Tactfully Speaking: Taming the Tongue


“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

James* reminds us that what comes out of our mouths makes a difference. In this final installment of the ‘Tactfully Speaking’ series, I’d like to share some my thoughts on how we might tame our tongue. Here they are:

  • Build the ‘5 Steps to a Meaningful Conversation‘ into your life.
    I’ve already discussed the process you might consider using when engaged in a conversation, with anyone, really. I would love to claim I do so all the time – I still have a ways to go myself – but I can say I’ve never regretted utilizing these simple steps when I remember to do so.
  • Be slow to speak.
    It is very hard to ‘dig a hole’ when you are conspicuously silent. That’s not to say our default should be silence. That can backfire too.  James* exhorts us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Ambrose Bierce once said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Suffice it to say, the best time to be silent is when you are angry and not thinking straight.
  • Avoid definitives whenever possible.
    “God never moves in our church.”, “The women’s ministry should have been shut down a year ago.”, “The music is going to drive people away.”  These are a few examples of definitive statements. Certainly it is OK to have opinions, even strong opinions. The problem is that we often communicate our opinions as irrefutable and conclusive facts. There really isn’t any place for your listeners to go with that. If they agree with you, then all is well. But if they don’t they may keep silent and secretly disagree or they might possibly get defensive and your conversation could quickly evolve into an unnecessary argument.

I recommend you get into the habit of prefacing your opinions with a simple disclaimer. Start with the words, “In my opinion…”, “It seems to me…” or “I’m thinking…”. Let’s look at the above examples again with a simple disclaimer like this: “It seems to me that God never moves in our church.”, “In my opinion, the women’s ministry should have been shut down a year ago.”, “I’m thinking the music is going to drive people away.”

  • Be careful talking about others when they aren’t present.
    I suspect every leader needs to occasionally hold discussions about others when they aren’t in the room. I’ve done it, and I’m sure you have as well. But I’d like to submit that, perhaps, we do it more often than is truly necessary, especially if what we have to say about the person isn’t positive. Those conversations should be well guarded and rare. Even the Scriptures lay out a very clear order when it comes to dealing with difficult situations with people*. First you go to the person, and THEN you talk about it with a trusted and mature leader. Even then, it doesn’t stay behind closed doors but eventually makes it’s way back to the person.
  • Add key phrases to your speech.
    There are a few words and phrases that consistently save face for me – especially during a confrontation or difficult conversation. By themselves they don’t seem very effective, but properly used they can be very powerful. I’ve already shared a few important phrases above in avoiding definitives. Here are a few more of my favorites: “I wonder if…”, “Is it possible…”, “I could be wrong, but…”, “Could it be that…”. Let’s look at some examples of how those phrases might be used: “I wonder if we should consider approaching this conversation differently.”, “Do you think it’s possible that you might be too emotionally involved to really make a good decision about this right now?”, “I could be wrong, but my sense is that they didn’t mean to come across that way when they said that.”
  • Increase the use of your vocabulary.
    This might seem like an odd suggestion. What does an increased use of vocabulary have to do with taming the tongue and speaking tactfully. Answer: a LOT. Understand, I’m not talking about opening the dictionary and discovering odd or long words that nobody knows about. No. That’s increasing your vocabulary (also a good idea). I’m talking about increasing the USE of your vocabulary. What I am recommending is that we begin to study how other great communicators say things and intentionally model and integrate them into our daily speech. I’m talking about learning how to phrase things so that our listeners feel understood, don’t get defensive so much, and want to hear more of what you have to say. How many times have you caught yourself saying or thinking, “It’s on the tip of my tongue, I just can’t seem to get it out.” 
What other ways might we tame our tongue? 
* The above Scripture references include: James 3:9-10, 2 Timothy 3:16, James 1:22, James 1:19; Matthew 18:15-17 & Matthew 5:23-24.

