When You Have Something to Say: Seven Keys to Speaking the Truth in Love
God knows how to deliver a message well. He is the Living Word. He is the Truth. He is also Love. He says exactly what He means, and He means exactly what He says. And if you haven’t noticed, He’s often of few words, and every word He has chosen was selected with great care. Although we may not always understand Him, He says it perfectly every time, and His intentions are clear. But is it always well received? Sadly, that answer would be a resounding ‘No’.
It is no different with you and I. Sometimes we have hard messages to deliver. We are responsible for the delivery – not the reception. So let’s get it right. There are things we can learn to help the hearer receive the message. That’s what this post is about.
The hearer is responsible for the reception.
The speaker is responsible for the delivery.
Even the perfect message which is perfectly delivered can be misunderstood and misconstrued. Therefore, we must understand our responsibility as communicators. We are not responsible for the interpretation, or whether or not it was received. We are responsible for the delivery. With this in mind, we must also understand that we’re not alone in the quandary of being misunderstood. God is misquoted, misunderstood, and misrepresented in His word every single day. Why should we think it would be any different for us? There will be times when we do our very best to communicate to our audience, whomever they may be, and it just won’t be received as we intended. We all suffer being misunderstood.
We are misunderstood when people hear our words, yet don’t see our hearts. Therefore, speaking the truth in love is imperative. A message that is not delivered with love, will likely be poorly received or altogether shunned.
Love must be the motivator within every message.
If we learn to speak the truth in love and take the necessary time to address our audience with that single goal, we can enter into a place of rest, knowing that we’ve been responsible with the delivery as far as it depends upon us. With that being said, let’s take care to deliver our message well.
Again, we are responsible for the delivery of our message – not the interpretation or reception.
So, what is your message? What is it that you need to say?
Confrontation has a horrible reputation. Yet when done properly it can actually be very healthy. Confrontation does not mean you attack another person. It means you approach issues respectably that need to be addressed because you care enough about the relationship to talk it out and bring reconciliation. Sadly, not everyone is mature enough to do that, and not everyone knows how to confront appropriately.
Yet, despite our greatest efforts and best intentions, there will always be those who choose not to listen, who cannot understand, and who decide not to receive. We must always remember the ears, minds and hearts of our audience have filters by which they receive and interpret information.
We all have a message. Every day we communicate with those we love, as well as those we do not know. We share our feelings, our thoughts, our experiences, our ideas, and even our secrets. More than anything we want others to understand us. When we are misunderstood, we are inevitably misjudged. Being misunderstood and misjudged hurts – whether we want it to or not. Even the thickest-skinned people have feelings. We may learn to lick our own wounds in private, but no one can deny that it hurts when to be misjudged, especially by those we love or care about.
And why does it hurt? Because we speak from our hearts. God created us this way. Christ said, out of the heart the mouth speaks (see Luke 6:45). We can learn and know someone very well by listening to them – not only in what they say, but how they say it.
As communicators we need to deliver our message well. That is our responsibility. We cannot be responsible for the party who chooses not to listen, not to seek understanding, or not to care. We are responsible for the message – and that is all. Therefore, delivering it well is of utmost importance.
Have you ever had something to say to someone, which you knew was going to be sensitive (positive or negative), and fumbled over your words? It could be a proposal, bad news, or an important question. Perhaps you didn’t deliver it eloquently. Yet because your heart was genuine, to your surprise the message was not only understood, but well-received. That is an excellent delivery.
Have you ever been the recipient of a hard message from someone? It may have been spoken in truth, and with the perfect words. That truth resounded with accuracy. Yet there was no love. In fact, the delivery was so poor that you couldn’t receive what was being said, although you clearly understood it. That is a poor delivery.
We have responsibility toward those we want to reach with our message. We want to get it right. Part of getting it right is delivering the message well, so that it is not merely understood, but also received.
RECEPTION IS THE GOAL OF EVERY MESSAGE.
DELIVERY IS THE KEY.
Don’t waste your breath. When I talk about reception, I’m speaking about a message that falls upon an open heart and mind. There are things we can do as communicators to improve upon our chances of this reception.
We are instructed to speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15). This is a universal rule regardless of the message we speak. Depending on what we want to say, that is not always easy to do. Bringing correction, confronting issues, and shedding light on something otherwise hidden is difficult for all of us because emotions are always involved. That element of emotion is inevitable. Therefore, speaking the truth in love means we deliver the message accurately while taking into consideration the feelings of those we are addressing by putting them above our own. When we place a priority on being heard while disregarding the feelings of those we address, we lose our audience.
