“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
This verse is one of my favorites to take to work. It is very practical for everyday situations, contains risk management, and demonstrates the strength of restraint and wisdom.
Most of us spend a significant amount of our day communicating with others. We may be speaking with our colleagues, clients, or bosses. These conversations may be calm or tense, positive or negative, amicable or aggressive. We enjoy calm, professional, and friendly discussions, but there are times when we find ourselves in a discussion that is starting to be tense, hostile, and aggressive. We do not enjoy these interactions and would prefer to avoid them if possible. We need to get our message across but want to do so in a manner that maintains a good relationship.
Any conversation in the workplace aims to improve a situation, not to make one worse. It only takes one person to escalate a conversation, and it only takes one person to deescalate it. Choose to be the de-escalator. How do we do that? By choosing the gentle approach.
It may seem counter-intuitive to think of gentleness as being a strength. The world often sees gentleness as weakness.
It is easy to let our emotions get the better of us. It takes strength to practice self-control.
It is easy to react aggressively when we feel we are not being treated correctly. It takes strength to practice patience.
It is easy to speak harshly when we feel attacked. It takes strength to practice gentleness.
The Lord tells us a gentle (kind, tender, sympathetic, considerate, and good-natured) answer turns wrath away, but a harsh word stirs up anger. God is with you every moment, of every day, at work. Ask Him for the strength to be gentle in all conversations, no matter how heated they may be.
This past week, I apologized to a staff member as I could tell I was becoming impatient in the conversation. Not with the staff member, but with the situation we had to deal with. Recognizing our "red flags" will help to avoid this kind of situation and, therefore, the need to give an apology for communication we regret. Knowing what might "trigger" a harsh or impatient word is essential.
Consider the following Four Steps to Acquiring the Strength to be Gentle at Work
Acknowledge God is constantly with you and provides the strength for you to be gentle.
Remember that gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit given to you when you acknowledge Christ as your Savior.
Determine your "red flags" that indicate you are at risk of responding harshly. Is it when you are feeling defensive? Is it when you are being interrupted? Is it when you do not feel confident about your knowledge? Is it with a particular person? When you determine your red flags, you can prepare yourself in prayer to control your emotions and words.
Find yourself caught "off-guard" and in the middle of a heated conversation? Recognize the cues that you are starting to lose your self-control. Perhaps you are beginning to raise your voice, interrupt the other person, assume a defensive posture, or feel your heart race. If you recognize one of these cues, start concentrating on active listening. In this way, you can begin to calm yourself, pray for the situation, and gather the strength and self-control you need to respond gently and professionally.
Christian Women at Work Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father: In every situation at work this week, help me be mindful of the words I speak and the attitude I demonstrate. Lord, I do not know what the other person may be dealing with or why they are reacting as they are. Only You know that. However, I know I want to acknowledge You in all my communications this week. Give me the strength to communicate clearly, gently, and respectfully in a way that honors You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
May God richly bless you this week as you take your strength in gentleness to work.
Bonny, Christian Women at Work