Monday, April 20, 2009

thoughtful communication

I recently read an article in a Yoga Journal magazine concerning a topic I have devoted some thought to in my life: the words we speak, how they affect others and the value of silence. To quote the article: “Our bodies and subconscious minds hold the residue of every kind or cruel word we’ve ever taken in.” The article takes a more metaphysical approach than I want to get into, but the crux of what they are saying is important to understand as we live our lives. The words we say have the ability to build up or damage those within hearing distance. Words have a power that should not be taken lightly.

I have often been hassled about my tendency towards quietness and the fact that I don’t necessarily like to talk a lot. I won’t pretend that this is a conscious decision on my part, it’s really just my nature/personality, but I will say that if I don’t have something to say, you probably won’t find me running my mouth. It took me years to become even remotely adept at small talk (something I still struggle with) and it wasn’t until my college years that I really felt comfortable talking to a stranger. I don’t see much point in talking just for the sake of talking. That being said, I don’t judge people who are naturally more outgoing than me (shyness can be a bit of a curse in our society), however I don’t have much patience for those who feel the need to constantly fill silence. I happen to enjoy a bit of quiet once in awhile. I value it. And I will admit that it is one of the reasons I was attracted to Luke; he didn’t feel the need to talk all the time or to impress me; we both understand the meaning of companionable silence. There have been times in my life where I wished to be a better conversationalist, but overall I have learned to accept my own communication style.:)

Whether you are a quiet person or a talkative outgoing person, the article offered some good, practical advice to consider and to help a person think before speaking. Consider these three questions: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? These questions are of course somewhat open to personal discretion (depending on your definition of these things), but they do provide an excellent guideline for us as we consider our words. Imagine if we took the time to answer these questions before speaking? How many remarks would we keep to ourselves? The flip side of this is that there are times when we should speak because it is necessary, but where we might try to convince ourselves otherwise (a particular dilemma for Christians). Asking ourselves these questions should help us evaluate when to speak and when not to speak.

Several years ago I made a conscious decision to try to say something positive when a person I knew came up in conversation (particularly when this had a negative tone). I know I haven’t stuck to this 100%, but after awhile it became somewhat second nature and something I still attempt to abide by. I have much to learn and progress to make with my words, but thinking about it is at least a start. I need to challenge myself more about this and strive towards wisdom and discretion in my conversation habits. Let’s start changing our thought patterns in an attempt to be more thoughtful speakers.


Margaret said...

Good post, Liz. It's thought provoking [;)] and I appreciate your perspective.

Amy K said...

I really appreciate this--it's good to think about. The last several years I've been trying to make a conscious effort to say only what I mean. It's hard sometimes because I tend to be the type of person who automatically fills in the silence. You're right--sometimes it's just personality. There are strengths and weaknesses on both sides (whether you're quiet or talkative) and it's good to be aware of it. And often better to be silent.

stephanie said...

Don't you remember when we were kids and we'd tell each other that we can't take back anything we said because it had already been said? Well, while we were being kind of sassy with each other about that, it is in reality a truth and why thinking before speaking is very important. Thanks for the food for thought!