginning of some of it.

Rhoda Sommer (41:32.744)
Mm-hmm. Can you describe a time when you had to compromise in a disagreement, and how do you decide when to compromise and when to stand your ground?

Rev. Daniel Kanter (41:48.158)
I mean, I took a whole class on negotiation at Harvard Business School. So I think anybody who studies negotiation understands this. I mean, yeah, I think for me, and it happens a lot, you know, my staff will come in and say, you know, we want to do it this way. And, you know, I’m like, well, I had the vision.

Rhoda Sommer (41:56.213)
Oh good.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (42:16.374)
that was the other way. And I think it’s part of it’s picking your battles. You know, what hill do you really wanna die on? Do you really wanna fight for the pink in the bathroom versus the tan? You know, like what’s really important because down the road there’s gonna be maybe more important things than the color of the bathroom or whatever it is, right? So.

Rhoda Sommer (42:26.556)

Rhoda Sommer (42:36.44)

Rev. Daniel Kanter (42:44.37)
I think always perspective and sort of, you know, everyone that’s listening to this, you know, their lives are marathons. They’re not sprints. We often think about life in the sprint, like we have to win every sprint. And we don’t. We actually, in good negotiation, you have to give a little to get what you want. And oftentimes, really, the conclusion of that class at Harvard Business School,

was that, or Harvard-Casaro was a government school, was that the best negotiations are when everyone gets everything they want. And there are ways to do that. So, it’s sort of…

I mean, I can’t come up with an example right now, a particular example, but for me, maybe it happens in strategic planning in the church. Like we’ll end with five strategic initiatives. You know, not all of them I thought were good ideas, but I gave a little because I knew some of these other ones were more important, you know, and let’s see, let’s experiment, let’s see what comes up, you know.

Um, so I think.

Rhoda Sommer (44:01.412)
which again goes back to an openness about appreciating different priorities than the ones you started with.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (44:09.302)
Yeah, if you live your life thinking that your priorities are the only priorities, you’re going to end up in a lot of fights. I mean, this is, you know, nobody listening to this who’s in business has this perspective that they have to win every battle. You have to give to gain, and that’s how it is. You have to develop generosity in your life. It’s just how…

we become happier in our lives. Cause if everything is on a ledger of wins and losses, we are really in trouble. And some people live like that, I know that, but I’m probably in the position I am in because I’m not that person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive, but I know when to lose, when a good loss is important too.

Rhoda Sommer (45:07.604)
Any final points about disagreement that we haven’t covered that you’d like my audience to know, and I’d like you to share, I’m not going to say his name right, Lao Tsao quote from the fourth century that you mentioned in your sermon.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (45:24.462)
Lao Tzu, yeah, I don’t have it in front of me. Maybe you do.

Rhoda Sommer (45:25.824)
Yeah, I’ve got it. I’ve got it. I’ll do it. So you think about I’m going to do it now. And then you think about any final points you want to make. Abide at the center of your being for the more you leave it, the less you know. Search your heart and see that the way to do is to be.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (45:35.647)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Rev. Daniel Kanter (45:50.166)
Yeah, I mean Lao Tzu and Taoism teaches us all the time that if we’re lurching for things, we’re, you know, we’re, we’re often just out, out of balance, right? The yin yang is the symbol of Taoism and it’s in perfect balance. And that’s, that’s what a lot of spirituality and a lot of really a lot of

faiths, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, et cetera, are trying to teach us is to find the balance that is more natural, that is in agreement with the world rather than fighting against it, fighting against the tides. And we’ve completely lost this notion to remain at the center of yourself. It’s sort of the way what we started talking about in this conversation. So, you know.

Another way that Unitarians and Universalists talk about this is love. And we go back to two things, and that’s Martin Luther King Jr. who said, man, or we could say all must evolve for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. And love is at the core of all of these theologies. One of our

great theologians, William Ellery Channing, from the 19th century, said, Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict. You know, because Channing and King are coming through this very similar theological lineage, which is understanding that, as I would say, my theology is that mutuality is God.

that really at the core of our being with one another, really seeing one another, really being able to embrace one another for who we are in all our magnificent variations is at the core of all faith. And to me, that’s what we’re aiming at. That’s a bit lofty for your listeners to try to aim at. But if they can think of

Rev. Daniel Kanter (48:11.662)
God as mutuality. In all the relationships they create, in all the conflicts, maybe they come back to that center that Lao Tzu is talking about. And believe me, I fail at this every day. So I am no sage of great wisdom on this. I am a practitioner in the theology of mutuality, just like anybody else who cares to take up that mantle.

So I appreciate you having me on and discussing this. A good reminder to me to go home and not fight over the dishwasher.

Rhoda Sommer (48:49.197)
Thanks, Reverend Daniel Cantor, for joining us today. I understand that people can listen to you on Sundays online if they don’t live in Dallas. Where can they do that?

Rev. Daniel Kanter (49:01.33)
Oh yeah, we livestream to over 30 states. People are watching. It’s on And we have a livestream, we have a podcast, we do all that.

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