Will Your Words Build or Destroy?

Aug 20, 2012, Written by Sue Miley

after hurricaneThe most important thing I learned in my graduate studies in counseling was how to say things.

How to say things so that people believe that you are on their side.

How to say things so that people understand what you mean.

How to say things so that your intent/motive is not misunderstood.

How to say things that are really hard and make it okay for someone to hear.

How to say things so that a person keeps listening and doesn’t immediately start thinking of their rebuttal or shut down and quit listening all together.

How to say things and be honest, direct, and upfront and still accomplish the whole list above.

It Makes All of The Difference

It is invaluable.

I know this because I have seen the opposite so much.

In business.

In counseling.

In life.

Which Side of Poor Communication Have You Been On?

You probably have too.  You may even experience one or both sides of poor communication.

In business and leadership, communication is so much more than just casting your vision or motivating your team.

It is what makes business human.

In spite of the fact that we now have all kinds of technology to support communication at any time and in any place, at the end of all of this technology are people.

People with feelings.

Your communication today to another human being has the opportunity to:

  • educate
  • hurt
  • devalue
  • encourage
  • direct
  • confuse
  • empower
  • inform

…….the list can go on and on.

In the bible, I found 133 passages with the word “tongue”.  It is obvious in scripture how important it is to control what we say.

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:17-19

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:3-5

Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

Proverbs 21:22-24

Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.

Proverbs 25:22-24

Do Your Words Build or Destroy?

It is also clear that what we say and how we say it can make the difference between “building” and “destroying”.

We know this don’t we.  We have read it in the bible.

We see it in the guy who puts his foot in his mouth in the monthly planning meeting.

We see it in the employee’s eyes after their manager has fumbled through their performance evaluation.

Or on Facebook after an employee has been through a hard day.

And it isn’t just the other guy.  We do it all the time too.  As much as I practice using my words for good, I end up messing up at the end of a long day when it matters most….with my family.

How To Make a Difference With Our Words

How do we fix this?  How do we make a difference with our words regardless of the message they delive

I learned some techniques in counseling….the best way to make sure a person feels heard…..how to communicate with body language….how to coach…..

These are all excellent resources and tools to enhance our communication, but to me it is bigger than just learning skills.  It is a matter of the heart.  Here is my top 4 ways to make sure my words “do good”:

1.  I pray whenever I have an important communication ahead of me.

Usually I pray that God will get me out of the way and that the Holy Spirit will just do the talking for me.  God truly loves us.  He is on our side.  His Spirit will best translate this for me.

To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

Proverbs 16:1-3

2.  I practice.

When a person’s self-esteem, heart, or emotions are at stake it is not the time to “wing it”.  I discuss my approach with a close colleague and sometimes role play a difficult conversation.  If it is really personal or emotional I may even write out my thoughts first in order to gain clarity myself.

3.  I put myself in the other person’s shoes.

How would I feel if I was hearing this message?  What would make it more palatable to me?  Is there any way a person could say this too me and not make me defensive?  If I heard this from someone would I think they cared….were on my side…..were honest and forthright.

4.  I stay casual.

Regardless of the situation or communication, the recipient is a human being.  As such, we need connection, warmth, and openness.  Formality brings the white elephant into the room.  Formality causes our words to sound like they came from our head, not our heart.  Being casual and treating the other person like a human being with beliefs, feelings and aspirations sets the stage for a real encounter. An open two-way interaction.

Whatever Your Motive

I truly desire for people to believe that I am for them.  But I realize there are many other motives.  Sometimes we just need the other person to get the message.  Other times we are trying to avoid conflict and discomfort for ourselves.

Regardless of our motivation, improving communication will make your life better.

For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.”

1 Peter 3:9-11

It just will!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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