How Do I Minister to Someone Who Is Emotionally Volatile?

Learn to Listen Well


Are you dealing with someone who makes you feel as though you have to walk on eggshells to avoid an outburst? These are nerve-wracking conversations, but they are necessary for helping those in pain. What does it look like to minister to someone struggling in this way? Winston Smith, counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF), shows how listening well can go to great lengths in calming these types of situations.

Winston has served as a counselor for more than fifteen years and holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. Winston is the author of Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments as well as several mini-books: Divorce RecoveryHelp for StepfamiliesIt's All About Me—The Problem with MasturbationWho Does the Dishes?; and Help! My Spouse Committed Adultery



Winston noted that an emotionally volatile person likely acts the way they do out of feelings of not being heard. To minister well to this type of person, we must become experts in listening in order to communicate our willingness to walk with them.

Did this change any of your thoughts on how to approach an emotionally volatile person? If so, in what ways?
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What has been your experience ministering to someone who is unstable emotionally? How did you respond? Was your approach effective? If so, how?
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James 1:19-20 (ESV)

Hearing and Doing the Word

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



The ministry of listening well is a consistent exhortation throughout Scripture.  As Winston shared, anger tends to lose its energy when a person knows you want to listen.

Would you consider yourself a good listener? Are there ways in which you could improve? If so, what are they?
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In your past experiences of pain and suffering, can you think of a time when someone listened to you well? What did they do to show you they were willing to walk with you? Did you find this to be an encouragement in the way Winston described? In what ways could your past inform how you engage those struggling emotionally today?
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Is there anyone in your life who fits the description of an emotionally volatile person? In what ways could you begin to "lean in" and show them you are committing to hearing them well today?
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If you find yourself ministering to an emotionally volatile individual, bear in mind that they desire to be understood. Emotions escalate when people do not feel heard. Lean in to them, communicate your desire to understand their heart, and be patient. Make it your mission to become an expert listener. 


This video is a publication of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). All content is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in any manner without written permission from CCEF. For more information on classes, materials, speaking events, distance education and other services, please visit www.ccef.org.