A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 ESV)
Our society is declining because rude and violent behavior is becoming more prevalent in-person and on social media. There are countless injustices to be angry about, but many people wrongly express their anger by retaliating with the same aggression that was directed towards them.
Nowadays, the values of exercising self-restraint, patience, and respect have lessened with importance. Dialogue and diplomacy have been replaced with disruptive and violent behaviors. And it does not help when leaders and celebrities are lauded and paid to be rude. If you watch a few minutes of reality television shows, you will see the same script over and over again. One person gets angry at another person. Gossip begins to spread, and then they confront each other with a yelling match. Why on earth do we want to keep feeding our minds with this junk? I don’t think we realize that we are being programmed to behave a certain way when we spend hours watching shows like these.
So what are we to do about it? How can we combat this culture of rudeness and aggression?
First, we need to unplug the media feed and direct our attention towards sources that enrich moral values, not degrade them. We need to ingrain courtesy and respect into our beings by studying good role models and emulating great examples. Our Bible is full them.
Second, we need to put empathy into action. When someone is angry at us, we must confront the issue by listening first. Now that person may be yelling, screaming and aggressive in their tone, and that will trigger a flight-or-fight response within us. So if necessary, taking a time out and walking away may be the safest thing to do until everyone has calmed down. However, if we decide we want to deal with it right there and then, we must allow the angry party to vent first. And we do that by listening, not talking.
It really takes a confident person to do the listening because he must exercise a lot of self-control. One technique that has worked for me is to receive whatever is being said as information. I try to identify the problem and resist the temptation to defend myself. Looking beneath all the emotions to excavate the core issue becomes my primary objective.
After I identify and validate the problem, I determine if I caused any part of it. If I did, then I own it and apologize. If I did not, then I try to talk it through to clear up any misunderstandings.
And when I speak, I respond with a much softer and supportive tone because I want to de-escalate anger, not fuel it. The adrenaline rush needs to dissipate so everyone becomes more coherent and able to hear what is being said. The rational section of our brain needs to take over while the emotional part is put to rest. It is at that point when coming up with a mutual resolution becomes the final goal.
Sometimes the discussions work out and sometimes they don’t. But as long as I enter the conversations with the intention to make things right between me and the other person, then it really becomes a matter of how he or she responds. Delivering a soft answer in tone and attitude will usually lighten the mood. And if it doesn’t, then I try again at later time. It may take hours, days, or even weeks. If that is the case, then I patiently wait and pray for the opportunity to reconcile and make amends.