Have you ever been around someone who has to be right? Ever try to share something and you’re quickly dismissed because they already know everything? You can:
a. Get snarky
b. Give them “a piece of your mind”
c. Shut down
d. Avoid him or her
e. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6)
OK we know the right answer, but easier said than done, right? Let’s think about what the right answer entails for all of our conversations.
“Walk in wisdom.” Nobody walks into instant wisdom. Perhaps the first step is to decide not to agree or disagree until you can say, “I understand.” This may seem obvious, but it isn’t. Understanding is occasionally stressed and easily minimized. Learning is not about fixing what someone is feeling or thinking; it’s about listening. “Walking in wisdom” hears a heart crying out to God, a heart that is trying to understand their place in the world.
“Making the best use of the time.” While Dallas Willard was teaching a class, a student went after him with flawed and offensive statements. Dallas paused and told the class that it was a good place to end their discussion. When asked afterward why he did not put the student in his place, Dallas replied, “I’m practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.” “The best use of the time” allows the Holy Spirit time to work in everyone involved.
“Let your speech always be gracious.” “I am not arguing with you,” wrote James Whistler in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, “I am telling you.” Conversation is not a lecture or a debate. Your goal is to be gracious—not to “win” anything. Affirm what makes sense about what the person is saying and celebrate agreement. “Let your speech always be gracious” requires humility and generous encouragement.
“Seasoned with salt.” Sometimes what is presented to you is the tip of the iceberg. Perk up to emotional intensity. It’s no coincidence that those same feelings pop up in other places. Try to discover the unspoken issue behind what’s being said with tasteful, thoughtful questions. “Seasoned with salt” enhances the flavor of conversations and preserves the other person’s dignity.
Memorize: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders (and insiders), making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).