Slow to Speak

Slow to Speak

Written by Erik Gernand

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… – James 1:19

Man, oh man.

“I have a friend” who struggles with these things mightily. I bet you have one of “these friends” too – I mean, hypothetically, of course.

Seriously though, how many times have you entered a challenging conversation, maybe with your boss, your spouse, a child, a neighbor or a friend, and your opinions on some matter were at total odds with one another? They start laying out how they feel about a certain situation, and while they’re just getting started, you’re already forming the responses in your mind, waiting for them to take a breath so you can jump in and get your point across.

Or maybe you’ve gotten into an online discussion where the comments are heaped on top of one another with complete disregard for any sort of listening or seeking to understand.

The other day I was in a restaurant where I saw a sign on the walls that said, “Let’s just assume I’m right. It will save time.” I looked at my wife and immediately start laughing…because that’s something I can fall into so easily.

But James calls us to a different way – seek to understand first. Listen. Close your mouth and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Use some active listening skills and make the first words you speak ones where you’re asking for clarification and deeper understanding before you start presenting your thoughts. And while we’re at it, let’s recognize that anger in the midst of these exchanges doesn’t typically get us anywhere helpful.

I want to challenge you today, especially in a difficult situation or circumstance, to try and put these words into practice during your conversations. After all, James says shortly after this advice, “Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says” (James 1:22). So, find a time today, or maybe take every opportunity today, to listen first. Ask clarifying questions next (because this is part of active listening). Then speak with kindness.

There is literally no scenario where that is not good advice. It can potentially be a game-changer in your family and workplace. It is certainly something that would benefit our culture a great deal in general.

May the Lord bless you today as you listen first, speak last and let the anger go.