Learning “How” To Talk

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Texting is an interesting phenomenon to me. Although I do a good bit of it, I never thought it would become as popular as it is today. To me, when you leave out the non-verbals in communication (tone, facial expression, etc.) it leaves interpretation rather risky. Hence, most of us have learned to text with care!

Words are loaded with power. Just a few of them from someone can cause your day to take a turn for better or worse. Solomon taught this very message long ago when he wrote: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21). No wonder the Bible puts such a strong emphasis on keeping the tongue under control (cf. James 1:26; 3:1-12).

To take this a step further, it is not always “what” we say, but also “how” we say something (or how we “hear” something) that can make a huge difference. The following story is a good example of this.

A refugee once came to America to find work and start a new life. He only had enough money to buy his way here, thus leaving his wife behind until he could make enough to send for her. After a few months his wife had not heard from him so, with the help of a friend, she sent him a letter- - written in English. Since he was unable to read English, he asked a coworker to read it to him. Unfortunately, the coworker was an ill-tempered sort who spoke in a grumpy voice. Thus, he read rather angrily, “Why haven’t you sent for me? I need the money right away!”

The immigrant grabbed the letter from the coworkers hand and said, “She has no right to speak to me that way! I’m doing the best I can!” A few weeks later another letter came in the mail- - again written in English. This time he asked another man to read it to him. This man was a gentle sort and read in a very pleasant voice, “Did you get my last letter? Why haven’t you sent for me? I need the money right away.” “Well,” said the immigrant, “That’s better. If she had not changed her tone, I wouldn’t have sent for her at all!”

Yes, how we say what we say is just as important as what is said. Paul instructed, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6). May we all heed this truth so we can learn “how” to speak appropriately and effectively.