Richard and Robert were brothers and neither had ever married. Richard lived with their 88-year-old mother. Robert’s whole life was Annabelle his cat. He never went anywhere without her.
One day Robert was faced with a tough decision. He had to go to London, England on business for his company and he couldn’t take the cat. He didn’t want to leave her at a kennel. Finally he decided to trust his brother with the cat while he was away. He gave Richard detailed instructions, schedules, food. Everything he needed to care for Annabelle. Robert flew to London and called Richard every day to make sure Annabelle was OK.
On the fourth day when he called, Robert asked, “How’s Annabelle?” Richard bluntly said. “Annabelle is dead.”
Well, Robert was devastated. When he recovered, he said to Richard, “That was the most cruel thing I’ve ever heard. You know how much I loved Annabelle. Why couldn’t you have broken the news to me gently?
“What do you mean?” asked Richard.
You could have said something like, “Well, she’s OK, but she’s up on the roof.” And then when I called the next time, tell me, “Oh, bad news, she fell off the roof and she’s at the vet.” And then the next time break the news that she passed away. At least I would have been a little prepared for the bad news.”
“Yes, you are right Robert. I’m sorry. I apologize for being so heartless.” Robert accepted Richard’s apology and then said, “Oh, by the way, how’s Mom?”
Richard paused and said, “Well, Robert, she’s OK, but she’s on the roof!”
This story reminds me of a proverb by the wise man. “A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Prov. 25:11)
Harmonious relationships are dependant upon good communication. Improving our communication is more than just eliminating vulgarity, dishonesty or anger. It’s learning to express ourselves in ways that are appropriate for the situation. Kind. Thoughtful. And timely.
Here are five suggestions for communicating with others with “a word fitly spoken.”
(1) Show respect. The other person is made in God’s image. They have worth. Dignity. And value. If I apply Jesus’ golden rule (Matt 7:12) I will accord to others the kind of consideration that I desire. In fact, I will esteem others better than myself (Phil 2:3-4)
(2) Understand emotions. God made us with emotions. We all have them. Be careful about saying something that will trigger an emotional response from someone who is particularly sensitive to a certain subject. Don’t be the kind of fool described by Solomon! “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Prov 18:2)
(3) Really listen. It’s very easy to tune out others when we think they have little to offer. Or maybe we are preoccupied with concerns we deem more important. The Bible says, “Everyone should be quick to listen.” (Jas. 1:19) Unfortunately, we are too often quick to speak and slow to listen! Men listen to your wives. Parents listen to your children. Preachers listen to the people you’re serving.
(4) Be quiet. The wise man exhorted, Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few” (Eccl 5:2). Jesus is a great example of this during his trial. He was so quiet that Pilate marveled. There are times to be a person of a few words. Or no words.
(5) Ask appropriate questions. Jesus was the master of asking questions. It gives us insight into the other person’s feelings, thinking and attitude. Asking the right kind of question often deflects arguments. Aids others to see new facts. Demonstrates interest in others. And improves your ability to reply with the right words
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6, NASU)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman