The other day on one of my walks, I overheard a woman yelling at a man next to her. Her enunciation was so poor that I couldn’t get the gist of what was infuriating her, but there was no doubt that she was so outraged about something or someone that she was getting apoplectic. The man calmly and attentively listened to her prolonged outburst.
As I got closer to the couple, I clearly heard the man’s modulated reply: “You need to take a breath.” How disarming. And it worked. The woman was taken aback. Instead of continuing to fume, she immediately stopped her tirade, sat down, and lowered her head. Perhaps she began to reflect on the necessity and intensity of her indignation or perhaps she was just exhausted.
When I got back home, I realized that if I had the presence of mind to respond as wisely the man did, I might have been able to mitigate some of the escalating verbal assaults that I have witnessed over the years.
It is so tempting to either disregard or lash out against someone who confronts you with a grievance, whether legitimate or not. It is more productive to defuse the situation with neutral words spoken with compassion. We all need to take a breath when we are overcome with righteous anger.