Gentleness diffuses conflict. It disarms critics. It’s persuasive. It’s attractive. And gentleness communicates love.
If you’re married, the quickest way to improve your marriage is to start talking to your spouse more gently. It’ll do wonders! Any fool can be selfish. Any fool can be rough. Any fool can be rude. But a gentle answer goes a long way, like the Proverb says, “A gentle answer quiets anger, but a harsh one stirs it up.”
Whether you’re married or not, the principle is the same for all relationships, including work relationships.
Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: Have you noticed that human beings have a tendency to mimic other people’s emotions, especially if we’re sitting or standing right across from them?
That’s because of mirror neurons in our brains that allow us to sympathize and mirror what other people feel. For instance, if somebody gets angry with you, you get angry back. If somebody is really miserable and you hang around that person long enough, you get miserable too.
In the same way, when someone raises their voice against you, you usually raise your voice back. Then they raise their voice higher. Then you raise your voice higher. Then pretty soon things have escalated, and your emotions are out of control.
But the Proverb offers a different way to respond: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Let me give you a little tip that will save you a lot of heartache and conflict in your marriage, in your parenting, in your friendships, and at work: When another person raises their voice, lower yours. When you do that, you’re demonstrating strength under control.
Another word for strength under control is gentleness. Gentleness defuses conflict. It de-escalates anger. A gentle person does not overreact and is not driven by their emotions. A gentle person demonstrates strength under control.
Think about the image of a wild stallion that had been tamed. If you go out in the hills and find a wild stallion, it’s unbridled and even dangerous, with a strength that could kill you pretty quickly. But if you tame that stallion, it’s still just as strong, but the strength is brought under control.
To help you put this into practice, let’s ponder some questions:
- What is your normal reaction to raised voices, such as when your kids are misbehaving or you’re having a disagreement with your spouse or close friend or coworkers?
- When you choose to respond gently, what does that say to the other person? Why do you think responding in gentleness rather than anger is so disarming? Why does it get people’s attention?
- Look for ways to practice gentleness this week. How do people react when you respond to them with gentleness? What difference does it make?
- Is it important to you to be known as a gentle person? Why or why not?
Next week, we’ll continue to explore why gentleness is important and how we can be more gentle.