Today would be Dad’s 82nd birthday. He and I shared a love for words, mine is for writing them, and his was for speaking them in front of an audience.
Dad was a life-long member of Toastmasters International. Not only that, but for years he taught public speaking to teen boys and girls. Boys who were in Boy Scouts of America earned their public speaking merit badge following the course. I took his course and as an adult I have been a member of three Toastmasters chapters.
Dad taught us how to engage in effective communication, and to do so with confidence, because he knew that learning how to say what we mean was a skill that would serve us well as adults. He was proud of every one of his graduates, and concerned for the few kids who couldn’t conquer their fears and dropped out.
Learning to use words effectively to express ourselves is surprisingly difficult, even if we’re not speaking formally in front of a large group or writing for all to read.
Dad knew the toughest part of learning to use our word effectively is first learning to know our thinking. When we do not know what we think, we cannot begin to put our thoughts into words.
I think that’s why we find it so difficult to find the right words when we are faced with a difficult situation.
What do you say when the person you’re engaged to breaks the engagement? Your spouse admits to infidelity? Your child comes out of the closet?
Unless you’re exceptional, I can say with confidence that the first conversation is not your finest example of open-mindedness or listening. Anger and anguish can lead us to say things we do not mean. They lead us to words that do not honor us, and do not serve to maintain the relationship. Later, sometimes much later, you’d like to forget every word you said. The other person can likely never forget them.
When we first think about what we are feeling and how we can use our words to create a connection to another person, we are much more likely to choose just the right words.
As you’re heard me express before, it is my desire to help others know what to say when faced with life’s difficult times. This is what led me to create the Life Is Hot line of greeting cards. I wish I could share them with you now, but our printer is taking far longer than initially promised. At this point I’m hesitant to make a prediction about when the cards will be ready. When they are, we’ll launch the website and you’ll be able to see them for yourselves.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: When faced with a difficult situation, knowing the right thing to say begins with knowing what we ourselves are thinking and feeling. Too often we blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, or allow ourselves to react in a moment of hurt and anger. The right words are those that reflect the truth of the situation and express our willingness to be honest about our feelings and the feelings of others.