Some of the most intense moments I have ever watched on television or even in the movies have been when a bomb is found and it needs to be disarmed.
Can you picture it? The timer clicks down in red numbers like an alarm clock from the 1980s; someone who knows more than the average Joe about disarming a bomb comes across THIS one that has motion sensors, wires that all look the same and hidden booby traps that would trigger its early detonation.
No matter how many times I see them, I find myself clenching my teeth and I find my hands in a fist because of the tension.
I am sure there are more bombs being set than we would care to admit, but we never hear about them because of the incredible talents of men and women who have made it their lives to know how to disarm bombs, learning the countless ways someone could build one and being familiar with just about every technique ever developed.
For most of us we will never actually come that close to an actual bomb. The closest many of us will ever be is when we go to see the fireworks during the 4th of July or a New Year’s celebration.
However, many of us – if not all of us – will be faced with incendiary relationships at some time or another. There are issues that arise in relationships that are explosive in nature.
Someone you know could be having a particularly bad day and their internal “I can deal with this” clock is ticking. You may just be unlucky enough to be in their general vicinity when that ticking time bomb goes off. You get caught in the blast of your friends frustration, anger, rage, or venting diatribe.
You may be at the grocery store and a customer in line is giving you or the cashier an extremely difficult time.
How about if you’re married? The argument (excuse me – discussion) can escalate to code red proportions because the blast of a disagreement can destroy an evening, week, month and unfortunately a marriage.
I can think of hundreds of situations where relational explosions take place. Sometimes it only affects two people. Other times there can be innocent bystanders (friends or family) negatively affected and there have been organizations that have split in two due to a relationship time bomb – affecting hundreds of people.
The imagery is meant to grab your attention.
So when we are faced with escalated situations – or potentially explosive relationships – how do we handle it?
We can respond in several ways…
- We can turn and run like crazy to avoid the conflict
- We can ask a close friend or family member to speak on our behalf to settle the situation
- We can go in with a verbal arsenal and detonate the relationship
- OR, we can follow some steps – that may work or may not work – depending on the situation.
First and foremost, when we are faced with a potentially damaging situation in one of our relationships, remember this…
When someone escalates – it is NOT the time for debates!
Arguing, getting angry, blowing up verbally NEVER defuses a relational bomb – unless in a controlled and safe, mediated environment.
Then we can do our best to follow some steps in order to de-escalate the situation.
- Defuse: This means to make a threatening or dangerous situation safer. In a relationship this involves calming a potentially damaging verbal exchange to minimize the damage. Plus – you cannot negotiate or rationalize with someone who is in a fit of rage or anger.
- Deflect: Meaning to cause (something, someone) to change direction by interposing something, or to cause someone to deviate from an intended purpose. In this step, we are interposing an objective point of view to deflect away from the argument or verbal explosion in order to change the direction of the conversation to the underlying issue.
- Direct: In this step we aim (something) on a particular course, at a particular person, or at a particular issue. When you have routed out the underlying issue, which would detonate the relationship into pieces if not disarmed, you then want to direct all your energy or the energies of those involved toward addressing that issue. Once this issue is addressed you have the best chance at de-escalating the relationship explosion and in most cases deactivating a potentially harmful conversation.
Will this work all of the time? No. It will not. It truly depends on the people involved and how long they have allowed this underlying issue to click away on the relationship time bomb.
Here is the cool thing. Most relationships can be reconciled. However, this takes great effort, work and daily choices in order to piece the relationship back together.
Oh and one more thing! When you place God at the center of your relationships, spend time praying with and for each other, encouraging each other, you can grow in your ability to Defuse, Deflect and Direct.
I would LOVE to hear your stories and how you may have worked through an escalated, explosive relationship issue – whether work or personal. You can leave a comment on this blog OR email me at TheSophosGroup@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!