I learned something recently that, if I ever knew before, I had conveniently forgotten. Let me test your knowledge. Does the tongue contain any muscles? If you think the answer is yes, how many? Well, my title has likely given away the answer at this point, but I learned that, in fact, the tongue is made up of eight tiny muscles.
You likely have heard it said, as have I, that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body, but that is inaccurate. While it might not qualify for the strongest, we can certainly say that it is one of the hardest to train. As I continue to train myself and write and coach to help others become more adept at improving their lives by improving themselves, I want to challenge and encourage you this week to consider what you say and how you say it.
We have all heard the old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I continue to challenge myself to become a better listener, and I can’t encourage you enough to do likewise. It is amazing how quickly you can transform conversations and even relationships if you are willing to listen with empathy and understanding versus spending all of the time crafting your next statement while someone else is talking. A proper question asked at the proper time has the power to transform. That may sound a little “woo woo” but I challenge you to prove me wrong.
Just as the mind is a powerful tool, the tongue has the power to do great things. Of course, this can be done to accomplish great positive things or deeply tragic, hurtful things. I am certain if I were to ask you the most hurtful thing that someone has ever said to you that you could easily tell me who it was, exactly what was said, and where you were when they said it. Whether this even happened yesterday or fifty years ago, the memory is etched into your memory. Sadly, this is not always the case for the most uplifting thing we have ever heard; however, I do believe that Dr. Maya Angelou was correct when she said, “people will not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
So, I would ask you to carefully consider the words you use and how you use them. They have such a tremendous impact. Of course, there are many non-verbal cues to learn as well as the words we speak, but I would suggest if you begin to practice choosing your words carefully, many of the other traits needed to convey their meaning will naturally fall into place. In fact, the more self-aware we become, the more we feel the words we use, which are naturally conveyed to the person we are speaking to. I do not have any scientific evidence to support this. Still, from personal experience, I can certainly tell you how good it feels to have a powerful conversation with another person. I challenge you to do the same.
Finally, let me suggest one more pro tip to add to your communication arsenal. Pause. Collect your thoughts, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you need it. If you’re like me, don’t make every conversation a means to an end. Rather, seek to learn, grow, and create unity with every conversation. Show the other person how important they are to you by taking a quick breath to gather your thoughts and responding to their comments rather than reacting to them. The difference is slight, but the impact is significant. And don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you need it.
Some of my favorite clarifying questions are: “Could you tell me more about that? What I heard you say was ___, and Here is what I heard you say.” These questions or statements will communicate and show the other person that their comments and they themselves are important to you and that you want to be sure that you clearly heard and und understood what they were saying.
Not only will this put the other person at ease, but I can assure you that they will be much more open to receiving your opinions and feedback once you give it to them. In a world desperately in need of positive, uplifting, and engaging conversations, let’s endeavor this week to be people who communicate with a purpose. It’s a goal that involves taming and training the tongue, but the benefits that will come from it will touch every area of your life and make you a person people love to converse with. That’s a great payoff for a little bit of mental exercise!
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