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Tactfully Speaking: According to the Bible


I’ve heard it said that tactful speech is simply a way to coddle the weak and help them control the strong. Ouch. That hurts. If this were true then I suppose everyone has general permission to be blunt, rude, or insensitive to others. I don’t think so. I think this viewpoint may have more to do with people’s unwillingness to swallow their pride OR with the occasional situation when people attempt to control others by playing the “I’m not listening because you’re so disrespectful.” card. In fact, tactlessness isn’t something that is reserved just for the outgoing, talkative, and/or brutally honest. The quiet and reserved individual is just as prone to say something insensitive.

When the rubber meets the road, it’s just complicated. You can’t etch a lot of rules in stone and call that tactful speech. Each situation, relational dynamic and personality will play a big role in what people say and how they say it. Context is huge. History is important. Venue makes a big difference. It’s a lost cause to try and put all of these scenario’s in a box.

So how can we learn to speak tactfully? Thankfully, I think there are many principles and rules of thumb which, when learned and put into practice will help us save face. I’ve already shared one important element of tactful speech in this post. Another tactic for tactful speech is to get in the habit of filtering your comments through Scripture. As mentioned in the aforementioned post, there are many Scriptures that exhort us to be wise with our words. One of my favorites is:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

This passage makes a few important assumptions. Let’s look at them:

  • Assumption #1: You can choose to guard what you say.
    I guess this means the old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.” can sometimes be true. Maybe we could change the word ‘nice’ to ‘beneficial’?
  • Assumption #2: It’s possible to filter your speech to ONLY.
    It’s a high calling to ONLY speak when you know what’s coming out of your mouth is going to ‘bless’ or ‘help’ others.
  • Assumption #3: You can know what will be ‘helpful for building others up’.
    There’s only one way I can think of to accomplish this – stop thinking of ourselves over those we are with. A good dose of Philippians 2 should keep us on track.
  • Assumption #4: You can speak things based on what you know about their individual needs.
    There is an intentionality in this assumption that is daunting. If I want to say something that will build others up I first need to understand them first. Our words should be an overflow of a caring and growing relationship. 
  • Assumption #5: What you say can benefit the person listening.
    This strikes me as a challenge and a promise. Keep your speech ‘other-centered’ and you may just discover God working through you more than you realize.
In a nutshell, tactful speech is ‘other-centered’ rather than ‘self-centered’.

Tactfully Speaking: 5 Steps To A Meaningful Conversation

Several months back I had a painful conversation with someone for about ten minutes. I knew this man could tend to be abrasive in his speech and personality, so I braced myself emotionally before we started chatting. Despite my greatest efforts, I left the conversation defensive and frustrated. Over the years I know people have talked to him about how he comes across. Yet there we were and I was still having to emotionally recover after just a brief interaction.

Admittedly, that is a drastic example of someone who has little to no tact; but it takes only ONE sentence to put others on the defensive and end the potential for a meaningful connect.

The word ‘tactful’ can be defined as “having or showing a sense of what is fitting and considerate in dealing with others”. Here is what I’ve discovered about tactfulness. It is a godly trait than can be learned. Scriptures exhort us to be careful in our speech over and over again. Here are just a few examples:

  • A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
  • Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
So in the next few posts I’d like to lay out a few pointers I’ve learned about speaking tactfully. This list isn’t all inclusive, but it certainly is a great place to start. I’ll start with five important parts of a meaningful conversation.
5 Steps To A Meaningful Conversation
  • Listen.
    OK. So that’s not officially a way to talk, but it certainly is an important step in setting the foundation for when you do {talk}. Focus on what the other person is saying and stop your brain from coming up with the reasons why they are wrong or what you will say next.
  • Clarify.
    A tactful response is an informed response. According to Proverbs 29:20, only a fool spouts what he thinks before fully understanding what is at stake. Take the time to understand what’s being said BEFORE you share your own thoughts, ideas, or opinions. Here are two ways you can effectively clarify: (1)Ask clarifying questions. (2)Repeat back what was said in your own words.
  • Think.
    That seems obvious. It’s not. Too often we speak before we think. I have fallen into this trap more times than I can remember. Take the time to think through (a.)what has been said, (b.)what you think, and (c.)what you will say before you open your mouth to talk. Better an awkward silence than the alternative! 
  • Speak.
    Finally, you can have your say and speak your mind. But remember to be tactful in what you say and how you say it. I will talk more about how to be tactful in your response in my next post.
  • Ask.
    And you thought you were finished after saying what you think! Nope. Your final step is to ask a question. This is very important and is your ‘best friend’ in the whole process. By asking the right questions you can ensure that your listener(s) are also following the same process as you. In particular, they are listening, clarifying, and thinking. Here are a couple of examples of questions you can ask:

“Does what I am saying make sense to you?”



