Thursday, May 23, 2013

Handling Raw Emotions in the Midst of Personal Attacks

Ever been on the receiving end of a personal attack? How did you respond? Did you attack back? Or did you give yourself time to gain your composure and respond gently? 

I don't know about you, but when I am personally attacked, my first reaction is one of wanting to fight back and defend myself, but I've learned over the years how deal with it better, and a couple recent experiences have reminded me of some great wisdom.

Whether the attack comes at you from email, text or in person, you have a CHOICE about how to respond. 

You can choose to respond with the same level of venom that was spewed on you by defending  yourself and attempting to prove how wrong the other person is ... or, you can choose to give grace and respond gently. 

Responding to a personal attack out of anger is a reaction. Reactions generally contain harsh words used to prove how wrong the other person is. It feels good for about a second as you defend yourself, but then as you're speaking, you realize what a mess you're creating and that you are going to have to go back and clean it up later.

Instead, choose a reply and remember, "a gentle reply turns away wrath."

When I am personally attacked I usually need time to process the situation and my feelings in my journal before I can speak about it gently. Then, as I prepare to address the situation with the other person, I try to apply a process I learned in the book Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst.

I'll use the example from the book to illustrate how to accomplish each step. (In the books she shares a harsh email she received from the parent of a child at her daughter's school who was not invited to her daughter's birthday party.)
  1. Honor the one offended. You can do this by pointing out a good quality. "I can tell you are a mother who cares deeply for your child." 
  2. Keep your response short and full of grace. 
    • Acknowledge the expressed hurt. "I understand how hard it can be when we feel our child has been left out. Like you, I hurt when my child hurts."
    • Briefly clarify your intentions. "Might I share from my heart what I intended when we invited only the girls from Hope's homeroom class to the party?..."
    • Be gently honest about the situation and offer a door. "You are probably aware of the conflicts our daughters have had this year. If you would like to discuss some possible ways we can better guide both girls, I would welcome that."
    • Apologize if appropriate. "Please accept my most sincere apology for causing you and your daughter hurt."
  3. Extend compassion. End your note or conversation sincerely. If you can find it in your heart to extend a warm closing, do so. It will go a long way in helping to resolve the situation.
I recently had a couple of opportunities to practice this technique, and I am SO glad I did. It brought such a sense of peace to the situation -- especially for me, because I could actually feel good about how I handled the situation without having to go back and clean it up later. Imagine that!

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