“A soft answer turneth away wrath; But a grievous word stirreth up anger.” — Proverbs 15.1
Whether you call it emotional intelligence, maturity, diplomacy, life management skill, or communication expertise, the ability to stay cool, calm, and collected in situations where others are not is incredibly valuable.
Maturity, wisdom, and civilization all lie in the ability to expand and control that space between stimuli and response, the knack of pausing and responding intelligently, calmly. Or in the words of Ruyard Kipling “If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you…then you will be a man, my son.”
I think of it as “de-wiring” my hot buttons, snipping the wires, deactivating them, sending them into the trash heap of the past.
Tony Robbins once wrote, “The quality of your life is equal to the quality of your communication.” Given that it is communication (verbal and non-verbal) that shapes and forms our relationships, I am in unqualified agreement.
Sometimes it takes more than one soft answer to defuse a situation or to calm a person in a “hot” state. It can be an ongoing process, not an instantaneous, one phase event. One should never totally ignore the emotional states of others and sometimes it can help to pace them slightly by entering into their emotional sphere, matching their mood just a bit but always dialing it down, always slowing it a bit, returning the volley if you must to show understanding and empathy but always putting “backspin on the ball” to take all the energy out of the exchange that you can. To say the obvious, never patronize or mock others by treating them like children, with exaggerated calmness.
A soft answer is NOT about being meek or excessively accommodating. It is about calming the waters, stilling the storm, and then beginning a joint foray to discover the middle ground. Don’t give up, don’t give in. Instead, invest your energies in the search for the better alternative.
I’ve always liked the phrase, “A soft answer turneth away wrath,” perhaps because I heard it early in life so it has warm associations, or perhaps because its slight hint of “Old English” gives it a patina of wisdom that makes it easier to remember and gives it greater gravitas in my mind. In any case, to know and not do is to not know, so I value anything that makes a scrap of wisdom spring to mind in those crucial moments of decision.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath” has served me well and helped me avoid many useless conflicts, so I enthusiastically commend it to you!
Closing Quote: “When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, a hundred.” — Thomas Jefferson