Handling Hot Topics Without Getting Burned

By Dr. Ann Shorb

It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
--Proverbs 20:3

When the topic of our conversation leads to heated feelings, the discussion often ceases to be productive. Instead we fall into patterns and habits of communicating that only lead to feelings of hurt and resentment. Here are several helpful suggestions for dealing with those hot topics without getting burned.

1. Listen attentively to what is really being said by the other person. Keep both your ears and your eyes open.

2. Put away preconceived notions and opinions for the moment.

3. Don't make assumptions about what or why the other person says, thinks or feels.

4. Repeat back what you think you heard.

5. Ask questions when you don't understand or things seem unclear.

6. Use "I statements” to express your feelings instead of attacking the other person.

7. Work on only one issue at a time. Stick to the topic at hand.

7. Stay in the present. Ask, "How can we solve this problem?" Later you can focus on changing patterns that created this problem.

8. Offer suggestions that will help solve the problem. Consider the consequences of each one. Decide which one seems to work best for everyone involved.

10. Stay away from the words "always" and "never" and "you should."

11. Avoid name-calling, cursing and swearing, and sarcasm, and/or shutting down.

12. Never use physical force—hitting, shoving, and throwing things, slamming or stomping.

13. Don't bring up third-party opinions and issues such as, My dad agrees with me," or "If your parents would have treated you better you wouldn't be like this."

14. Stop arguing to win! When that happens problems are not resolved and no one really wins.

15. Take a time-out if necessary. When things get too heated, call for a time out. Decide when to
get together again to finish the discussion; then leave the room, taking a few minutes to cool
down. Go for a walk, read a book or do some other activity to relieve the stress. Be sure to
reconvene to finish the discussion. (Set a time limit of no more than three hours for a time-

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Related Articles and Devotionals:
The Golden Rules to Living in Harmony
Communication Guidelines for Better Relationships
Love One Another? Why?

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