When someone throws an inflammatory or critical comment our way, it’s tempting to take the bait and get into an argument or internally bristle at what he or she said. A better way to handle the situation is to bypass the bait and “READ.”

  • Remain calm – Number one rule.
  • Echo and inquire – We may choose to offer a quick question or reflection to check your perception.
  • Agree -The quickest way to neutralize a critic is to agree. Agree with the part of the criticism that is valid. Or agree with the critic’s right to an opinion. We don’t need to agree with the entire assessment, just find a part that we can agree with. At the very least, we can agree that they have the right to think the way they do.
  • Disclose – If appropriate, follow up the agreement with a quick statement in which we disclose an opinion or intent.

If we are able to remain calm and neutral through this process, chances are, we will neutralize the comment and prevent it from developing into an argument. This technique is particularly helpful when we are dealing with people with a grumpy disposition who make inflammatory, opinionated, off-the-cuff comments and have no particular issue to resolve.

Here’s how it works:

Emily’s mother drops over for coffee unannounced. She walks in and comments; “Your house is always messy.” Instead of taking the bait, Emily READs: “”I agree my kitchen is messy right now. (Agree) I am planning on cleaning it after supper.” (Disclose)

Steven snaps at Chris, “This casserole tastes awful! Can’t you find any better recipes? ”
Chris: “What do you mean by awful?” (non-defensive question)
Steven: “I mean it’s bland and tasteless!”
Chris: “You like your food to have more flavor.” (Echo) “I can see why you might not enjoy this meal.” (Agrees with his right to an opinion) “I always enjoy trying recipes I haven’t tried before.” (Disclose)

Ann’s mother-in-law says, “You shouldn’t let your kids play video games!”
Ann inquires, “What is it about video games that concerns you?” (non-defensive question)
Her mother-in-law says, “They’re so violent! I don’t think they’re good for children.”
Ann replies, “I agree that some video games are violent and not good for children.” (Agrees) “I don’t think these video games will affect them negatively.” (Disclose)

Adapted from Conversation Peace.

Written by Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and a distinguished professor at Southern Baptist Seminary. She has published several books, Bible studies and videos, including: In My Father’s House: Finding Your Heart’s True Home, Conversation Peace, Vertically Inclined, and the Feminist Mistake.