“The main hurdle for us to overcome was that we needed to get better responding, rather than reacting, to pain and fear. In other words, we had to become more emotionally “response-able.”” –Danny Silk

What is emotional responsibility?

Pastor Danny Silk has been one of my favorite speakers/authors to follow for a while. He is committed to helping individuals, couples, and families grow in relational and emotional health. I recently read a blog entry from him in which he used the term “response-ability” to describe our ability to respond to conflict in an intentional/deliberate way that keeps us emotionally connected (rather than emotionally disconnected, which can be the most common result of conflict).

Here is his main point and my purpose for wanting to write and share this with you…

“The mindset shift we make as we grow in emotional responsibility is this:

I don’t need you to be like me—I need you to understand me.

I don’t need to be like you—I need to understand you.

We send each other the message of care convincingly by investing the time and energy to understand one another’s needs and make room for two totally different people to show up and thrive in this relationship.

In contrast, we send a message of selfishness when we make no effort to grow and expect each other to become us before we extend love and trust.”

Conflict in our relationships… whether it be between spouses, or parents and children, or between co-workers… is actually an opportunity to become more powerful people and to increase connection with the ones we are engaged in conflict with. I love that statement:

“I don’t need you to be like me—I need you to understand me.

I don’t need to be like you—I need to understand you.”

This shift of perspective allows both people to feel cared for, rather than an expectation of conformity or control.

It takes an intentional, selfless individual to respond verses react when conflict arises!

So, what gets in the way of thinking and responding this way?

The simple answer is fear. But fear is not very simple. It is a complex, multidimensional, multilayered construct that masquerades as protection and then reinforces our anxiety, keeping us hopeless, stuck, and powerless.

Pastor Silk says this about a specific fear that he and his wife discovered was present in their marriage;

“Probably the biggest fear we uncovered was this:

We were afraid that the other person wouldn’t care enough to listen and fix the problem.

I believe this fear is the great hijacker of confrontation. When we listen to this fear, we shift into a defensive posture instead of a collaborative posture. We show up to the confrontation thinking that we need to convince, pressure, manipulate, or intimidate the other person into hearing us out and responding to our needs. More often than not, when we show up in a defensive posture, the other person will mirror us and start self-protecting too. This is how confrontations become escalating battles that only further damage connection.”

Important confrontation opportunities get “hijacked” by this and similar fears all of the time. And our natural response to fear is to protect ourselves from harm/danger/injury that can cause more damage. But, ironically… we end up causing more damage and feeling more powerless.


Do you identify with the statement above about fear? How so?

Are you aware that you may, at times, be striving to convince, manipulate, pressure, or intimidate rather than listen and seek to understand?

Can you commit to paying greater attention to your common “defensive posture” (i.e. shutting down or screaming) and choosing to be other-focused, rather than self-protective?

Is there a specific relationship that comes to mind as you read this? How can you use this new perspective in your interactions with this person/these people?


Jesus, I pray that you would help me and all who read this to increase awareness about our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes when conflict arises and/or confrontation is necessary. Help us to LOVE the way that you do.