Handling Difficult Conversations Well

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”- James 1:19

Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling like you had run into a buzz saw? Have you ever asked yourself, “Where in the world did that come from?” Has a friend ever blindsided you with a flurry of criticism and complaints?

All of us have had these experiences at some time or another. Such experiences are unpleasant –to say the least. In those unpleasant moments, we’re tempted to react, to strike back, to lash out. How can we handle these conversations biblically? James 1:19 offers us three ways to handle difficult conversations:

1.Be Quick to Hear: My dad likes to say that God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen at least twice as much as we speak. Yet so often, especially in heated conversations, we listen only to speak. We’re preparing our witty comeback or scathing criticism while the other person talks. This is not true listening. We ought to be quick to hear –both to what is said and to what is not said -because the criticism might be valid or it might clue us in to what’s really going on.
2.Be Slow to Speak: Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” This wisdom is especially applicable to tense situations and heated conversations. We ought to be slow to speak.

3.Be Slow to Anger: For many of us, anger is a reaction. We have a short fuse and it doesn’t take much to set us off. Being slow to anger requires us to take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask questions like this: “What might be going on in Sally’s life that would cause her to speak this way to me?” Perhaps Sally has just gotten a bad diagnosis at the doctor. Perhaps Sally’s children have been exasperating her. Perhaps it’s not about you at all. We ought to be slow to anger.
 Handling difficult conversations well requires wisdom. I’m grateful that God has provided us that wisdom in the book of James.

Your Pastor and Friend,
John Knox Foster

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