Spare Your Words
WORDS pouring out of the mouth of a talkative person are, to some people, like the endless gushing of water from a large pipe. There seems to be no end to them. They inundate polite listeners and drown any efforts to carry on a refreshing conversation. The loquacious person fails to realize that conversation is a two-way exchange of expressions in which listening is as important as speaking.
The Greek philosopher Socrates once said: “Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue, to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.” If you deluge your listeners with a steady stream of words, how much can you learn from them? In fact, how much can they actually learn from you?
It takes thought to say something that is instructive and beneficial to your listeners, but if you are constantly spouting words, how can your speech contain anything that is thought-provoking? It is more likely to be prattle that endlessly drums on benumbed ears. “The less men think the more they talk,” said the French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu.
Chattering on and on about personal problems, views and experiences, giving unnecessary and tiresome details, is a display of selfish disregard for the interests and time of other people. Instead of talking at great length about yourself, encourage others to talk about the things that interest them. When they express themselves, listen to what they say. Do not impolitely daydream or begin reading something. You do not fool them by occasionally nodding your head or giving a grunt. They know if you are not listening. Out of politeness, pay attention to what they say, and you may learn something.
It is self-centeredness in the extreme to pour into another person’s ear tiresome chatter and then not listen when he finally has an opportunity to squeeze in a few words. A considerate person will be listening instead of thinking of the next barrage of words to fling at his companion. One should not vainly imagine that he has the only worthwhile things to say. Talking endlessly about oneself may seem worthwhile to the one doing the talking, but it is not to others. By the multitude of words one reveals oneself as being foolish. “The foolish one speaks many words.”—Eccl. 10:14.
The incoherent ramblings of a talkative person do not produce uplifting conversation. A conversation becomes interesting when those in it linger for awhile on one subject, allowing each person to make expressions. With each speaking and listening, the conversation can become constructive and enjoyable. A pause in it should not be viewed as an embarrassing gap that must be filled with words. That may be the view of the talkative person who is accustomed to inane chatter, but in a thought-provoking conversation a pause is refreshing, not embarrassing. It allows a person to think about what has been said, and to think about what he is going to say. Such thought can result in stimulating expressions that make a conversation worthwhile.
Injurious gossip and even slander can easily slip out in the torrent of words that pour from a busy tongue. Such speech can have only damaging results that may eventually boomerang upon the speaker. It causes him to transgress the trust of friends and the counsel of God. We are told in the Bible: “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” “He that is keeping his mouth and his tongue is keeping his soul from distresses.”—Prov. 10:19; 21:23.
While it is wise to spare your words, avoiding loquaciousness, it is not wise to be uncommunicative. Instead of remaining mum, letting others do the talking, express yourself. Make an effort to contribute to the conversation so others can benefit from your views and know how you think. When you feel that the conversation is senseless prattle, try raising a question that might tactfully steer it into more profitable channels. Questions are always good stimulators of interesting conversations.
Those who claim that they have nothing to say need to be a little more observant of the things they read in newspapers, magazines and books. They need to take particular note of the interesting things that can be found from reading the Bible regularly. These are sources of information they can draw upon for something about which to talk. Being well read is very helpful for participating in a stimulating conversation. When the conversation happens to turn to something in which you are not interested, do not crawl into a shell of silence, but try to cultivate an interest in the subject by asking questions.
Before you speak give thought to what you are going to say so it will be worth saying. This does not mean your expressions must be profound words of wisdom, but they should be constructive. If what you are about to say is derogatory rather than constructive, imaginary rather than factual and sensual rather than uplifting, it would be better to leave it unsaid. Thought and good sense can produce edifying speech. It is written: “The lips of the wise ones keep scattering knowledge about.” (Prov. 15:7) Such ones will not dominate a conversation, but will use their words sparingly, giving others an opportunity to speak. But when they open their mouths they let out knowledge. They say something that is informative, something that adds to the conversation.
Rather than let words gush from your mouth in an unpleasant torrent, let them come out like a gentle, intermittent rain that is beneficial and welcomed. Let them be upbuilding, edifying and instructive. In all your conversations be considerate of your listeners by sparing your words.