“The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.” Proverbs 10:21 (NLT)
How drastically different things can turn out. If I speak graciously with someone, I can create ripples of encouragement but, if I blurt out something unkind, both they and I suffer for it. Worse yet, there have often been occasions where I have tried to be gracious, tried to seek peace . . . but still ended up creating turmoil. I am learning to recognize what makes the difference:
Volume, tone and speed — I create an open space for others by speaking slower and lower, and by asking questions before I launch into my own opinions.
Word choice — When it is the right time to speak, it helps when I ask myself, “Am I about to use any trigger words that will ignite conflict?
• I want to learn to use terms the other person prefers. This is not just “political correctness” but rather about showing respect. (It reminds me of working overseas where a missionary’s effectiveness is directly proportional to how well they speak the language.)
• Respect means I avoid implying accusation. (This can happen unintentionally. It took me a long time to recognize when I was doing this.)
Keep relationship the goal
• Graciousness means I agree with others as much as possible. (I’ve heard people suggest that even if we disagree, we can try to add our perspective by saying “and” rather than “but.”)
• I can make the conversation safe for others by regularly reassuring them of my good intentions.
Make a habit of having a grace-filled, non-judging attitude. This may be the most crucial difference of all. As Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Lord, may we always speak words of life.