Do We Talk Like That?

“Speaking is a serious matter and we must weigh
our words in the sight of God.”

Conversation as I understand it to be, is supposed to be a participant sport for the enjoyment and illumination of all who are involved in it. It’s the mutual exchanging of ideas and thoughts between people where they take turns speaking and listening. But have you noticed how often that a conversation seems to get turned around to become a spectators sport where the rest of us end up listening to what one person wants to talk about? And haven’t you also noticed that what they usually want to talk about is themselves?  Their “hidden agenda” in every conversation is always “me”.  Somehow or other they seem to always be the main character in every story they tell.

Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Eph. 4:29

Andrew Heller had this type of individual in mind when he recently wrote this editorial in the Flint Journal (the local newspaper of Flint, Michigan.)

“I just spent 25 minutes on the phone with an energy sucker. These are the people who call you up and prattle on and on about nothing, while you, being too stupidly polite to shout “shut up–you’re boring my eyelashes off,” just sit there and listen, and all the while you can feel your energy being sucked through your ear, out the telephone—through the lines and into this person’s body. So now they’ve got their energy and yours too, so they just keep going and going and going. Pretty soon, you look and feel like a raisin with all the juice–shhlup–sucked right out of you. Know what I mean?”—Unfortunately, for many of us the answer is a resounding, yes!

One of the great arts of living is the art of listening.

We are told by communicators that our speaking is one of the most influential things we will ever be doing. That it’s important that we always express ourselves with speech that can be understood by the listener. As a minister, I’ve learned the value of this statement, but it presents a real problem with those speaking today’s conversational language. It’s loaded with sloppy phrases, far out words and meaningless expressions that makes it difficult to understand what it is they are saying.

One of the phrases that is commonly used by those trying to express themselves are the words, “you know.” Some people use these words the same way a writer would use a comma. Recently, in a post game interview that I was watching on TV., the sport’s personality being interviewed used the words, “you know…you know…you know,” so many times that even the interviewer lost interest and turned to someone else. The player was awesome carrying the football but awful at conversing.

Today’s “you know” has become a substitute for yesterdays drawn out “andaaa” that people use to sprinkle in their sentences to fill in time while they thought of what they wanted to say next. This prevented others from taking over the conversation before they were ready to relinquish control. The words, “you know” like the word “andaaa” has allowed people to keep on talking when they should have stopped some time before and started listening.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

The “you knowers” take for granted and assume that others understand what it is that they are trying to communicate when they talk. Since they are sure “you know,” then they don’t have to bother explaining it with more details. More often than not though, we don’t know and we do need details. In a generation that is being “you knowed” to death, we cannot keep assuming that people always know what it is one is really saying. Could it be possible that a previous generation of “you knowers” prompted the saying that “a picture is worth 10,000 words?” Maybe!

Our  words are like a window to the heart .

There’s another overworked word that we’ve added to our speech that we need to give our attention to. It’s the word, “okay.”  with a question mark added to the end of it. Let me illustrate what I mean. Some time ago, my wife and I joined a bus tour going to Branson, Missouri. Before disembarking from the bus at the music theaters, a guide came on board to explain what we are to do. Our guide, at this particular theatre was a young college age girl and her instructions to us went something like this: “Tonight I’m to act as your guide and my name is Julie. Okay? We’re going to exit the bus and enter the theatre through the doors marked tour buses. Okay? The  show lasts about two hours. Okay? The theatre seats two thousand people and all seats have a good view of the stage. Okay? When the performance is over, please return to this parking area to board the bus for your return trip back to the hotel. Okay?” The young lady meant to be friendly to us, and she was, but she seemed unable to make a statement without adding a one word question at the end of it. She seemed to need our okay to affirm what she said was right. The truth is, her name was Julie whether we thought it was okay or not. The performance was two hours in length whether we thought it was okay or not and the theatre seated two thousand people whether we thought it was okay or not. This was all true without our approval. Her constant use of the word, okay, detracted greatly from what she said.

Words are meant to communicate.

Words are meant to communicate, but much of our conversations are filled with words and phrases that subtract rather than add to what we’re saying. Our words are one of the ways we reach out and touch others. With our speech we touch other people’s ears. It can be a negative or positive experience for them. It has been said, our conversation can be a caress or a fingernail dragging over a blackboard. Which of these would our conversation be identified with?

The Apostle Paul gives some good advice concerning the words we use. In Colossians 4:6 he writes, “Let your speech always be gracious and so well reasoned out that you will know how to reply to each individual.” (Modern Language) Let us be a person committed to saying what we mean and meaning what we say

. Let’s clean up our conversation so it becomes profitable to those listening to us. Let’s communicate in a way that others do know what we’re saying.

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