Several years ago I managed a retail store. While out on the sales floor, I noticed a customer getting in the face of a lady that worked for me. The closer I got, the more upset I got because they were berating her. I walked up and got between them and said, “You need to calm down!” The customer replied, “Or what?” I said, “Or I’m going to ask you to leave.” He said, “You better call 9-1-1! You’re going to need them!” My tone and volume increased and i said, “Get out!” They then grabbed the phone on the counter, dialed 9-1-1 and handed it to me. I told the dispatcher I had an irate customer who refused to leave and was threatening me. The police came and removed them from my store forcibly. After I had time to calm down, I realized I could have handled that differently. I was in the right to defend my employee, but my tone, volume and body language escalated the situation. I could have de-escalated it, but instead I poured gas on a fire.
In Genesis 27, we read about the twins Jacob and Esau. Their father was old and dying and requested a special meal from Esau, the firstborn of the two, so he could bless him. Their mother heard and had Jacob do it instead since their father was blind. When Esau found out his brother stole the blessing, he was so angry all he could think about was killing his brother. So Jacob fled to another country until he cooled down. It was years later when he returned. His brother Esau was coming towards him with 400 men. Jacob quickly sent gifts in groups along the way to appease his brother’s anger. When they got together, Esau tried to refuse them and asked why all the gifts. Jacob replied, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then accept my gift [as a blessing] from my hand, for I see your face as if I had seen the face of God, and you have received me favorably” (AMP). Esau accepted them and invited Jacob to his house to stay.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.” How we respond in situations matters. Another Proverb tells us that the power of life and death are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). What we say and how we say it matters. We can escalate or de-escalate situations simply by our tone, body language and volume. We must be thoughtful about what and how we say things in a volatile situation. If we allow our emotions and pride to rule, we will say things that hurt the other person and possibly create irreparable damage. I’ve learned to lower my volume, soften my tone and approach difficult situations more thoughtfully. I think about the long term outcome I want, and then I speak. It’s not easy, but it is possible. It’s also biblical. What you say can pour gas or water on a fire.
Photo by Timur Weber.
4 responses to “De-escalating Situations”
Chris, I understand through experiencing the same thing, and later wished I had handled the situation differently. We live and learn, repent and thank the Holy Spirit for brining to our remembrance how we are to conduct ourselves.
Yes! Prayer is so important in these situations. Be Spirit led in what you say and how you say it. He gives wisdom liberally to all who ask. Thanks for adding that.
Yes we always need to show Christ love even in difficult situations.
It’s hard to do sometimes. Thankfully the Holy Spirit helps us and gives us wisdom.