Conflict? Stop before you’re finished

Stop before finishing speaking

I don’t know about you, but I have, on the (not so) rare occasion, said too much. I am particularly prone to such behavior when I am relatively certain that I am in the right and the other person is, ya know, not.

When we are in the midst of any conflict, what most of us want is to hear some version of, “You are so right. I am completely at fault. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me. I am blessed to know someone so brilliant and generous.”

Keep talking or not?

Working toward that impossible end, we keep talking long after the other person has stopped listening.  It’s easy to do when we think that our position is positively unassailable. We work to find the right combination of syllables and phrases to make our point more clear. Surely once we say all we have to say, our conversation partners will see the truth that we are so lovingly imparting.

stop before you are finished speaking

At some point, I learned that if I stop before I’m finished, I have much better results. By not backing my loved one into an ideological corner, I create the opportunity for continued dialogue. Additionally, I give us both a chance to think about what has been said already.

The time it happened to me

I remember one time especially when I was on the receiving end of the Stop Before You Are Finished magic. At a family gathering, I was talking with a relative who was in school to be a speech therapist. My son, Baker, was not yet three and had some speech patterns that were developmentally delayed. While I was conversing with the speech therapist wannabe, Baker approached and began speaking to the two of us. By that time, I was already in the habit of stating Baker’s comments back to him to make sure his audience heard him correctly. The student (aka expert) speech therapist, sparing not one ounce of tact,  said, “He needs speech therapy!”

Are you talking about my CHILD?

I was appalled and infuriated at her suggestion. He was two years old for goodness sake! Couldn’t we just let him be a baby? Ridiculous.

I really don’t know what I said in response. I recall being relatively polite, though she may have had a different view of the conversation. I left feeling frustrated and annoyed by her presumptions; still, as soon as I could, I researched preschool speech therapy and made an appointment with a local practice.

After meeting the staff and seeing how they interacted with our boy, we made the decision to proceed with the therapy. And it was a good thing too. Baker was in speech therapy for six years–from the time he was 3 until he was 9.  Thank goodness the relative did not push the point further with me because I might have refused to consider her ideas. Because she stopped before she had said everything she knew, I had energy remaining to consider her advice and come to the best conclusion.

Just bite your tongue.

For some, it may be easy to say the fewest words possible or to ignore the conflict altogether. Others are like me and find it challenging  to stop talking before saying absolutely every single solitary thing known about the matter. Knowing that it doesn’t work to flood people with too much information, I try to remember that a few well-chosen words are always more effective than a monotonous lecture. When I do, I bite my tongue, and stop talking. Even if I’m not finished.


By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.