“What do you think?”

“Could you repeat back to me what you heard me say? I’m not sure I communicated it well or not.”

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Strategy Kickstart: Team Meetings


A Strategy Kickstart is a short 3-5 minute video clip which can be used to ‘kickstart’ a strategic discussion in your church or ministry. Simply show the video clip to your team and use the ideas and question posed in the video to stimulate a valuable and hopefully relevant discussion on how you can better fulfill your ministry mission.

In today’s Strategy Kickstart I challenge your team to consider separating Strategic Discussions from Tactical Discussions.

Running Great Meetings Summary

I love the title of Patrick Lencioni’s book, “Death by Meeting“. It can be so true . . . sometimes it feels like a slow death that somehow turns minutes into hours. In the mid 2000’s I was asked by my boss to begin leading our weekly staff meetings. Although I was honored, I was also quite intimidated. Up until that point I just had to show up and participate. Now I was in charge. I have vivid memories of the insecurity I felt after each session as I tried evaluating how it went.

Fast forward to today, hundreds of meetings later. I am still mildly intimidated, but not nearly as insecure. I don’t always hit the home run, and I suspect some of the meetings I lead can seem boring to the participants, especially Tactical meetings. That said, I think I’ve learned a lot as well.

In an effort to help all the pastors and church leaders out there that still struggle in this area, I have put together a series of posts that may prove beneficial. Enjoy!

On Leading Meetings:

  • The Meeting Professional
    A link to a great article by Seth Godin asking the question, “What would our meetings be like if we hired a meeting fairie?”

On Trust & Teamwork:
  • Creating A Trust Culture
    An exhortation from Matthew 5 and a link to Andy Stanley’s podcast entitled ‘Trust vs Suspicion’.
  • The Tunnel of Chaos
    A discussion about a very important principle that is the key to developing and maintaining trust among team members.
  • Teamwork and Trust
    I just had to find a way to fit this video clip into my blog. It overwhelmed me. These young men express a visual illustration of what unity and teamwork can look like (obviously, not literally).

On Kinds of People and Kinds of Meetings:
  • Strategy Kickstart: Team Meetings
    This is a short video clip encouraging your team to discuss the idea of splitting strategic discussions from tactical discussions.
  • The Seats of the Bus
    In this article I break down the three different ‘kinds’ of teams you should have. 
  • The Four C’s
    A detailed explanation of the ‘Four C’s’ every leader should consider when hiring or looking for new leaders to join a team.
  • The Strategic Personality
    This article explains the most ideal temperament/personality of a big picture, back seat of the bus leader.

Exploring Team Dilemma’s
  • The Sacred Cow
    What is a sacred cow and what does it look like in the context of the local church?
  • The Smelly Cow
    A dangerous idea on how you might discover where your sacred cows are hiding.
Check out my Resources Page to see more summaries of past series! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

My Notes from Preach Better Sermons Online Conference

For anyone who missed the workshop on how to ‘Preach Better Sermons’. I watched it and decided to take notes for you (with help from my friends at Elim Gospel Church). This seminar was sponsored by Check out their website to see how this new service can help you be effective as a communicator and preacher.

Here are the main ideas/concepts shared during the conference. Enjoy.

Perry Noble is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina.

