How many times in conversation do I keep going, keep speaking, even after the dam gets breached? … And how many times do I regret it when I see that the flow of words can’t be stopped?
Proverbs 17:14 describes the age old scenario:
“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before a quarrel breaks out.”
I like how conflict resolution author Ken Sande describes how to handle
a situation like this …
The earlier you stop the flow of critical words—preferably before they even begin—the better. One way to do this is to develop the habit of filtering your words through three levels:
- Self-aware: What am I feeling right now? (Impatient, frustrated, defensive) Why? (I’m being criticized, I’m not getting what I want.) How do I typically react to these feelings? (My face and voice get stern, I speak harshly, I blame others)
- Other-aware: What do others seem to be feeling? (Fear, uncertainty, irritation) How might my reaction impact them? (Make them even more defensive or angry!) What interests do they have that I can meet? (To be heard, understood, respected)
- God-aware: How can I imitate God? (Be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, Exod. 34:6). What has he promised to do for me? (To give me a new heart so I can control my tongue and love others, Phil. 2:13). What does he call me to do? (Say only what will benefit, encourage, and build others up, Eph. 4:29).
Thinking three dimensionally is not natural for most of us. But if you practice these skills long enough, they can become second nature, enabling you to take every thought, emotion, and action captive to Christ … and to guard your relationships from the impulsive words that used to cause so many breaches.