The Power of Words

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There are few tools in a working person’s repertoire of skills which has the potential to be more powerful than the skill of communication. The words you choose and the way you choose to say them often determines the success or failure of your interactions.

According to research psychologists, the average one-year-old child has a three-word vocabulary. By fifteen months of age children can speak nineteen words. At two, most youngsters possess a working knowledge of 272 words. Their vocabularies jump to 896 words by age three, 1,540 by age four, and 2,072 words by age five. By age six the average child can communicate with 2,562 words.

Although our accumulation of words continues to grow throughout life, effective use of them does not necessarily follow. Though the average adult speaks around 18,000 words per day, this does not mean messages are being clearly relayed. “Words, like glasses,” wrote Joseph Joubert, “obscure everything which they do not make clear.”

Should we be “brutally honest”?

One of the best definitions of good communication I’ve ever heard is found in Ephesians 4:15 which encourages us to always “speak the truth in love.” There’s a mountain of truth packed into that little phrase. It’s not enough just to speak the truth. Truth without love can wound. That’s why we talk about someone being “brutally honest.”

When you speak the truth without love, you’re often harsh, insensitive, and alienating. On the other hand, when you lie just to spare someone’s feelings, you undermine your credibility and destroy your effectiveness as a communicator. No, these two elements, truth and love, must both be present in your words if you’re going to be the winning communicator God wants you to be.

How rare is truthfulness? A recent survey showed that the average American tells about 200 lies per day! From the workplace to the White House, we’re living in a society in which the truth has become an inconvenient and expendable commodity. Our very economy is geared toward the assumption that people are basically dishonest. (Try to write a check without I.D. and see if this isn’t the case.) Yet, “truth” is an absolutely essential element in every conversation of the winning communicator.

Of course, you can’t be an effective communicator unless you allow love to be truth’s constant traveling companion.

One of the wisest men who ever lived, said it this way in Proverbs chapter 3: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.”

Isn’t that what you want your communication to do for you—give you favor and good repute with others? If so, make sure to use heaping measures of kindness and truth in every batch of conversation you stir up today.

Making sure that everything you say meets the two-fold standard of “kindness” and “truth” remains the best way to increase your favor at home, on the job, and in the marketplace. It will make you a winning communicator. God’s Word and Solomon guarantee it.


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