The Smart Way to Avoid Unnecessary Arguments
Some conflict is inevitable. Psychologists will tell you that it’s even necessary – not so sure about that. Whenever I hear a shrink spout that line, I ask myself – How much conflict is there in the Trinity, hmm?? How often to Father, Son and Holy Spirit have a falling out?
Okay, so in a fallen world, some conflict is inevitable. That may well be true. But it seems to me that 99% of it is both unnecessary and avoidable. So here’s one smart way for avoiding unnecessary arguments.
How Arguments Start … and Escalate
When imperfect people rub up against one another in a home or a workplace or a shop or wherever … then from time to time, you can be pretty sure that sparks are going to fly.
So let me ask you this. The last time you were confronted by a potential conflict – big or small, doesn’t matter – how did you react? At that point where there was the potential for this thing to escalate or to go away – what did you do?
Here’s how most of us react most of the time.
Why did you do that? Why did you say that? How could you think that? You’re an idiot …
We say it, we shout it … or we just think it and our body language says it all! But in that critical moment, our reaction escalates the conflict. That’s how arguments start.
And as the argument goes on and each party ratchets up the rhetoric … that’s how relationships are ruined. That’s how marriages fall apart. That’s how murders happen. That’s how wars begin.
At some point, it was nothing much – but then we just had to come out punching, even when (as is the case in pretty much 99% of situations) it simply wasn’t worth it (am I right?).
Look at it from that perspective and you can start to see how absolutely crazy this step of escalation is. We do it without thinking. We do it out of pride or whatever and bang – it’s on for young and old. We’re off and racing folks – and it’s just not much fun.
So I’m going to share with you right now the secret of how you can be a blessing right at that ignition point. Are you ready?
An Age Old Secret
The secret lies buried in a book that was written – oh, about 3,000 years ago, by a very wise old King called Solomon. Here it is:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov 15:1)
At the critical flash point of a conflict, our most natural response is the second half of that proverb – it’s to give a harsh word which will (absolutely 100% of the time) stir up anger. Do you see? That’s the anatomy of the escalation.
Until that angry response, there was no argument. There was only the potential for an argument.
But we just have to open our mouths, even when it’s simply not worth it. We have to give a harsh response and that’s what causes the argument.
The alternative response lies in the first part of the proverb – it’s the soft answer. Why? Because almost always, the soft answer turns away the wrath. It averts the conflict. The soft response is like the shock absorbers in your car – it smooths out the ride.
No Victims Please
At this point you may be thinking – But hang on, I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to be someone else’s door mat where they walk all over me every time. That’s crazy. But I’m not talking about that. That’s not what the proverb says.
Actually, it takes a very secure person, a mature person, a wise person to give a soft answer that turns away someone else’s wrath, when that someone has done something to annoy them.
First, we have to have our own anger under control and second, we need the wisdom to know that if there is an issue that needs dealing with here, then we’re much more likely to deal with it effectively and get the response and the result that we’re looking for in an environment free from argument, than in a situation of anger and conflict that we ourselves have stirred up.
And whilst your adversary may never appreciate what a blessing you were by giving a soft answer to turn away their wrath, instead of a harsh word that stirs their anger – you’ll know. You’ll know what an incredible blessing you’ve been in that place – by avoiding a conflict that really, never needed to happen in the first place.
Being a shock absorber hurts sometimes. Peace inevitably comes at a price. But it’s worth it in the end.