Ask no man

No More Contention is the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding. Contention arises from the compulsion to have others agree with us. Seeking understanding in an environment of clarity and charity produces no more contention. As Joseph Smith said, "I will ask no man to believe as I do."

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Three broad categories

In a sense, contention is inevitable and unavoidable because every individual is unique, and no two people agree on everything.  Ideally, we...

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

WSJ - Disagreeing respectfully

An article in the Wall St. Journal offers some practical advice on how to disagree respectfully.


There are many tough talks we need to have right now, about everything from the Israel-Hamas war to how to care for Mom as she ages.

Too often, we’re avoiding those productive and necessary conversations. When we do have them, we end up yelling at each other. We can just look at the unrest on college campuses to see what happens when discourse melts down.

It’s time to master the art of disagreeing—having a productive conversation when we’re passionate about a topic but our opinions differ. Experts in conflict resolution have advice that can help: Plan ahead. Actively listen. Discuss how to move forward.


Conversations tend to become heated because we’re wired to have a fight-or-flight response when we feel threatened, especially during times of chronic stress, psychologists say.

 “Our brains treat having our ideas attacked in the same way as if our body was being attacked,” says David Supp-Montgomerie, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, who directs the school’s Civic Dialogue Initiative.

What can we do?

It’s OK not to talk about a topic if you think the conversation won’t be productive. Sometimes that’s the best way to preserve the relationship.

But if you’re up for a tough discussion, here’s some advice.

Prepare yourself and start off right

Set a goal. Do you want to explain how you feel, understand the other person’s point of view, or solve a problem? “It’s important to understand why you want to have the conversation in the first place,” says Supp-Montgomerie. 


When you begin the discussion, acknowledge up front that you may not agree but you want to talk so you can better understand each other.

Explain that you’d like to start by hearing the other person’s point of view. (Be sincere!) This defuses tension and shows that you’re on the same team.

Choose your words carefully. Use “I” instead of “you.” (Think: “I feel unheard.” Not: “You’re not listening.”) The word “I” comes across as less judgmental.

And avoid the word “but.” It negates what the other person said. Try the phrase “yes, and…” instead. Like this: “Yes, I agree with you, and…”  

Actively listen—and ask questions

Stop waiting for someone to finish a sentence just so you can have your say. Don’t interrupt. Really listen.

Summarize what the person said and ask if you heard it correctly. For example: “I heard you say you’re upset because you think I haven’t been helping take care of Mom enough. Am I right?”

Then ask deeper questions that get at the person’s values, rather than opinions. Some good ones: “What led you to feel so strongly about this?” “Do you have personal experiences you can share?” “Will you tell me more?”

The goal is to find common ground, says Mylien Duong, a psychologist and senior director of research at the Constructive Dialogue Institute, a nonprofit that teaches people across the political spectrum how to talk to each other. “There are always points of agreement, even if it’s as simple as you both wanting the conversation to succeed.”


Discuss your next steps

Ask the other person how he or she wants to move forward. And remember, it’s OK to agree to disagree.

If you learned something, say so. That’s both validating and reassuring, says Elizabeth Esrey, a professional mediator, who has worked with families, gang members and with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after apartheid ended.

And thank the person for his or her willingness to talk.

“People are giving you the gift of their time even if they disagree with you,” Esrey says.

Mayer, of the NFLPA, has developed strategies for difficult conversations. He practices his message, cuts to the chase quickly and listens closely.

“The goal is not to ‘win’ the conversation, but to communicate important, if difficult, information in a way the other person can process and be heard themselves,” he says.


Sunday, May 12, 2024

BYU research on conflict resolution

Thoughtful article here that discusses aspects of clarity, charity and understanding as opposed to convincing, misattribution, and confusion.

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The article opens with a perfect anecdote about having lunch with one's adversaries.


BYU’s Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution—initially established to mediate conflicts between students and their landlords and now housed in the Law School, where it serves both campus and community mediation clients—is growing into a hub for faculty research and student education, a place to connect academic and spiritual thinking.

BYU Law dean David H. Moore (BA ’92, JD ’96) says that BYU has a key role to play “in a world that is rife with conflict”—from interpersonal disagreements to legal challenges to international strife. Here researchers “can combine academic study and the insights of the gospel of Jesus Christ to benefit the world in thinking about how we achieve peace.”

The good news is that, while disagreements are inevitable, we don’t just have to wing it, says Emily de Schweinitz Taylor (BA ’97, PhD ’24), former assistant director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution and author of two books on mediation. “Instead of just going on all your intuition and prior experience, there’s research on what actually works,” she says. 

Taylor, Moore, Witesman, and other campus experts offer research-based and gospel-backed approaches to engaging in conflict and finding ways to disagree better. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Struggle for struggle's sake

X post by Governor Cox of Utah:

Can’t stop thinking about this Francis Fukuyama paragraph from The End of History.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Today I visited the Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was struck by one of the messages, taken from the film (not the book) of the Lord of the Rings.

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High walls might keep fear in check, but they don't lead to no more contention. 

The Peace Walls were constructed in an effort to reduce tensions in the city between the Loyalist and Nationalist communities. They are a reminder of the city's past conflicts during "the troubles."

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Toward the back of this photo I took, you can see how high the walls are.

Fortunately, the conflicts that raged years ago in Belfast have been resolved. 

We can all hope that social and interpersonal contention can also be resolved everywhere in the world. 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The main purpose of contention

The main purpose of contention is to make sure all the smart people don't end up on the same side.

Adapted from

The main purpose of fake news is to make sure all the smart people don’t end up on the same side.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Einstein's rules


Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein!
Einstein's works revolved around three rules which apply to all science, problems, and times: • Out of clutter, find simplicity; • From discord make harmony; and • In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

Prof. Feynman

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Levels of awareness

 (Modified from a twitter post) and cross-posted at

The first step toward "no more contention" is clarity. That requires a high level of awareness, that, combined with charity and understanding, eliminates the underlying causes of contention.

Levels of Awareness Level 1 They believe what their preferred sources of information say and do not sample other sources. Not aware of counter arguments. Not aware their sources are mostly narrative with manipulated, incomplete facts. Level 2 Sample material from multiple sources but believe only the sources that confirm their own biases are accurate. Think the other side is all narrative, but at least familiar with all sides of issues. Level 3 Aware that ALL sources are narrative, at least in the sense of spin, missing context, conflating assumptions and inferences with facts, etc. Also known as Gell-Mann Amnesia*. But still believe the experts in various fields are usually correct. Level 4 Understand that NONE of our experts are reliable. Some might be right, but none can be trusted without verification. The distortion of money, reputation, pride, motivated reasoning, bias confirmation, and cognitive dissonance makes no expert credible.

Level 5

Apply the FAITH model to isolate and assess Facts, Assumptions, Inferences, Theories, and finally Hypotheses. The FAITH model reveals the origin of multiple working hypotheses by clarifying the intellectual ancestry of beliefs and narratives.


*Gell-Mann Amnesia: the phenomenon of experts reading articles within their fields of expertise and finding them to be error-ridden and full of misunderstanding, but seemingly forgetting those experiences when reading articles in the same publications written on topics outside of their fields of expertise, which they believe to be credible.