“I was just trying to be encouraging.” I told my husband (with a pout) after he pulled me aside during a dinner party to tell me I had interrupted a friend before they’d barely had a chance to tell their story. Somehow, my husband and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on my conversation style. He thought I was being rude, and I thought I was rescuing the person from the isolation one can feel sharing personal details.
After a good amount of reflection, and some more pouting (ineffective, might I say), I realized my husband was right. I realized during my time of reflection and observation that not only do I interrupt people to encourage, I also interrupt to:
Interruption is also common in workplace teams. I have been on teams where people didn’t hear or reflect on anything the speaker was saying. They were simply waiting for the speaker to breathe so they could give their own opinion or ideas.
Do you see yourself in these reflections? If you do, don’t worry—this is human nature. We have experiences and opinions to share. This isn’t all bad.
The question to answer is: When to speak and when to be silent?
Throughout history people have been trying to answer this question.
I learned a lot about listening on a recent trip to Ireland. We visited several monasteries that were established around the 4th century (maybe earlier). From the beginning, monks have had the highest regard for silence. After reading the monks’ guidelines for speaking, my 16-year-old said: “If you did all these things, you would rarely speak.” He might be onto something.
Here are the five standard guidelines for speech (summarized):
The Bible is also filled with teaching about speaking. I found at least sixty Scriptures on the benefits of listening and silence. As we close today’s blog, here are a few Scriptures to consider and meditate on:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 ESV)
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:18 ESV)
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20 ESV)
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2 ESV)
The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. (Proverbs 16:21 ESV)
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4 ESV)
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