“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
That catchy playground comeback sounds strong, but it’s just not true. Words have the power to shape and affect us much more than the routine physical injury.
But we so often miss each other and do damage with our words. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes, like the Apostle Paul, we find ourselves “doing the thing we do not want to do” (Romans 7:14-20). And sometimes we find ourselves saying one thing but the other person hearing something totally different.
Miscommunication like this has multiple costs. So how can we have more control over our words – and, crucially, more predictability that those words will be received as intended?
Kathleen Edelman, author of “I Said This, You Heard That,” helps us key in on a root solution in this week’s video: start with the heart.
The Bible is full of admonitions to “guard your heart,” because in biblical terms, the heart is understood as the seat of our life and strength, the center of our emotional nature and understanding. As Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
And as Kathleen explains, what we put in our hearts is going to come back out. Therefore, one of the first places to address our ability to communicate well with others is to examine the words we tell ourselves. What is our own self-talk? What story are we telling ourselves? Whatever our mask is to the world, so often there are strains of fear, shame, and self-loathing in the private words we tell ourselves.
For us to be better communicators, to use words from a place of love, to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must let the gospel pierce our own hearts first. To remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). To believe that he has taken our shame from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:11-12). These words are not simple pep-me-up self-talk. These words are transformational truth from the living God.
Whatever your position, you have the capacity to encourage and empower another person at work today with your words. Allow your own heart to be strengthened and refreshed in the gospel and watch as God uses those words to bring life.
P.S. Kathleen’s study is an excellent tool for understanding different communication temperaments and becoming more skilled in your communication. You can learn more here: https://www.isaidyouheard.study/