  • Why create a preaching calendar?
    I need to give my people time to prepare for creative elements. My job is to serve my team by planning in advance.
  • When did you discover you had a gift of preaching?
    One of the best sermon you could ever share . . . how you discovered Christ?
  • What do you do to get better as a preacher?
    Read Andy Stanley’s book, ‘Communicating for a Change‘. Trying to preach shorter messages. I’m going to be here a long time. I don’t need to try to say everything in one week. How can I say the ‘one’ thing.
  • How many times do you preach in the year?35-40 Times
  • How do I figure out what to preach on? 
    Nearly every idea I’ve preached came out of my quiet time. A preacher preaches best when he does so out of the overflow of his heart. I use Evernote to keep track of all my thoughts, ideas, concepts that I can preach on at any time. That’s what he uses as a resource for a preaching calendar.
  • What have you learned working with your team?
    We have a Creative Pastor who takes all our creative ideas and makes them happen. He invites various people to creative team meetings. Single people, men, women, married, etc. Different people give him unique ideas that he couldn’t figure out himself. I learned how to ask the right questions to the right people and have learned to listen to other people.
  • I don’t have a big staff? I’m the ‘Lonely People’ Pastor.
    You can do this without a staff. Invite {the right} people to lunch and tell them you want them to help you put your sermon together. They will come.
  • How do you deal with criticism & praise?
    Pastors have foes, fans, and very few friends. Foes tell you how bad you are (makes you think you’re worse than you are), fans tell you how awesome you are (makes you think you’re better than you are), friends tell you the truth. Your friends love Jesus first, the church second, and you third. So you know they will always give you the feedback you need because their priorities are straight.
  • Closing Thoughts:
    Let the Bible speak for itself and be your platform. Listen to other preachers as much as you can. I’ll say what other preachers have said all the time. Podcasts are the common day commentaries. Surround yourself with people who can help you communicate better. Get a great team to support you as the preacher. Don’t ‘give them hell’ on Sunday. ‘Give them hope’ on Sunday.

Jud Wilhite is an author, speaker and senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Jud talked about how we can find common ground with other people. We have to communicate in language that people relate to. Here are a few insights to do that.
  • Communicate from your life.
    I often start my messages by sharing something personal in my life that relates to my topic. The most powerful illustrations are when those illustrations overlap with the person’s personal experience/life. My favorite definition of preaching: expressing truth through personality.
  • Communicate honestly.
    Be honest about what you’re thinking, feeling, experiencing, etc.
  • Communicate to the broken.
    I imagine broken people around my desk as I prepare what I’m going to say. The 17 year old who doesn’t want to be there. A single person struggling at work. A couple struggling in their marriage. Someone struggling with an addiction. I write my message to each of them. I want people to feel like I’m talking directly to them. “If you speak to the broken, you will always have an audience.”
  • Communicate the Word.
    Just preach Jesus. We don’t have to apologize for the Bible. People are there to hear what it has to say. 2 Timothy 4:2. Be careful about religious language. Don’t water things down, just remember to use language that everyone understands and explain/define things when you don’t. I try to stay in ONE Bible passage when I preach. I shifted to the NLT version because it’s at a younger grade reading level so people could track with the task.
  • Communicate for Next Steps.
    Let them know whether the Bible has something to say AND it has a connection with their life. I ask what the text says to me as a person, to the imaginary individuals around my desk, and to my church and my community as well. I define a crystal clear ‘next step’ opportunity. 

Andy Stanley is an author, speaker, and Lead Pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia. Get his book on preaching, Communicating for a Change.
  • How did you know speaking was a gift for you?
    Taught a Bible Study in a home and a woman spoke a word of encouragement about that gift.
  • Discuss how you prepare your messages?
    Most importantly is that the process needs to be relational. The pattern I mostly use is Me. We. God. You. We. This approach can help you connect with the audience. It may allow you to be able to preach without using notes so much. It breaks your message up into chunks, instead of points.
  • How do you craft a Sermon based on application instead of information?
    I tend towards (wired) application because my strengths/gifts are exhortation oriented. I’m not satisfied if people don’t know what’s at stake and don’t know what to do. Make sure they know what to do at the end. It’s not just about what they need to know. It’s also about why it’s important to know it and what to do about it. It’s critical that you have a burden to preach.
  • How do you create these memorable phrases when you preach?
    It is very difficult to do, but the phrase is the best way to make an idea stick. You owe it to yourself to create a ‘bottom line’ phrase, question, application statement. It will equip you to be more successful as a communicator. I also prepare my sermons way in advance which also gives me a lot of time to mull over the concepts and get these nuggets. The ‘crock-pot’ approach. This approach also protects me from bad ideas. I have time to come up with something else.
  • What have you learned about ‘tension’ in communicating?
    It’s critical that you create tension in the first few minutes if you want people to track with you during the sermon. Tension makes things interesting. You are never bored where there’s tension. If it’s boring, then you haven’t interested people by creating a tension they can get into. I’m OK with developing an entire series to focus on one tension, as opposed to taking care of it in one sermon.
  • How do you preach to the unchurched & everyone else at the same time?Some of it comes back to tension. It’s not about content, it’s about the approach we use. Get his new book coming out in the fall to read about it more.
  • What are you doing lately to improve yourself?
    I watch myself preach. I listen to other people. I watch other communicators, including comedians, newscasters, etc.
  • Closing Comments
    When you speak, do it with a burden to reach broken, hurting people. Make it personal. Think of the person you know who needs to hear it or that you think needs to hear it. Pick a target audience and preach to them, not about you.

