The Bible says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). Mother Teresa had a saying, “Let no one come to you without leaving happier and better.” There are words and phrases we can use that soothe and calm – not only the person who hears them, but also the person who speaks them.
Two of my patients – a husband and wife – were having marital problems. They had seen a marriage counselor a few times, and I noticed a change in the way they related to each other. They were no longer critical of each other, but were kind, loving, and respectful toward one another. I was rather amazed at this fairly sudden turnaround, and I asked them about it. They told me that the marriage counselor had told them to change their speech. The counselor had asked them a simple question that had jarred each one of them to their core: “If you were on your deathbed and only had a few minutes left to live and only one phone call you could make, whom would you call, and what would you say?” The couple had been stunned at this question. The counselor quickly went on, “And why are you waiting?”
The couple turned to each other and each one apologized for saying hateful, critical things to the other. They reaffirmed their love for each other and agreed to begin speaking encouraging, kind, and gentle words from that day on.
The change in their relationship was tremendous. The stress they produced in the relationship as a result of their contentious, angry, and quarrelsome speech began to evaporate. The environment of their relationship became one of peace and harmony.
Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” Colossians 4:6 tells us, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
We need to think before we speak and weigh what we say so that we truly do know the most beneficial thing to say to each person in each situation.
Look for ways in which to reinforce the good behaviors of other people. Look for attributes and behaviors about which you can give sincere compliments – phony compliments are perceived as manipulative. Only compliment what you can compliment with a genuine, heartfelt sincerity.
One day I was standing in the customer service line of a major department store after Christmas. The line was quite long, and I brought a book along because I thought this might be the case. I had to stop reading, however, because I was so startled by what was happening in the line ahead of me. Customer after customer blasted the poor clerk behind the counter with angry, hostile, hateful words. I felt like shouting, “It’s the day after Christmas!” I knew that in shouting, however, I would just be adding to the chaotic, turbulent atmosphere. I also noticed that the clerk responded to these hateful people with a kind, gentle voice. She told each one that she understood their anger and was sorry for the inconvenience. I truly was moved by her incredible diplomacy at disarming one angry customer after another. Angry customers would later apologize for their initial outburst. When it was my turn at the counter, I complimented this clerk for her kind and gentle manner. I told her I was amazed at how she handled herself and that she was a wonderful example of true “customer service.” I also told her that I felt she would probably be promoted because of the outstanding attitude and mannerism she had. Sure enough, the following year I happened to find myself back in that same line. This woman was now the manager of the department!
John Hagee once said, “Watch your thoughts, for they will become your words. Choose your words, for they will become your actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.”