…a principle that I learned while working with some wonderful people several years ago. The idea that into every situation you have a choice, you can bring water (soothing, refreshing, life-giving)
or gasoline (heats things up, escalates, burns).
Life has many layers and in the midst of these layers many conversations happen. Sometimes conversations are wonderful. Sometimes they are very difficult and suck the life out of you. It is the latter where I have recalled this principle and tried hard to choose wisely in bringing water to the situation. I’d love to tell you that I manage this 100% of the time, really well…but that would be a flat out lie. I’d like to think, though, that when I pause, take a moment, and reflect on this principle I really can regroup and avoid dousing the flaming words of a conversation with gasoline.
Not really earth shattering, this principle, in fact there are a lot of similar ways to reach the same goal – productive conversation, even in conflict. I remember when my daughters were growing up Rob and I would always say, “You can make the best of the situation or the worst of the situation – it’s your choice.” Often followed with, “Why on earth would you choose to make the worst of the situation?” Maybe they didn’t need the last statement, but our motive was to encourage them to evaluate every situation and look for how to make the best of it because there are many times in life you can’t change the circumstance.
It’s actually a principle found in the Bible as well. Proverbs 15:15 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
The bottom line is that this doesn’t happen automatically. It takes intention. It takes discipline. It takes practice. It takes time. But the more you invest in making it a common response – water, making the best of it, a soft answer – the more your conversations will be sprinkled with an opportunity to open up and be more productive.
Nothing new, I realize that, but was reminded of this when I ran into a friend at work who said, “Water – not gasoline!” in response to my asking her how she was holding up in the midst of some rough waters at work. I’d shared this principle with her nearly a year ago.
So, not sure what you are facing today, but you’ve got this! Just take in a deep breath, pause to collect your thoughts and words, and then as you breath out you can even just mutter under your breath, “Water! Not gasoline!” as you jump into your situation!