Delivering messages well means we place a priority on our audience – not on ourselves – and not on the message.
An excellent delivery must be achieved if we’re going to live productive lives with those around us.
Important messages deserve careful deliberation. Let’s deliver our messages carefully, giving them adequate thought prior to speaking. Words once spoken, cannot be retrieved. We can know someone by listening to them. The tone of their voice, the inflection, the volume, and their word choice all convey meaning. Their message is not understood merely by the words spoken, but the intent with which they are said. When we speak, we reveal our hearts.
Seven Keys to Speaking the Truth in Love
Regardless of whether your message is good or bad, here are some things to consider when delivering your message. Every one of these should be love-centered and spoken in truth:
1. WORD CHOICE: This is a given. And it is the most obvious component to any message. Yet it is actually not as important as one may think. Someone with a poor vocabulary, who is apt and not given to eloquence, can actually deliver a message just as clearly (or even better) than one who is polished and proficiently spoken. With that said, word choice is not about your vocabulary. Word choice is about heart. Your words should accurately convey your intention just as precisely as the content.
2. TIMING: The old adage, “Timing is everything” is absolutely true. The right message perfectly spoken at the wrong time will not be received. And it stands the chance of being entirely misunderstood because it will be partially heard, and more than likely filtered through that individual’s distraction or wayward emotions. If there is something important that needs to be said, sometimes it has to wait, even if the moment at hand is apt or deserving. Address it later. Whether positive or negative, it makes no difference. Take care to choose a time when you have the individual’s full attention, when they are fully intact and present, and can be in the right frame of heart and mind to receive it.
3. INTENTION: Delivering a message well begins with intention. The person you are speaking with deserves to hear why you’re addressing them. So tell them. This is where you have an opportunity to preface your statements with true sentiments of the heart. If people hear your heart first, they are more likely to receive what it is you have to say. Take the necessary time to lay the groundwork for the conversation. Making your heart’s intention known often opens the door to their own. This will lay a solid foundation that will not only open ears, but hearts as well.
4. SETTING: When delivering an important message take the opportunity to find a private place, regardless of whether or not the matter is actually private. Honor that individual by addressing them privately. Not only will this afford them the freedom to respond openly and be genuine, but it will guard both of you against unnecessary interruptions and from being overheard. It shows respect.
5. SEIZE YOUR MOMENT: When opportunity strikes, recognize it. Unfortunately, not everything can be planned. As much as we would love to choose a time and place, that isn’t always possible. We have to learn to seize our moment or we’ll miss it entirely. Know that opportunities will come for which you’ll never get a second chance. Learning how to seize your moment is vital. The words may not come eloquently. That’s okay. There’s not often enough time to think to formulate them perfectly. In instances such as these, let your heart speak. Be candid. Be real. Be sensitive. Be concise. Be poignant. Chances are that if the individual is listening, they can sense your urgency and intensity. This is often enough to pique their curiosity to give you a listening ear. So, respect their time. They’ll have a lot to think upon, so make it short and sweet–precisely because it has to stick.
6. CONTENT: Here it is: What are you going to say? What is your message? Know your message in a nutshell. It’s all about what you want to really say, right? Content. That is your key. This deserves careful thought, far above the words you choose. Consider carefully what the heart of your message really is and pin it. Make it clear and concise. Don’t skirt subjects. Don’t dance around it with peripheral details and empty jargon. Don’t embellish. It will get lost. Say what needs to be said, and say it well, not just with words but with your heart.
7. HEARTFELT: People always appreciate a person who is genuine. You will lose the interest of your listener without it. The best messages, albeit poorly said, become excellent when they are heartfelt. This is where people are ultimately reached and impacted – within their hearts. We both speak and receive in our hearts. If they don’t have yours, the likelihood of a return is poor. Above all, people are likely to listen when they know your motive is in their best interest.
Being Heard and Received
We’ve discussed seven keys to delivering a timely message that is not just understood, but well received. As Christ said, out of the heart the mouth speaks. Let’s also remember that we listen and receive with our hearts as well. Let’s examine our hearts before we speak, and consider the heart of our listeners above our own. Only then will we really know what to say – and what not to say. When we speak the truth in love we’ll say it powerfully. Within that alone we can rest well, knowing we’ve done our duty, even when we are misunderstood.
Cheers & Shalom,