In working through conflict with people, I find that there is one thing that destroys lives faster than anything else. It’s not surprising. The Scriptures work hard to ensure that we understand the destruction that our words can cause, and yet we continue to experience the devastation because we aren’t in control of our tongues.
If you want to improve every relationship in your life, if you want to improve your ability to love drastically, if you want to significantly decrease the drama that follows you everywhere, the reality is that you can.
Prov. 13:3 Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.
Are you always the first one to chime in? Are you eager to share? Rein that in. Force yourself to speak last. It may be that the answer is found without you having to speak at all, which is excellent because, “opening your mouth can ruin everything.”
I know some of you are thinking, “But people won’t think I have anything to contribute.” People rarely think talkers have a lot to contribute. Even a fool seems wise if they keep their mouth shut. Waiting to talk is the habit of a wise person.
Prov. 21:2 Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.
You rarely need to talk. Become the quiet one. Let people ask you to talk. If no one is asking you to talk, it’s probably because you’re talking more than they would like.
When you wait you may even find that people will ask you to contribute. If they don’t, that’s okay because when you hold your tongue, “you will stay out of trouble.”
Prov. 18:21 The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
This isn’t the idea of thinking before you speak. Take that idea to a whole new level. Think through what you will say twice. Think through all of the consequences of it and the implications of what you’re saying. Don’t think it quickly. Don’t think it through once, think it through twice. Begin to plan what you will say strategically. It may be that the conversation has moved past you if you do this, but that’s okay because those who don’t plan their words, those who love to talk, “will reap the consequences.”
James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
Learn to enjoy listening. The key to listening is curiosity. Be a learner. Learners love to understand new things, including the people around them. Even the most meaningless of conversations can be a learning experience if you allow curiosity to get the best of you. Learners are less concerned with responding to the comments of those around them as they are in understanding them. Listen, because those who listen well are “slow to get angry.”
Prov. 18:2 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.
When you go to speak, ask yourself if this is factual truth or opinion. If it’s opinion, let it go. Fools go around airing their “own opinions.” We live in a culture where people are constantly creating ways to air their own opinions. It’s foolish. Let your opinions go.
Phil. 2:14 Do everything without complaining and arguing.
If what you’re about to say is in any way a complaint, don’t speak. Don’t try to say it another way. Just don’t speak. You don’t need to.
1Th. 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
There is a time to speak. Don’t hesitate to open your mouth when you see an opportunity to encourage. When that happens, don’t wait, go for it. Let yourself do that as much as you want. As a matter of fact, wear yourself out with it. Encourage so often that you no longer feel the need to talk about anything else.
If you begin to practice these seven things in your life, I promise you that your relationships will get better. You will love people better, and you will decrease the drama in your life substantially.
Try it for a week. See if you can be the quiet encourager in the group for one week. See what it’s like to follow God in controlling our tongue.