By Megan Erbacher
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Words are powerful; and how we choose to use our words, or not use them, can elicit differing reactions.
Communication is vitally important in life and relationships. Whether you’re talking to your boss or coworkers, communicating with your child’s teacher, a nurse answering patient questions at a doctor’s office, or even chatting with your spouse – what you do or don’t say can change the direction of the entire conversation.
How we talk to others may cause them to react in ways we aren’t prepared for because we may have failed to properly communicate our thoughts.
My mom always asks me about my day. Growing up, I remember she often advised me to choose my words wisely when interacting with my peers so they don’t misunderstand me.
The other day, chatting with my husband over dinner, we were sharing how our days went and it reminded me of my mom’s advice. I started thinking maybe we shouldn’t just choose our words wisely, but also use them wisely.
It can be easy to give in to frustrations when someone misinterprets what we say and they don’t respond as we see fit, but have we paused to consider if we were straightforward with our words? Remember, no one can read your mind.
I’ll admit I’m guilty of occasionally jumping to conclusions before I fully understand what someone is saying to me. James chapter one tells us, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Maybe we can all take a step back and strive to “be quick to hear … slow to wrath.”
If we aren’t sure what the other person is saying, ask them to repeat it or phrase it differently. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to reiterate what you said.
The rapid response of text messaging and social media has caused us to rely on slang terms and shortened words so we can reply as quickly as possible to satisfy our need for instant gratification. Is it possible this way of conversing has damaged our ability to effectively communicate?
I don’t believe there is anything wrong with being thorough in your discussion with someone else. You may feel like you’re repeating yourself, but wouldn’t you rather repeat yourself now to prevent confusion and/or frustration later?
We can all practice some patience with one another; and, even when someone forgets to thoroughly communicate their wishes, we need to try to remember others may be juggling more in life than we are aware of and we can offer them some grace.
A friend shared on social media some tips for open and clear communication, which included speak up, be polite and allow the other person to finish their thoughts, and put your device down so you can fully listen just as much as you speak. Putting the device down is key, in my opinion, because it allows you to make eye contact.
Words are powerful. As a friend posted on Facebook the other day: “Why not use them to lift someone up today instead of knocking them down?”
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).