Anyone who knows me, knows that I struggle with the propensity to talk too much. I do not often spew unkind words or unhelpful words; nonetheless I can identify with a text balloon that is jammed to the bursting point. It is something I have prayed about, chided myself over, followed various disciplines regarding… and only rarely do I feel that my amount of talking is “just right”! Are you like me?
We live in a world of words. According to a 2013 post on a language blog, males average 7,000 words per day and females from 10,000-20000. However, both sexes average only about 500-700 words of actual value (these are words which are intended to communicate something of importance to another person). That is a sad statistic, but not one that is terribly shocking.
Even if you are not a person who is prone to talk too much, I bet you still struggle with idle chatter at times because it is often expected of you. We are a society that feels talk is a measurement of our level of involvement, commitment, intelligence, devotion… and the list goes on. So, is there a way to limit not only our idle chatter, and also increase the number of words we say each day that have actual value? I believe both objectives are worthy and attainable.
What if, before we opened our mouths to speak, we mentally ran the 5 W’s through our minds? How might that change what we say and how much we say? Would it also increase the number of words that had actual value? Let me add one more element to this concept. What if during that mental moment of thinking through the who, what, where, when and why – we also prayed for God to give us clarity and insight to speak only words of value.
I am struggling with how to explain what I am trying to convey, but I think using an acting auditioning technique will help. Many years ago, I was taught to look at every script I was given for an acting audition from a who, what, where, when, why viewpoint. You see, I needed to focus on who I was in the script – and who I was talking to; what I was talking about; where I was when I was talking about it and when it was (these two parts were up to me to decide the scenario); and finally why I was talking about it. Acting audiion scripts do not include idle chatter. They are to the point generally lasting only 60 seconds.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we can never just relax and chat. Goodness, life would be far too regimented if that were the case. But, we all know that many conversations need to be – and CAN be – more focused and valuable.
I am challenging myself to really focus on what words will be of actual value in a conversation AND trust God to impress me with what to speak. Will you accept the challenge also? The outcome would be making idle chatter extinct and increasing our words of actual value exponentially.
It is, of course, much easier said than done – but my deepest desire is to talk less and… when I do talk, make sure my words have actual value! Lord hear my prayer. Amen.