Four Ways to Diffuse a Difficult Situation

It wasn’t pretty.

I wasn’t pretty. At all.

A while ago, I was on a phone call. The woman on the opposite end of the phone line was defensive, obstinate, cynical, intolerant, dogmatic . . . I could go on. Worse than her “charming” personality was the fact she didn’t allow me to speak. She kept cutting me off in mid-phrase, interrupting my attempts to explain. Like a rolling commentary she continued to talk on top of my voice when I was speaking, as if I weren’t even present in the conversation. And attitude? Yeah, she had one. She had a chip . . . no, a boulder on her shoulder, obviously present way before I called her and offered my chipper greeting.

Sadly, the part I played in this scenario got ugly. In a matter of mere moments my extreme frustration with this woman took me from 0 to 8.0 on the Richter scale of emotions, and I’m ashamed to confess I ended up . . . matching her raised voice.

This woman wasn’t allowing me to speak, she didn’t value my input, and she cast a defensive chill in the air from the second I said hello. She drove me—correction, I allowed her to drive me to a point of desperation, which erupted in a disgraceful display of bad behavior by me. When I hung up the phone, I was left a crumpled mess of a boiling blood pressure and burning tears. Adding insult to injury, it was I, not this woman who ended up suffering in the wake of my own destruction.

So . . . have you been there?

We all run across difficult people. It’s a reality of life. Sometimes, we’re grossly misunderstood, taken out of context, or perhaps not even “heard” at all. We’ve all experienced that pesky button pusher who appears to delight in needling until they get a desired reaction. A reaction that isn’t the most becoming.

Friends, as much as I’d love to sit here and blame my abhorrent manners on this arduous woman, I’ve only myself to blame for the wicked headache I acquired following my phone conversation. Regardless of what was dished out to me, I had a choice of how to respond.

James 1:19 says this:

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

When we’re quick to respond without any forethought, we allow others to have power over us.

So, what can we do to diffuse a difficult situation? Here are some ideas.

  1. Practice perspective. We all have our own struggles we deal with. In this case, perhaps this woman was having a horrible day. Maybe she possessed an extreme need to feel in control of others, for whatever reason. This woman may have been enduring some tough situations of her own, causing her poor behavior; people often blame stress to justify their actions. Possibly this woman was just . . . unhappy. None of us are exempt from rough patches.


  1. Shut up. Yes, I said it. Just. Shut. Up. Others are unable to solicit a response from you if you’re not actively engaging in a difficult exchange. Step back and allow the other person to rant, rave, ramble (or dominate) so you can prepare yourself to respond in a respectful manner.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

  1. Learn to discern. Try your best to put aside the other person’s insolent attitude and seek to understand what that person is really trying to say. Sometimes it helps for us to listen intently for what’s not being said.


  1. Seek forgiveness. Whaaattt??? “But, but, but . . . that person is the one who offended me!” Yeah, I know. But you (or I) still exhibited that detestable behavior, which is never justified. It’s certainly a great idea to offer a prayer of forgiveness for the difficult person who treated you poorly. It’s equally important though to seek to be forgiven for your own unattractive responses. If possible, make contact and ask for forgiveness. Whether the person grants it or not, this allows you peace for doing the right thing, and frees you from clinging to the aftermath of a negative situation.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”  — Mark Twain


 Lord, help us to be mindful of your presence amid our difficult situations. May we draw upon your strength to measure our reactions to reflect respect and understanding so others may see You at work in us. In Jesus’ name, amen.



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