You’ve rehearsed it in your mind many times, because you want to be understood. It’s not clear, though, that your words will have the impact you intend.
Welcome to my world. I’m a communicator–verbal and written. I’ve spent thousands of hours of my life crafting words and sentences that are, in my opinion, just right. But, often I totally miss the mark, especially when trying to communicate to those who mean the most to me–my bride, my children, and my closest friends.
Ever feel that way?
Of course we need to work on the crafting of our words to make our point. Clarity, after all, will carry the meaning of our sentences. But before we conclude that it’s all in the meaning of the words, Solomon has some advice for us.
If anyone understood the difference between effective and ineffective communication, it would be Solomon. The wisest man in history never was at a loss for pithy words. But he did experience deep pain as a leader and a father because he failed to think about all that is involved in effective communication.
Here’s an overview of his thoughts on communication from Proverbs:
- Wisdom says, “Think before you speak and you will increase the power of your words! Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles (Proverbs 21:23).
- Increase the power of your words by keeping your mouth shut until you know exactly what God’s Spirit wants you to say. Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart (27:28, The Message).
- Talk less (10:19; 12:23; 17:27): “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise (10:19). A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness (12:23). He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit (17:27).
- Listen before you speak (18:13, 15, 17; 29:20). Anatomy lesson—count your ears; count your mouth…two ears, one mouth…what does that tell you? He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (18:13). The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him (18:15, 17). Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him (29:20).
- Calm down before you speak (12:16; 15:1-2; 17:27; 29:11). When you’re churning, keep your mouth shut. A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame (12:16). A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness (15:1-2). He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit (17:27). A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back (29:11).
- Think it through before you speak (15:28). Anatomy lesson. Find your brain, find your mouth. Which one is above the other? Which one should rule the other? God put your brain above your mouth to rule it! The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness (15:14). The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil (15:28)
- Pay attention to the timing of your words (27:14). Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart (25:20). He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him (27:14). Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “I was only joking!”(26:18-19)
- Increase the power of your words by not wasting them on fools and scoffers. The fool is that person whose mind is resistant to the changes God wants to bring to his or her life and the scoffer is that person who has already made up his or her mind that they are smarter than God.
- Don’t waste time listening to the words of a fool (26:7, 9). Like the legs of the lame that hang limp, is a proverb in the mouth of fools (26:7). Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard, is a proverb in the mouth of fools (26:9).
- Don’t waste time trying to persuade fools (15:14; 17:4; 17:10; 23:9).
Here It Is In One Sentence: Want to increase the power of your words? Talk less; listen more. Close your mouth until you calm down and think. Don’t waste your words on those who won’t listen. Do what you say, and tell the truth.
Questions: Which of these principles surprised you the most? Which do you have the most trouble following?