“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
I believe the impact of our words is determined by two components: what we say and how we say it.
A classic spot of irritation within marriage or parenting is nagging (or perceived nagging). With so much business to attend to like housework, schoolwork, schedules and activities, we frequently make and receive requests and reminders throughout the day. How do you usually respond in these instances?
Have you ever experienced a conversation like this?
Husband: I need you to take me to work on Thursday because my car will be in the shop.
Wife: I know, you told me three times already.
Or what about this one?
Mom: I need you to clean up your room because we have company coming over later.
Child: Ugh, I know, you told me already.
In my experience, when someone says, “I know…” to a request or reminder, there’s usually irritation or annoyance in their voice. Some eye rolling or deep sighing may even happen. (True confession: I often do this without even realizing it.)
When we’re on the defense or annoyed about a reminder, it’s rare that we give a gentle answer.
Do you wish there were a better solution for these situations, both in what we say and how we say it?
Five years ago my husband and I went on a trip to Washington D.C. We decided to visit Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, and made the trip outside the city via train. Then we had to transfer and take a bus to get to Mount Vernon.
It’s a little fuzzy now, but either we missed the bus and would have to wait an hour for the next one or it was full. In any event, we couldn’t take the bus and were standing around with some other people in the same situation. We decided to share a cab with a woman and her teenage daughter. We ended up spending most of the day with them at Mount Vernon. The woman joked that we were their cousins, they were just delightful.
The woman knew we had a young daughter and offered up her most important piece of wisdom in raising a family: “Thank you for the reminder.”
She said it’s a rule in her house that whenever a reminder is given or a subsequent request is made, she and her family must respond with, “Thank you for the reminder.”
I just love that. It’s hard to grumble or speak harshly when you’re thanking someone, isn’t it (even if they are reminding you of something you already knew)? Gratitude changes our attitude. A gentle answer turns away wrath.
Re-read the conversations above, but replace the response of the second person with “Thank you for the reminder.”
Our family has chosen to adopt this rule (it was a family rule from our “cousin,” after all). We’re not always perfect of course (some deep sighing and eye rolling still happen), but we try to exhibit a kind spirit and teach our children to do the same.
Five little words, said in kindness can diffuse anger; they can turn away wrath.
“Thank you for the reminder.”
I challenge you to try out this response within your own family and circle of influence. Let me know how it goes!