How do you defuse a tense situation? I often find myself reacting instead of responding when someone is spitting fire in my direction–especially if that person is one of my kids or my spouse. I don’t remember where I heard this quote, but it is so true: “When you live in reaction, you give your power away. Then you get to experience what you gave your power to.”
I know I don’t have to defend or explain myself when I am under pressure, but usually my reactionary genes forget that logic. Here are 6 responses I’m practicing that provide space to compose myself in various situations. None of them commit me to taking on another’s problem or solving a conflict immediately. Each response needs to be spoken with a calm tone of voice.
- “I’m sorry you are upset.”
- “That’s interesting.”
- “I’ll be glad to talk with you when your voice is calmer.”
- “I need to think about this more. I’ll get back to you later.”
- “I’m not available to help you with that right now.”
- “Let’s talk when you are feeling less stressed.”
The trick is to use a one liner before your reactionary genes take over. If needed, repeat the one liner several times instead of getting drawn into the fighting arena.
Sometimes these one liners work well as text messages or email. They also come in handy written on a card and placed next to the phone for easy access during disturbing phone conversations.
Proverbs 15:1-2 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of fools gushes folly” (NIV). What have you been gushing lately—folly or a gentle answer? What one liners have you found helpful during difficult conversations?
In Him together, Susan Gaddis
For more tips on communication, check out Chapter 11, “Rules and Tools for Kingdom Communication,” in my book, Help, I’m Stuck With These People For the Rest of Eternity!