A couple of recent encounters reminded me of the truth in words spoken by wise King Solomon millennia ago, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
The first encounter was a call to Microsoft tech support. Frustrated by a computer issue I had been experiencing for months, I reached out to the call center when the problem grew worse. A very pleasant tech support specialist, Aman, fielded my call and quickly set me at ease. He told me his name means “peace.” How appropriate.
I knew my computer problem wasn’t his fault, but oftentimes in frustrating situations, it’s easy to project that frustration onto anyone in earshot. Aman calmly and patiently walked me through a number of steps to fix the issue in the half hour we spent on the phone. And when we had to wait for some of the computer processes to work in the background, he took pride in showing me pictures of sights in his country of India. He even introduced me, via pictures, to Indian street food.
Not only did I get my computer problem solved, but I got a cultural education too. And it all started with a gentle answer.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” — Proverbs 15:1
The other encounter was with a woman who had a Southern accent. Maybe it was that Southern charm that quickly melted my defenses. This call was also driven out of frustration, only this time my frustration was with my health insurance company. I’ve had many dealings with this company over the years, and the calls don’t always go well. I often get the runaround and have learned to persist in calling multiple times. This time was an exception. The sweet woman on the other end of the phone — I don’t remember her name — proved extremely helpful in solving my issue. And she did it cheerfully.
During that same week, I saw a video about a guy known as the World’s Greatest Sheriff’s Deputy, Elton Simmons, in Los Angeles County. He got that title because of the down-to-earth way he handles traffic stops.
All three of these public servants deal with people every day who are frustrated. Yet they’re able to quickly disarm that frustration by treating others the way they’d want to be treated in those same situations. And they do it joyfully.
There have been numerous times when those around me have been frustrated. Thinking back, I have to ask myself: Did I offer gentle answers to set them at ease? Or did I fuel their fire and stir up the pot of anger? I want to be like Aman, the Southern woman, and Elton Simmons. I want to give gentle answers.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"