“The tongue has the power of life and death.” The stakes are high. Your words can either speak life, or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. Proverbs 18:21
I had an interesting discussion the other day with a client about some communication with his wife. As we have explored in past blogs, communication can be very complex. First, there are all the non-verbal communications which are very powerful -things like eye contact, smiles, body posture, spacing, and gestures, to name a few. Verbal communication involves not just words but tone of voice, emphasis on certain words, and of course, the words themselves.
Little nuances in wording can make a big difference in communication. I was talking with my client about how he can communicate his needs to his wife regarding alone time. “Alone time” is something that everyone needs, some, of course more than others. Asking for that need was one of our discussions. He was concerned that his wife would misunderstand when he asked for time alone. In fact, that had been the case at times, and he worried about having that happen again.
He told me he would say things like “Could you give me some time alone?” This statement alone does not seem to be a problem, but if you put it in the context that there have been frictions over “control”, this statement may have taken on a different meaning than intended. Further, I have no idea of the tone of that message, or the non-verbals connected with it.
First, he was asking her to give him something that he could do for himself. It is not up to her to “give” him time alone. Another little nuance, not a big thing, but maybe a big thing, is the wording of “time alone” I suggested that he use the phrase “alone time” which is something that does not infer that he wants to be away from her, but a needed space of just having time to himself.
Again, I realize I am getting into the weeds here of nit-picking words. Yet, attention to how those words may come across to the listener is important. I was trying to sensitize the client to see that his wife may see his words differently than he intended. That he was perhaps unintentionally giving a message to her that he did not want to give.
So, words matter. Thinking of how those words might be perceived is important. True, we are not responsible for how people receive our messages, but we do need to have consideration for how to best present that message.
Prayer: Lord, you have given us the gift of language and communication, what a precious and powerful gift, Amen.