Jeff Foxworthy is one of the most respected and successful comedians in the country. There are many similarities between what comedians and preachers do. One of them is using humor.
  • How can preachers lean into humor when preaching?
    It’s important for us to not take ourselves too seriously. I figured out that what I think, experience, and see probably isn’t unique to me. I trust that truth and am willing to take risks by sharing them with others.
  • What have you learned about timing with humor?
    Usually people who are good ‘joke-tellers’ have learned how to cut the fat (details). Trim humor down to the bare essentials. This includes telling funny stories. 
  • How do you prepare jokes/humor?
    I use note-cards. I put a thought that occurred to me on a note-card that I keep nearby. I try ideas/thoughts on people, either randomly or formally. The yellow notepad is where I develop thoughts and jokes to a context. When do you develop content . . . always. 
  • How can we reach the heart of men?
    Make sure we don’t portray Christianity or Christ as a ‘sissy’ faith.
  • Closing Comments:
    Be vulnerable from the pulpit. Let people see you living life to the full.

Thanks to Eric Scott, Care Pastor at Elim Gospel Church for the below notes. Unfortunately, I had to step away from the conference at this point.

Vanable (Van) Moody is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor of The Worship Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Start with the end in mind.
    All navigational systems start with the end in mind.  A message is the same.
  • The most effective form of preaching is behavioral.
    Behavioral preaching goes after the impact the message has on the hearer. Jesus gives many examples in this way (John 4 or Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to get better?” this was about behavior.
  • Impression or Impact?
    Settle this issue – Do you want to make an impression or do you want to make an impact?  It’s great to hear, “Good message!”  Yet it’s better when a person’s life is impacted with the gospel and it brings about lasting life-change.
  • The Behavioral Purpose.
    Come to an understanding of what the behavioral purpose is.  What is God wanting to change and do?  Craft your message around that purpose. When you are clear with this then you should be able to reduce your message down to one crystal clear statement – your objective statement.  The message should then consistently support this message.  What do you want people to do as a result of this message.
  • Message vs Messenger
    While behavioral messages are important, it is imperative that you not separate the message from the messenger.  
  • Keep it Clear and Simple
    Make sure as you communicate the purpose, make sure it is clear and simple. Use words phrases and sentences your people can grasp onto. Give points for their head and pictures for their heart. Provide a vehicle for them to do what you have been preaching about.  Muscles grow because they are exercised.


Dan Cathy is the President and COO at Chick-fil-A.

  • Strive to be a communicator who communicates to real felt needs.
  • When putting a message together work with a smaller audience first.
  • Rehearse the message.
  • Illustrations on stage are powerful!


Dr. Charles Stanley is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.

  • The most important part of sermon prep is my personal walk with God.  A man can preach no better than he prays.
  • Discipline is key to the pastor’s life.
  • It boils down to this: I must have a balanced schedule, a healthy body, healthy relationships, the courage to be obedient to God no matter what he requires and most of all a pure heart before God.
  • You must have the weight of the message on your shoulders concerning what you believe God wants you to communicate through this message.  This way you’re preaching for impact.  

