A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. —Proverbs 15:1, KJV
There is no doubt that when you are having a disagreement with someone and you are sure that you are right, at some point you will shut down.
It is not uncommon for people engaged in a fiery argument or even having a passionate discussion to be thinking about their response instead of listening to what the other person has to say. It is important, of course, to choose your words correctly. Being gentle and kind will certainly get you farther than a sharp, hasty reply.
Of course, sometimes you might be thinking of a response just to be sure that you don’t say something sharp or hurtful. Here’s what happens when you do that: The person you’re communicating with (or having a yelling match with) is no longer listening to you, either. Communication breaks down, along with the relationship, and things just get worse from there. So, how do you fix this? It’s quite simple.
Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him. —Proverbs 29:20, KJV
Listen. Listen to what the person you are engaged with is saying. If you are not sure of exactly what they are trying to say, gently summarize.
Here’s an example scenario in which you are talking to your son about friends coming to the house and spending the night on a weeknight:
- Your son: “You are so selfish. You never let me have any friends over. Just once I want my friends to come stay the night.”
- Stop. Take a moment to think about the message your son is trying to convey instead of getting defensive and formulating your argument as to why he can’t have friends over tonight.
- You: “So you’re saying that you think we are not being fair by not letting your friends sleep over at the house.”
- Your son: “Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”
- You: “I understand where you’re coming from, and while I know you boys are out of school for the summer, mom and dad still have to get up early for work tomorrow.”
- Your son: “We’ll be quiet and we won’t wake anyone.”
- You: “I’m sure you will, but we like to be around and awake when you have guests over in case something happens. How about you invite your friends over on Friday or Saturday night instead? Would you be willing to do that?”
Now you have properly communicated what your problem is. He may not like it, but he understands the situation and no one is shouting hastily at the other.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. —James 1:26, KJV
Always be careful what you say. One thing that you can’t take back is a spoken word. It is really easy to hurt people deeply with our words and have them remember it for the rest of their lives. That’s how children get low self-esteem and grow up with a poor self-image. They remember words that were spoken to them when they were growing up and those words repeat themselves inside their heads as time goes on.
Try to keep the lines of communication open. Spend time every day with your family, if you can.
Have family nights and activities that you do together, and make sure you sit with them from time to time to find out what is going on inside their heads and in their lives. This is especially important when it comes to your spouse. Pick a time of day when you are both available and stick to it.
Ask your spouse how his or her day was and listen. Don’t be planning your reply; don’t be thinking about what comes next, just listen. Be interested, be caring and respond accordingly. Your turn to talk will come, and when it does, it will be your spouse’s turn to listen. The goal is peace, living in love and edifying God’s will for us and those around us.
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. —Romans 14:19, KJV