In the process of my midlife divorce, my verbal responses were often harsh, angry, sharp and louder than they needed to be. My sobbing and screaming had no effect except to make me look foolish. He didn’t care at all. I have heard the Bible verse about ‘a soft answer turns away wrath,’ my whole life, but it wasn’t until I read the following quote by the Chess Master, Hans Knoch that I realized the real power of a soft answer. “Devastating moves are like dissonant sounds; they shatter the eardrums. In contrast, a ‘quiet’ move is the epitome of finesse. ‘A soft answer turns away wrath,’ but its subdued quality makes it no less efficient.”
A soft answer does defuse anger, so I always thought in the back of my head that its purpose is to keep the peace. But the real value of a soft answer is that it gives you power. It puts you above your antagonist. It keeps you in control of the situation instead of flying off the handle and letting your angry words get in the way of your real point.
If your wasband or your soon-to-be-wasband says things that make you crazy and prods you to respond in an out-of-control way, that gives him power. Your calm, unemotional response might make him take a second look and think, “Hey, I’m not getting the response I usually get. I’m not getting the frantic, flustered, frustrated response I want. What’s up with that? What does that mean? Maybe she isn’t some little emotional weakling I can lead around wherever I want her to go. She is stronger than I thought. She is wiser than I thought. Wait a minute, she looks like the in-control one here. I am looking pretty ridiculous.” In reality, these guys usually aren’t thinking anything at all, but I guarantee, it does change the balance of power. When we stand up straight, calmly look them in the eye and let them know they’re simply not worth getting worked up over, it makes them and their actions look weak and below our bother.
Your soft answer doesn’t just prevent a firestorm of anger, it gives you power. It gives you control. It is an efficient, effective tool to win the bigger game … which in this particular instance is your own well-being. Let’s all try a soft answer the next time our wasband says something ridiculous or stupid or hurtful. See how frustrated he suddenly becomes. Like Hans Knoch says, “A quiet move is subdued, but unbelievably efficient.”
“A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.” Proverbs 15:1 (It also makes him wonder what you’re up to :))