I was driving to work one morning when I stopped at a traffic light. As the light turned green I noticed the car in front of me move and smack into the car ahead. The driver quickly put her hands on top of her head like she couldn’t believe what she had just done. I felt bad for both involved, until the guy she hit got out of his car. He immediately started to scream and curse her out. As I watched him go on and on, I became enraged. I wanted to get out of the car and intervene. However, I was so angry, all I had the capacity to do at that moment was get in his face. It would have made a tense situation worse. So I didn’t. I ended up maintaining enough restraint to remain in my car, waiting until I knew she was ok before moving on.
The thing that kills me is that if this was a fight in my family I would have not exercised the same restraint. I would have gotten in someone’s face. Fights break out in families all the time. As they escalate they get closer and closer to causing long term relational damage. We have the power to defuse it. Here are 5 tools to diffuse family fights.
Body Language–Master the Nonverbal.
This will set an important tone in whether walls are built up or knocked down. Concentrating on the appropriate body language may even shape your own attitude into the right one.
- Eyes: maintain eye contact to connect and show respect (no eye-rolling).
- Arms: leave open; Stay away from folding your arms (communicates you are closed off) or putting your hands on your hips (communicates dominance–you are trying to intimidate).
- Hands: open palms, preferably up and extended toward them like an invitation to come together.
- Sit down: invite them to do the same if you can. Sitting down is like putting a gun back in the holster.
Stop and Think.
Don’t react quickly. Pause. This is not a tennis match and they aren’t an opponent. They are a loved one. Slow things down. Let them know that what they say is important to you by thinking about it for a moment.
Try to understand how the other person sees the situation. Go beyond hearing their words. Hear the things they aren’t saying, their tone and feelings. Discern what is driving their position. Show them you are working to see their side.
Promote Emotional Control.
Emotions are good. Feeling things deeply enhances the human experience. However, past experiences, old wounds, and insecurities can create emotions that can lead to a loss of perspective on the current situation. Try to understand emotions as best you can and keep them in check.
Always Be Ready.
The next relational landmine could be right around the corner. Train yourself on these techniques now so you are able to move quickly in disarming the bomb.
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Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids tonight and ask: “When we make one another angry, what can we do to calm down?”