199 WORDS: The Power In NOT Responding

Recently, a person’s sarcastic, harsh words wounded me. Key people in my life were indignant for me and encouraged me to respond.

I didn’t.

Trust me, I’ve never shied away from “retaliating.” On this day, though, I chose to not be the guy my dad often railed against:

A “hothead.”

I have been the hothead, returning fire, fighting back, and defending swiftly and vigorously. However, as a friend named Beth said, reacting from hurt only begets hurt. Waiting, discerning, and forming a thoughtful response — or never responding — is better.

At 61, I finally possess a pinch of patience, a dash of restraint, and a dollop of circumspection — a recipe for maturity … and wisdom. The QBQ! book:


What we learn after we know it all.

There’s great “power” in not responding. That power comes from supplanting strife, drama, and tension with joy, energy, and productivity. Not responding enables me to move on.

It also eliminates the need to hunker down waiting for the other party’s retaliatory strike. Been there, done that. Ugh.

When I speak, I tell audiences, “Great blessing is heaped upon us when we say nothing.” It feels good to experience the validity of that statement.

So, no more “hotheading” for me. How about you?

Comments welcome!


15 Responses

  1. Truer words have not been spoken (or unspoken in this case)!

    Life (and my wife) have taught me that a response isn’t always necessary, Like you, I had to learn things the hard way but, lessons learned! Who said getting older (and wiser) isn’t a good thing!

  2. This is so true – and also so difficult at times. I recall a quote i read from Michelle Obama – “Not Helpful.”
    Basically, she “checks with herself” on if her reaction is spoken if it would be helpful to the situation. If its “Not Helpful” she bites her tongue.

  3. I also believe in the power of nonresponse, however, in today’s world sometimes I feel people need to be responded too because the comments they say are simply not acceptable. I try to follow a 24 hour rule where I may type up my immediate response, but before I do press that send button, I give myself 24 hours, re-read my response, and evaluate it for effectiveness. It is a cool down period. As you stated, sometimes other friends and colleagues and family members will come to defense for you. Thanks for sharing your “hothead” story.

    1. Heidi, I like your approach. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we become emotional and let that sweep us away before we rationally think about our response. Waiting 24 hours gives you that time, as you said, as a cool down period. Maybe, after 24 hours, you feel it is appropriate to still respond, and maybe not. We have to carefully pick our battles!

  4. I too get caught up in getting in the “last” word; which generally never is. There is something liberating in having the ability to stop the cycle and say nothing. Nine times out of ten the person on the other end is just waiting for the comeback and when you don’t response……well the reality is you did get in the “last” word. The one that was never said! Love it.

  5. And that takes maturity. Maturity comes from experience, getting it right and getting it wrong. I’ve learned, that often there is a bit of truth in those biting words, and my desire to defend is because of my pride, so I can let it go. I’ve also learned that the last one who fires the shot is usually the one who is most burdened. Well done John. Keep leading by example.

    The other thing I’ve learned from experience is – don’t answer a fool according to his folly. You’ll just get pulled into the mud. – Garrett

  6. John – I’ve always been a big fan; used and shared your books.
    I’ve lived by the motto which is not original with me, “I don’t attend every argument I’m invited to.” Ok, the grammar is poor but the wisdom stuck with me.

  7. I love QBQ, and this is one of the most impactful statements made. I tell my kids all the time that when your sibling or others are messing with you its just because they want a reaction, and just ignore them, that will hurt them more than anything you can say. As adults we forget this and spout off on Social Media and create a lot of drama that is not needed. If we choose to ignore ugly comments they will just fade away, vs continuing to allow them to live.

  8. Thank you for validating the reaction I chose in response to an angry communication from a co-worker. It turned out to be the right one as we are very gradually communicating in a normal way again.
    Always appreciate your short and inspiring stories!

  9. I agree that non-response is the best response if you can not think of anything constructive to say. If you can think of something that will benefit the listener then that should be said. Proverbs 15:1 works, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. Overcome your “enemy” with love.

  10. Great message to be reminded of to think before you speak, don’t say anything unless it is uplifting to the Lord, do onto others as you would have them do onto you, be positive, etc…

  11. I was just reminded of the ‘not responding’ yesterday. Great timing. I have to remind myself that I reserve the right to not respond, I reserve the right to not engage. Thanks so much for the timely reminder!

  12. My 6th grade teacher (who was also a member of the church we attended at the time) would always say “Least said, soonest mended.” At the time, I did NOT understand it. And as an adult, there are times when we have to speak up (when we see injustice, when we actually do have to stand up for ourselves, etc). But now I understand what Mr. Larson meant – sometimes, our silence or our patience as we wait for a better time, is the most valuable thing we have.

  13. A wise person once told me about a question to use when I feel the “need to be right” and correcting my spouse. I now ask myself “do I want to be right or HAPPY?” In other words, if it is not important, many times the right response is to not respond at all & let it go. ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *