Posts Tagged ‘Mouth Management’


Use your words to build people up.  Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When I was in college the janitorial company I worked for was hired to tear down a wall in an apartment and then clean it up.  I had never done anything like that before.  I didn’t know how to start so I asked supervisor for instructions.  He said, take this sledge hammer and hit this wall until there is nothing left to hit.  I had more fun that day that is lawful in the state of Mississippi!  It’s fun to tear things down. 

Sometimes with our words it’s like a sledgehammer, no planning, no thinking.  We swing away and all of a sudden we look around and all we’ve got is a pile of rubble, relational rubble.  When you just swing away with your words and tear people down inevitably your relationships are going to suffer.  Words are the single most important tool given to man by God.  Without a doubt! 

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is, our mouth.  We say things without thinking.  People remember them.  The things people have said to you in a thoughtless way it may have been as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working.  You still remember some of those things.  That’s how powerful words are.  So when it comes to your mouth, think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

Here are directions for the use of a power tool I bought several years ago. I was struck by how it related to the use of another power tool that God has given us – our mouth. 

  • Know your power tool.
  • Keep guards in place.
  • Be careful around children.
  • Store idle tools when not in use.
  • Don’t over reach
  • Never use in an explosive atmosphere.

It fits how we are to use this mouth which is an incredible tool to build people up.

How can I start using it more carefully so instead of destroying with it, I’m building and constructing relationships with it? 

1.  Stop excusing.  Stop saying, “I didn’t really mean to say that.”  or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.  That’s all it was.”  Stop excusing and realize that what you say is impacting everybody around you.         

2.  Talk less.  If it’s a power tool – you don’t have to use it as much.  Talk less.  One of the reasons we get in trouble is we just talk too much sometimes.  We talk before we think.  We need to talk less and…

 3.  Listen more.  If I listen more I can understand people’s needs.  One of the small lessons of life that makes an incredible impact on the way you and I use our words. 

 4.  Start building.  Think first of all, “what do they need?”  How can I use a word of encouragement to build them up?  How can I use a word of challenge to make a difference in their life?  How can I use my words to build the people that I love the most?

I think we can all agree that conflict happens in even the best relationships. When it does happen, there are certain deadly weapons that should be considered out of bounds.  These tend to provoke anger and resentment.  If we avoid these seven landmines, we will find that conflict can be healthy and can actually move our relationships forward.

1.  Never Compare.  Don’t say “Why can’t you be like…” or “You’re just like … ”  It’s unfair to compare.  God made every person unique.

2.  Never Condemn.  Don’t use phrase like, “You always…” or “You never… You ought to… You should… You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”  Don’t become someone else’s conscience. Only God has the right to judge so don’t start statements with “You…” because that’s a judgmental statement usually — “You do this… You do that…”  Start them with “I”.  “I need this from you…  I feel this…”  If somebody says “I feel it”, try to accept it as legitimate — whether you understand it or not don’t say, “You shouldn’t feel that way!”  If they feel it, just accept it.  It doesn’t mean you agree with it or it’s legitimate just accept as the way they way they feel.  “I need… I feel… It seems to me…” is much less threatening, must less condemning than to make “You” statements:  “You ought to, you should… you never… you always…”

3.  Never Command.  Don’t try to end an argument by force. “I demand that you do what I say!  I command you to do this…” This is especially true if the conflict is with a spouse. Don’t try to be a parent to your spouse.  Don’t make demands because it has a way of raising the temperature in the room. 

4.  Never Challenge.  We do this with threats.  “Just try that and see what happens!”  I remember when I was a kid and someone would say, “I don’t want to hear another peep out of you.”  You probably can guess what my next sound would be. (Peep!) That is the rebellious nature of humanity.  If somebody says “I dare you” you’re going to take the dare.  Don’t threaten, challenge, and lay down the gauntlet.  That is a mark of immaturity.  Let’s grow up and not use that.

5.   Never Condescend.  Never treat another person as an inferior.  Don’t belittle your spouse. “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  Don’t put them down.  Don’t ridicule them for their feelings or their logic or whatever. Above all, don’t play psychologist.  “I know why you said that… You said that because…”  Most of us have a difficult enough time figuring out our own motives much less figure out another person’s.  Don’t prejudge motives.  That’s definitely playing God. 

6.  Never Cut Off.  Never interrupt in the middle of a sentence.  When we get into arguments the tendency is to only see our side.  We tend to jump in before the other person has finished.  We’re not thinking about what the other person is saying.  We’re not listening.  We’re just thinking about what we’re going to say. The average person can talk 150 words a minute but the average person can listen to about 650 words a minute.  That leaves a 500 word per minute boredom factor.  That means while they’re talking to you, you’re already thinking about what else you’re going to say.  You cut people off.  Wait your turn to talk when you’re in a conflict.  Let them say their whole piece and then you can say your piece and back and forth.  Don’t cut each other off.  Treat each other with consideration.  I have a button that I made with the picture of an ear on it.  When I have a couple in my counseling office that has problem with this I will let one person hold the “listening” button to remind them that it is their turn to listen.

7.  Never Confuse.  This is when you bring up unrelated issues in the middle of the argument.  Often you do this intentionally to side track people.  Some of us are very good at this.  When we are in an argument that we know we’re losing we bring up something unrelated and start arguing about that.  You keep switching the argument because you realize you’re losing.  Stick with the issue.  Don’t confuse issues.

Let me summarize these seven things in one sentence:  Attack the issue not each other.  Proverbs 11:29 says, “The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left.”  It is foolish to intentionally cause anger or resentment.  It’s dumb but we do it all the time when we’re angry.  After a while we learn how to push the emotion hot buttons of people.  You know what will tick off your husband/wife/parents/kids.  You know if you push that button it’s going to make them mad.  The Bible says it’s dumb to push those buttons, to make people angry intentionally, to intentionally build resentment.  It is foolish!

Photo:  Jacob Rickard’s photostream (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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Someone once said that communication is more than merely talking; it is combining the power of words with the power of the ear to create a soul connection.

 James the brother of Jesus gave us some very valuable teaching on how to communicate effectively. He said, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” I am convinced that a sincere commitment on the part of two individuals to apply James’ teaching in any relationship will bring about a significant improvement.   Great communication is essential to a great relationship because when we are communicating well we feel close and intimate and when we are not communicating well we generally feel distant and cold. 

It has been my experience that couples who are experiencing a break down in the area of communication have this formula mixed up; they are quick to speak and slow to listen and as a result they are quick to become angry!

Some time back I made a “Listening Button” that I keep in my desk drawer for those times when I can’t keep one or both partners from interrupting the other.  The image I used here is what it looks like.  I cut it out and glued it to a frozen orange juice can top.  I let one partner hold the button and as long as they are holding that button they cannot speak – only listen.  Then we switch.  They usually are willing to listen if they know they are going to be given equal time to be heard. 

The goal of good communication is to understand each other better and to create an opportunity for your partner to be heard, understood and accepted.

Let me give you a few more tips on communication today.  Putting them into practice may seem awkward at first but so did walking and using eating utensils.  I work on these every day.  Start simple, pick one and look for ways to use it in your daily communication interactions.  Let me know how it goes.

1. Mirroring: Mirror back to your partner what you heard them say:

  •   “I heard you say….”
  •  “If I understood you correctly, you said…”
  •  “It sounds like you are saying….”

 After you mirror back to them, get some feedback. Ask, “Did I get that right?”

 Show an interest in wanting to understand the whole picture, ask, “Is there more you want to tell me?”

This is what they use at the drive up window of your favorite fast food place.  You give them the order and they repeat it back to you.  Occasionally they actually get it right!

2. Validating: Validating is seeing the world through your partner’s eyes.  It is giving them the right to their opinion no matter how far out in left field you feel they are.

 That’s how we show compassion, something everyone wants to experience from his or her partner. Validating is not agreeing, it is basically saying, “From your perspective, I can see why/how you would see it that way.”

Validating sounds like:

  • “I can see what you mean.”
  • “I can understand where you’re coming from”
  • “That makes sense to me because….”

 3. Empathizing: Empathizing is a really powerful way of developing intimacy and again really conveying compassion to your partner.

 Empathizing requires you to verbally capture the emotion behind what your partner is saying and express it to him or her. Empathizing is speaking with your heart.

 Empathy sounds something like:

  • “You must feel ……”
  • “That must make you feel…”
  • “I wonder if you feel…”


One major mistake that many couples make is fire hosing each other with too much information. Give bite size pieces of information. Don’t rehash the whole history and all the details. Use self-control and practice condensing what you want your partner to hear. Use only 3 – 5 medium size sentences at a time. If you have been talking for 1 minute it’s time to let your partner respond. Use an egg timer if necessary.

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My wife and a few church members are constantly reminding me to use my mind to filter my mouth. I think that could very well be what James is saying to us in James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”   There’s a designated order here: First be quick to listen and then slow to speak.  If you’re quick to listen you will be slow to speak.  If you’re slow to speak, then you will be slow to become angry.  If you have a problem with anger you need to work on being quick to listen and slow to speak.  The result will be you’ll be slow to anger.  You may even be able to keep someone else from getting angry.   

What does your tongue say about you?  There is a series on TV called FLASHPOINT.  Just about every week they begin with a situation.  A bad situation.  Someone or a group of someones is being held hostage by a person with a weapon or a bomb.  Then the story rewinds real fast to the start of the day and the events that led to the hostage situation.  If we were to rewind a tape of every conversation we’ve had this past week, what would we learn about ourselves?  God hears it all.  Our tongues tell the story.  Our tongues control the direction of our lives like a rudder, a bit.

A bit and a rudder must be under the hand of a strong-arm.  James is saying that the only way to get control of your tongue is let God have control of your heart.  What’s in your heart is going to come out in your mouth.  You let God’s hand be on your bit, your rudder and let Him direct your life.

Perhaps you need to go to your kids and say, “I’m sorry.  I’m inconsistent the way I talk to you. Sometimes I’m loving, sometimes I’m harsh.  That shows I’m like everybody else.  I’m human.”  We all stumble in many ways — all of us.  Maybe you need to apologize to your wife or your husband. “I’m not as loving to you in the way I talk to you as I ought to be.  I tend to be apathetic, cold, indifferent.  I talk to you harshly.  I boss everybody around.  I’m inconsistent and inconsiderate.” Ezekiel says, “Get rid of all your offenses you’ve committed and get a new heart and a new spirit.”  God is in the business of creating new hearts and new spirits.  It does no good to filter your mouth through your mind if you are constantly filling your mind with the junk food of this world.  You must be filling your mind with the truth.  That is what the Bible is… TRUTH.  Truth will always guide you to the right thing to say regardless of the situation. 

What I am about to write may be thought of by some as the “Preacher” thing to say but I am a preacher because I believe this more and more with every breath I take.  Truth is a person and that person is Jesus the Christ.  When we filter our mouths through the mind of Christ, all heaven breaks loose!


Posted: June 10, 2010 in Communication

A man was asked by his friend, “Do you resent that your wife always has to have the last word?”  He replied, “No, I’m just glad when she finally gets to it!”  We love to talk.  There are talk shows everywhere.  Everybody seems to have something to say. Statistics on the average American report that we have 30 conversations a day and spend 1/5 of our lives talking.  In one year your conversations will fill 66 books of 800 pages per book.  If you’re a man you speak an average of 20,000 words a day.  If you’re a woman you speak 30,000 words a day.  Now I have had the information in those previous two sentences for some time now and have learned to be very careful about how and when to use it!

Many, many, many times my mouth has gotten me in a lot of trouble.  James talks more about the tongue than anybody else in the New Testament.  Every chapter in the book of James says something about managing your mouth. “We all stumble in many ways.  If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”  James says, if you can control your mouth, you’re perfect.  He’s not talking about sinless.  The word “perfection” in Greek literally means “mature, healthy”.  When you go to the doctor and say, I’m not feeling good.  The first thing he says is “Stick out your tongue.”  Your tongue reveals what’s going on inside of you, not just physically but spiritually.  James says, you’ve got to learn to manage your mouth.  Why must I do that?  It’s only words; I’m just kidding.  Words are significant.  James gives us three reasons we have to learn to manage our mouth.


It has tremendous influence and control over my life.  Where are you going to be ten years from now?  Look at your conversation.  What do you like to talk about most?  We shape our words and then our words shape us.  James says, the tongue is small, it’s tiny.  And because it’s tiny we think it’s insignificant.  But it has tremendous power.  James 1:3 Consider a bit in a horse’s mouth. You’ve got a huge stallion, 2,000-3,000 pounds, and a 95 pound jockey on his back.  The jockey can control the tremendous mighty horse by a little piece of metal stuck strategically over his tongue.  Likewise your tongue controls the direction of your life wherever you want to go, and a little bit of a word or a phrase can influence the total direction of your life.

Then he says, consider a ship.  A relatively small rudder directs a huge ocean liner out in the middle of the waves and winds and seas.  A little rudder keeps it on course.  Our tongue is like that.  Our tongue is like a rudder that steers us.  Ships:  “… they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.”  Your tongue is the steering wheel of your life.  It is the guidance system.  If you don’t like the way you’re headed right now, change the way you talk. 

Many people think, if the tongue has such influence maybe it’s best to say nothing.  Not talk at all, be silent.  A guy joined the Trappist monastery.  For three years he was given a probation period where he was not to speak at all, but at the end of each year he could say two words.  The first year at the end he said, “Bed hard.”  At end of the second year he said, “Food cold.”  At the end of the third year he’s about had it.  He comes in and says, “I quit”.  The head priest says, “That doesn’t surprise me. All you’ve done is complain since you got here.”  James says my tongue directs where I go.  So I’ve got to learn to control it.

To be continued…..