There is power in the spoken word. Power to build up, encourage, and honor, and power to tear down, discourage, and dishonor.
Scripture says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”4
Take for example the word “but.”
1) “But” can imply, “I take no responsibility.”
2) “But” can imply, “I am the victim in this situation.”
3) “But” can imply, “I believe I am justified in my actions.”
Just the other day I was talking with a friend about a relationship issue, and when they started to take responsibility for their role in the dispute by saying, “I forgot to keep my promise,” they connected their very next sentence with the word “but,” and said, “I had a lot going on at the time.”
After this happened three or four more times in our conversation, I began to realize my friend had no intention of taking responsibility. Instead, my friend was more concerned with resolving themselves of their fair share of the blame.
I wish I could say I haven’t fallen into this same trap, but I’m sorry to say I have, more often than I like to admit. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves using un-necessary words that often cause conversations to turn in negative directions, rather than choosing our words carefully and only saying what is truly appropriate.
Have you ever stopped to think about how even the smallest of words can change the impact a conversation?
Proverbs 10:19 goes so far as to say “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
A single word has the power to create a reality according to Psychology today.1 A single word can change the outcome of legal matters according to Conversation analyst Elizabeth Stokoe.2 Emily Dickinson put it this way, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”3
Join me in striving to choose words carefully and next time you are in a conversation, pay very close attention to your words and avoid the little word “but” every chance you get!
1 Psychology Today Article, Scientists Find That a Single Word Can Alter Perceptions, by Christopher Bergland, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201308/scientists-find-single-word-can-alter-perceptions, accessed 1-24-16.
2Lawyers Weekly Article, Researcher reveals the power of a single word in mediation, by Felicity Nelson, http://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/news/17014-reseacher-reveals-the-power-of-a-single-word-in-mediation, accessed 1-24-16.
3 Quote from goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/82436-i-know-nothing-in-the-world-that-has-as-much, accessed 1-24-16.
4 Ephesians 4:29, ESV
Ann White is a host of Atlanta Live, and is a wife, mother and speaker. Her new book “7 Steps to Courage” was just released and is available in stores and online. http://www.7stepstocourage.com