Words matter. I made this statement a few weeks ago during a city budget discussion and have repeated it during my latest assignment. I’m finding that I need to listen more carefully and speak less frequently but more specifically. I don’t ever want to find myself excusing something I said because of a “Clinton technicality”. He based his whole answer about the Monica Lewinski affair on the word – relations. I won’t go any further except to say that he wasn’t lying when he described his affair by saying “he didn’t have relations with her”. It certainly split hairs though. Words matter when you are dealing with people. Each one of us has a different interpretation of various words and each word can elicit a different emotion for different people. Knowing your audience or the receiver is important before you start to speak.
Who are you speaking to and on what subject is very important in helping you make good word choices. If you are speaking with someone as a supervisor or need to give direction or take corrective action, your word choice is critical to express the seriousness of your intent. The tone and inflection of your voice are also important to the delivery of your intended message. “You sounded mad when you said that” is a common complaint of teens with their parents. Take the time necessary to gather your thoughts and choose the words that convey your message before you speak. If you find that you are frequently having misunderstandings with people or that you are explaining yourself in greater detail more often, re-think your word choice and how you deliver your message. The people receiving your message don’t know what you are “trying” to say, they only know what you’ve said.
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45
People that you see on a regular basis always seem to know when you are having a bad day or are just not at the top of your game. They also know when you are playing to the crowd, which is not a completely honest way of dealing with people. The good stored in your heart is a gift from God. Truthfulness, compassion and caring are things that we learned from the actions and teachings of Jesus.
Some people can “play to the crowd” very well and say one thing in public but say another behind closed doors. God is always watching and knows what is on your heart. Sooner or later the truth or the “real person” is revealed. Keep your heart stored up with good by being surrounded with the good of this world. Maintain fellowship with other Christians; regularly attend worship so you are reminded of the forgiveness won by Jesus; devote time to regular bible reading and most importantly, pray. God wants to hear from you and by building your relationship with Him, you will know all of the good that you have to offer.
“What do you want from me?” A phrase often uttered in anger between two people in a relationship. Adam Lambert used this phrase as lyrics for a song by same title in 2010. When I taught leadership classes or coached a new supervisor, I often talked about setting expectations between the supervisor and the employees. Doing this often prevented disappointment and allowed people to function without constant direction. Telling people what you expect of them is often the best way to meet your shared goals. My wife often says “I can’t your mind!” This is another form of missed expectations. I’ve written before about what we call the “order model” in emergency communications. Instead of just saying “copy” when given an order over the radio, the model requires that the message be repeated back to the sender to ensure complete understanding. It works well in high stress situations.
The problem with low stress communications, the ones we have 99% of the time in our lives, is that it often misses the mark. We spent more than a half an hour with a designer this weekend before Lisa and I realized what she was actually talking about. We both assumed we knew and when we started asking questions, the designer got confused because we weren’t all on the same page. The order model would have helped but it sure would make for a long conversation. The bottom line is that we all need to work on explaining what we want or what we need, no matter what role we are playing in our lives – spouse, child, co-worker, supervisor, employee, neighbor, etc. If you find yourself wanting to ask someone, “what do you want from me?” remember that you are half to blame for not knowing the answer. Be humble, be courteous and be direct in your exchange of needs. The results will be peaceful.
“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
When I read the Old Testament I am amazed by how simply things were being explained to God’s children. It’s easy to give advice to the characters of a story when you know how the story ends. We know that God sent His Son to die for our sins and that we have been forgiven of our sins because of God’s grace. The readers of Micah did not. They ask, “What does the Lord require of me?” We all know the answer to that question – now. The readers at the time had no idea. I could close here by saying, “We know what the Lord requires, faith in Jesus as our Savior.” Too easy, right?
The wisdom that follows the question in Micah is what we should be concentrating on. “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God”. Now there is some good advice! In the U.S. we hear little about mercy these days, we hear little about humility and we rarely see people acting justly. The national polls continue to show that as a nation, we remain divided in ideologies and things like humility and mercy are left for the liberals. I’m not taking shots at the left or the right in the U.S. political debate; I’m simply saying that the words of Micah should be very meaningful right now as way forward in our quest of unity and healing. My personal expectation as a citizen is that we do all three – always. Since I can’t change the national conversation, I guess that I’ll start with my circle of influence. How about you?