The tongue has the power of life and death...(Proverbs 18:21, NIV)
Yesterday at PCC, we talked about the Power of Words and the Pressure we all face to use our words as a weapon. (you can watch the service here or listen to it here). I shared some tools that I have developed and employed over time to help me lean into the good that my words can do and away from the potential harm they can cause. Those tools included:
- Taking a deep breath (yes, this actually makes a difference!)
- Believing the best in people
- Not talking negatively about others when they aren't in the conversation
- Praying for people and letting them know that I did it
- Sending a note of encouragement and affirmation
There are other tools I use and other 'rules of life' that I try to practice with words. Also, some of my practices have raised some very good questions. Today, I will share one other tool with you. Tomorrow, I'll address a few questions and objections that have been posed to me. (I welcome your questions, by the way!)
Here's another helpful tool you might consider:
I try very hard to say something positive before I say something negative.
In fact, my goal is to balance negative comments and complaints with positive and encouraging statements in a 1:1 ratio. For every negative thing I say, I want to say at least one positive thing. I debunked the myth yesterday that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I said, "No disrespect to your Mamma, but that's just not true."
On the other hand, here's something I think Mamma did get right: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." In almost every situation, you can say something positive before you voice your concern.
We joke about this in the hallways of our offices. If something went wrong with an element in our services or we just didn't communicate well or any number of other things, I will often say, "First, let me say that your hair looks great today, I love that outfit, you must have washed your car, that perfume smells awesome, your desk sure is organized..." We'll laugh together until, finally, the person I'm talking to will say something like, "Just tell me what I did already!"
But when the mistake or oversight or dropped-ball is something more costly and not-so-light, I take this rule very seriously. I think about what I can say that will honestly affirm the person and/or what they do. I want them to know that my concern isn't the end of the world...that it's not all bad...that there are noteworthy good things.
I appreciate it when someone does this with me.
There are those who say that that they would prefer I skip over the touchy feely stuff and just 'get to it' and tell them what they did wrong, register my complaint, voice my concern. All due respect, I don't comply with their request. Jesus said that we are to treat others the way we want to be treated. I don't appreciated it when someone walks up to me and, with no warning or warm-up just tramples on my self-esteem or dumps their truckload of grievances. I prefer a bit of honey before I get stung. A little lovin' goes a long way.
When you say something positive, you are affirming the person. In this way, you gain respect because you are showing respect. NEVER do this dishonestly. But you can always find something good to say.
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18, NIV)