Words have the power to build up, tear down, begin friendships, and start wars. An “I do” spoken aloud unites a man and woman for life. The word "fire" yelled in a crowd can cause a panic and send masses running. What we speak can change the world because speech can incite action, form minds, and move hearts.
Our words are a powerful thing, and with great power comes great responsibility. It’s important to master our speech so that we’re using it for good rather than wicked purposes. This taming of the tongue typically involves learning to say less and to choose our words and topics of conversation more carefully.
Prudence and the Power of Our Words
Women naturally love to talk, so we should be extremely aware of the power of our speech. What we say cannot be unsaid, so we need to say what we mean and mean what we say. Not only do our words influence and affect others, but they also define our own character. You can't become who you want to become if your tongue is pulling you in the wrong direction. It’s essential to think before we speak so that we're talking in a manner that builds us into the women we desire to be.
One virtue that we can practice to help us in this area is prudence. Prudence is the ability to be guided by reason and discern your actions well. Being prudent means doing the right thing in the right way at the right time – and that includes speaking.
Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to discern whether or not we would be speaking prudently:
Is this purposeful? Essentially, does what I am about to say have a good and specific purpose, or is it just idle chatter for the sake of itself?
Is it necessary? Even if it has a purpose, is it absolutely essential that I am the one to share it?
Is this the time and place? Would it be better if I held my tongue for now?
Would I be okay with so-and-so hearing me say this? If you'd be mortified if someone not present heard you say it, then it’s better not to say it at all.
Will it lift myself and others up? Or am I tearing down myself, others, and my audience with gossip, criticism, etc.?
Is it a reflection of who I am or who I hope to be? Your words paint a picture of who you are, so choose wisely!
Is it true? If it's not true, it's never worth saying (with rare exceptions, like if you’re speaking about Santa Claus to a small child).
Tips for Elevating Your Conversation
If you determine that a lot of your speech isn't fulfilling the criteria for prudent speech, then you may need to focus on quitting the bad habit of gossip or senseless talk. I get it – talking is fun. As an outward processor and chatterbox, I know just how difficult it can be to be silent. But I'm not suggesting that you become a total wallflower. Instead of taking a vow of silence, make a commitment to engage in more elevating conversation.
Gossip, speculation, meaningless chatter, and all other forms of imprudent and "nonsense" speech are often a waste of our time and energy. Such conversations bog our minds down with things that don't really matter, things that don't expand our virtue or intellect, and things that don't nurture our relationships. They’re basically the low-hanging fruit of conversation. Great conversation requires more mental effort, good listening skills, the ability to dialogue, and having something interesting to say! But how do we improve our conversations?
Be enthusiastic! Speak about the topics that interest you. In this way, you'll better form your own opinions, become more educated, and learn how to share your ideas.
Listen well, and don't monologue. Let others speak. Really listen to what they're saying and ask questions. This will inevitably lead to interesting dialogue.
Be vulnerable. Skip the coffee table talk. No one cares that much about the weather. Cannonball into conversation by sharing what's really on your heart, bypassing the useless topics that are just spacefillers.
Expand your vocabulary. There are so many beautiful words in the English language. Choose the most precise and loveliest ones to get your point across. Skip the slang and expletives (to be frank, they’re just not classy).
Make room for humor. Everyone loves to laugh. Wholesome laughter almost never detracts from a conversation. For the most part, forgo sarcasm, though; it usually seems ill-mannered.
Speak with great charity. If you're saying something with, in, and for love, it's surely going to elevate your speech.
Seek the truth. The truth is worth sharing, and it's worth sharing with conviction.
We have an obligation to bring beauty to the world. One way we can begin to do this is with our speech. Engage in conversations that are good, uplifting, and true, and watch beauty blossom around you.
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