Preparation Process:

  • Ask: “What’s the need of the people listening?”
  • Ask: “What is the text that best speaks to this need?”
  • Ask: “Now, what does it say personally to me?”  
  • Number your statements as you gather materials and then ask yourself, “How do I put this together into a  format that will work?”  With that in mind, ask, “What is the one thing they can walk away with?”
  • Once this comes together the outline comes next with the theme in mind – that one thing.
  • Look for clarity, movement and always with the idea that this must have impact.
  • You cannot be thinking about yourself and also have an impact on others.  You’ve got to have the people in mind.
  • I does not give an outline to the congregation.  I want it bottled up inside me until it is just right in my mind, even up to the evening before.  I do not want anything between myself and those hearing the message prior to giving it. I do not manuscript, but use an outline and memory.
  • In the midst all of this I pray and ask for help with points in the outline that are troubling me.
  • It should be a rare exception to step into the pulpit without proper preparation.
  • “Obey God and leave all consequences to Him.”
  • “Your personal intimate relationship with God is above all else.”
  • I feel a tremendous responsibility when I think about who I am speaking to and who is listening and that deeply moves me.  I am not nervous, but feel very responsible to communicate for impact.
  • My goal during personal devotions is to ask, “What are You speaking to me, Lord?”  If my life is not right, it will not communicate what it needs to a waiting world.  Every test and heartache I have had has been seen later as something God worked about for good.
  • Changing Bibles periodically helps me quite a bit in reinvigorating my personal devotional life with God.
  • Closing thought:  “See everything that comes at you as coming from Me (God).” If you’ll come to this then you’ll begin to see the purpose behind the circumstance that came.  He’ll turn it for good if you’ll turn it over to Him, listen to Him and obey Him.


Louie Giglio is an author, speaker and Lead Pastor at the Passion City Church in Roswell, Georgia.

  • Recognition of the gift came early and encouraged came in phrases like, “You have no idea what God has in mind for your life…”
  • Calling and self-discovery plus affirmation tells you that you are in the right spot.
  • There was an inner-witness inside of him that said, “I’m going to speak here someday.”  However, you need to park that in the recesses of your spirit and speak where you can, where you are invited and grow from there to the place where that word actualizes. 
  • The God Factor – At the end of the day it is the Spirit of God moving through God’s Word that impacts people.  Even Paul said he was not perfect in speech.  It’s more about the power of God happening there.
  • Ask: “God, what do you want to say and what do You want Your people impacted by?”  And then get to work.  Craft it into a message that impacts people.
  • Preparation and presentation are much like a funnel.  The wide end is all your life, experience, study, etc., but you need to bring it down to that one thing that comes from all that wide area of the funnel and work it down to that one thing. 
  • Let the text work its way through you until what comes out leads to that place of impact.

Thursday Quote: Crucial Confrontations

Today, I’m quoting from the book, Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler. If you ever or even occasionally find yourself in the scenario of having to confront someone – I highly recommend this book.

 Think CPR

“The first time a problem comes up, talk about the Content, what just happened: ‘You drank too much at the luncheon, became inebriated, started talking too loud, made fun of our clients, and embarrassed the company.’ The content of a problem typically deals with a single event – the here and now.

The next time the problem occurs, talk Pattern, what has been happening over time: ‘This is the second time this has occurred. You agreed it wouldn’t happen again, and I’m concerned that I can’t count on you to keep a promise.’ Pattern issues acknowledge that problems have histories and that histories make a difference. Frequent and continued violations affect the other person’s predictability and eventually harm respect and trust….

 As the problem continues, talk about Relationship, what’s happening to us. Relationship concerns are far bigger than either the content or the pattern. The issue is not that other people have disappointed you repeatedly; it’s that the string of disappointments has caused you to lose trust in them: You doubt their competency, you don’t respect or trust their promises, and this is affecting the way you treat one another: ‘This is starting to put a strain on how we work together. I feel like I have to nag you to keep you in line, and I don’t like doing that. I guess my fear is that I can’t trust you to keep the agreements you make.'”

To learn more about this book or order it through my Amazon Affiliate’s bookstore, click this link.

