Responding with Gentle Words
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Do you ever have to deal with customers who are demanding and unkind? Or co-workers who just love to argue? Or managers who bark orders instead of issuing instructions? Harsh words definitely stir up my anger, and I imagine they have a similar effect on you.
There are moments that test our self-control. If we allow anger directed at us to control our response, we will have allowed a rude person to pull us down to his or her level. That means, of course, that he or she wins, even though he or she was wrong and we were right! It doesn't seem fair, but that's how it works.
Offering a gentle answer, however, has the same effect as a slow leak in a balloon. Just as the air gradually leaking from a balloon prevents a sudden loud pop, so a gentle word turns aside the force of an angry word.
Gentle answers often begin with empathetic statements such as, "I can understand how you feel," "Well, it's no wonder you're upset," or "There's obviously been a misunderstanding; let me see what I can do." But sometimes you may need to be more creative in finding a "gentle answer." It may involve changing the subject, or ignoring the harsh words and trying to help that person instead.
Gentle answers let others off the hook. Gentle answers relinquish the desire to strike back. Gentle answers accept some blame, regardless of who's right. Keep your words gentle and kind. Not only does this work well in defusing a difficult encounter, but it also saves you a lot of time and energy.
To avoid reacting to harsh, unkind words in like fashion, giving a gentle, reasoned response instead.
Lord, if today I encounter harsh words, whether from customers, co-workers, managers, friends, or family, please give me quick control of my tongue so that I do not react in an angry way, even though I may feel angry. Please give me the grace to use words that are gentle, words that will calm and defuse rather than add fuel to the fire.
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