We all know the feeling that comes with being criticized or verbally attacked. The initial response of shock, fear and anger seem to be hardwired. Defensiveness flows so easily from these states. Once these emotions get a grip on you, the Dark Side leads you to find fault with your attacker. Who is he to talk? Soon, you are throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix to prove your innocence and the obvious evil intentions of your accuser. This dance of hatred is no place for a Jedi!
The Jedi understand that when it comes to handling verbal attacks, most people do the exact opposite of what is helpful.
Let us put this one to rest. For the sake of establishing a starting place, we will classify all communication into just four categories. The Jedi do not suggest that this model is true. It is merely useful for our purposes today. Here are the four categories.
1. We seek information (ask questions)
2. We give information (make statements)
3. We attack (aggressive statements or questions)
4. We abandon (refuse to communicate verbally)
Most people, when attacked, respond by giving information. Often, the information given is intended to prove the attacker wrong. This often backfires and serves to stoke the Dark Side’s fire of hatred and collusion. A typical scenario:
Wife (to husband): I am really sick of you spending money without my permission. Sick of it! It doesn’t grow on trees, you know! You’re a grown man. Stop buying those stupid comic books! Please! Grow up already!
Husband: Well, look who’s talking, the queen of the $50 spray tan! If you’re going to criticize me for spending too much, at least you could watch your own unnecessary spending (attack). And, for your information, I didn’t buy those comic books. Steve brought them over for me to do a value analysis. I am well within my agreed upon budget for hobby spending (give info). You should know that since you check our bank balance every friggin’ hour (attack).
Wife: Whatever. Grown men and their stupid hobbies. You know, every time I stop tanning, you stop noticing me, so what I am supposed to do? I tan and you get all turned on. I stop tanning and you act like I don’t exist (begins to cry).
Husband: Whatever is right (attack). I didn’t do anything wrong (gives info). You came here to pick a fight and now you are trying to make me feel guilty (mild attack). I’m outta here (abandon).
This man is not trained in the Jedi art of communication, so he has missed a huge opportunity to connect with his wife and greatest supporter. Only a confused person would do this. Of course, most men are confused.
This husband, upon being attacked, did two things (as most people would). He attacked back and he gave information. He left out of the scenario the one thing that might have saved him, seeking information.
Had this poor fellow been trained in the Jedi ways, it might have gone much differently:
Wife: I am really sick of you spending money all the time. Sick of it! It doesn’t grow on trees, you know! You’re a grown man. Stop buying those stupid comic books! Please! Grow up already!
Husband: Is money missing from our account? I didn’t know that. Are we overdrawn? (seeks information)
Wife: Huh? No! We aren’t overdrawn (she calms a bit). It’s just these stupid comics. Why do you have to buy these?
Husband: Oh, those. Steve brought them over. I didn’t buy them. In fact, I’ve been watching my hobby budget pretty closely
Wife: Oh. Sorry (much calmer). I’m sorry. It’s just been a stressful day and I am worried about money right now.
At this point, the husband is out of the line of fire and free to support his wife in her stress. He can ask questions, make suggestions and do any number of things to help the situation. A new world is open before him, just because he knew what to do.
The rule is as follows: When attacked, seek information. Seeking information in the face of a verbal attack allows the attacker to release the pent up energy behind the attack and diffuse the anger. It allows the one being attacked to understand what is going on before responding.
Of course, it takes patience with your natural instincts to respond with a counter attack. Sometimes a counter-attack is useful, but not very often. Exercising patience, managing your mind and seeking to understand diffuse any attack worth diffusing.