While in my first ten-year career stop with a regional natural gas utility headquartered in Dallas, Texas, at age 24, they sent me to a marketing seminar at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where I heard an impressive lecture by the head buyer of Macy's Department Store in NYC, at the time the largest and most profitable department store in the world. He was a 60–70 year old white-haired Jewish man who spoke for the morning session. Picture a David Ben Gurion type. Really.
He first amazed me because he spoke only from a short stack of 3x5 cards, sifting through one after another until he would start speaking on a subject he thought we needed to hear. When he was through he would repeat the process. This lasted for three hours. There is only one principle that I still remember from that day, but it's one that I have never forgotten because I have found it to be true many times over.
I would like to share it with all of you because it works and has helped me on many occasions to understand why someone may have gotten upset at me when I made what I thought was an innocuous comment or suggestion that resulted in a firestorm. Maybe it will help you as well.
He said in interpersonal relationships, there is no such thing as "spontaneous combustion." Something only explodes when it reaches enough heat to make it explode. It reaches its flash point but only after the process of increased heat continues to build up. It may have been something building up for days, weeks or even years. It was a "smoldering wick" (Matthew 12:20) waiting for someone to blow on it so that the fire would restart.
So when someone flares up at you and gets really angry about what you would consider an innocent comment you just made to them, he recommended that you don't look to what you just said as the reason for their anger and response. There's usually a deeper issue that obviously has been building for some time. It may involve you or it may not. It may be another separate issue altogether. Many times that is the case.
Solution? Find that continuing issue of their heart that has been slowly moving toward a boiling point and I believe you'll find the nexus of the disagreement or problem that needs to be uncovered and discussed. Perhaps you can help get it resolved, if you both feel it's worth pursuing.
By the way, this approach really helps in a marriage relationship. Might save someone a night or two of sleeping on the couch. Maranatha!