Thursday Quote: Axiom – Language Matters

Bill Hybels is one of the most respected Christian leaders in this generation. I know I am deeply indebted to his wisdom and insight. I’ve never met him in person, but have received so much from his teachings and books that I can honestly say that he is a mentor in my life.

He’s written some outstanding books. One of the most meaningful to me was his book, “Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs: “. I don’t know if it was his intent or not, but Axiom is basically a download of Bill’s values. It’s a DNA transfer from him and the organizations he leads to the rest of us. I highly recommend you purchase a copy of this book. Every chapter is only 2-3 pages long, which makes it an easy read, especially if you’re a ‘bathroom reader‘!

The following quote is from chapter 1 – Language Matters. Awesome.

If someone had tried to tell me thirty-five years ago that my effectiveness as a leader would often hinge on something as ‘inconsequential’ as word choice, I’d have rolled my eyes and written them off. ‘As long as I can convey an idea in general terms that everyone can understand,’ I would have said, ‘I’ll do just fine.’ And I would have been dead wrong. The truth is, leaders rise and fall by the language they use. Sometimes whole visions live or die on the basis of the words the leader chooses for articulating that vision.

When you put the right words to a vision or a principle, it becomes axiomatic. It begins to live! It becomes memorable and powerful. It becomes weight bearing, and eventually everyone around you champions it. They defend it with vigor. They give to it and pray for it…. 

The very best leaders I know wrestle with words until they are able to communicate their big ideas in a way that captures the imagination, catalyzes action, and lifts spirits. They coin creeds and fashion slogans and create rallying cries, all because they understand that language matters….

Add Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs to your library today!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Tunnel of Chaos

“When you did that, it really hurt me. I’ve been mad at you ever since.” That sentence is the culmination of a conversation a friend had with me a while back. It was over breakfast – one that he initiated. I was totally floored. I had no idea that I had said something that hurt my friend. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even know he was mad at me.

That conversation marked an important point in our friendship. I could have chosen to make a joke and take the event lightly. I could have gotten defensive and attacked my friend – pointing out that it was really his fault, not mine. I could have gotten mad back at him. OR, I could have spent time understanding what happened, acknowledging my mistake, and working towards building a deeper understanding about how I could ensure I don’t hurt my friend again.

To his credit, my friend took the first, more difficult step. He chose to talk to me about it. I am so thankful for that. I know many would have just pushed it under the rug, leaving a big bulge, and spent weeks, months, or even years walking over it every day.

The Tunnel of Chaos is that tunnel that leads from artificial to authentic relationships. It is a key to building trust with your family, friends, and coworkers. It is a critical component to your leadership team’s success and health. It is a foundational element of fostering and keeping a culture of trust.

You enter the tunnel when you choose to engage in crucial confrontations with a solid commitment to hold steady until you’ve reached a positive resolution and a deeper friendship.

Bill Hybels coined this phrase in his book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs – a book I highly recommend. You can read this very short excerpt from the book from the Willow Creek Global Summit website right here.

When was the last time you entered the tunnel with an individual or your team?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tactical Tip: Moving to Eye Level

I have a friend who is very tall. Tall like I stare at his chest when I talk to him. I know he isn’t necessarily smarter, healthier, or generally better than me. He’s just bigger than me. I have to be honest. It’s intimidating. I have to fight through several internal dialogues before I can have a face to face conversation with him and not be distracted. Several weeks ago we decided to meet for breakfast. As soon as he sat down I discovered something – I didn’t have to fight through my intimidation. Sure, he was still taller in the restaurant booth, but not as much as when I’m standing next to him. The simple act of him moving to my level bridged the gap and cleared the air for conversation. It was awesome.

It also highlights a very simple tactical move you can make every single day when meeting with people in small groups and 1 on 1. I believe it can make an appreciable difference in coaching, mentoring, counselling, and leadership conversations with others. It’s something that will take you approximately four (4) seconds to accomplish. It’s so simple and so obvious that many people never think to do it.

Tactical Tip: Move to Eye Level

That’s it. Simply do whatever you can to get on or near the same level as the person(s) you are talking to. (Note: I’m not talking about speaking to large crowds.) Moving to eye level will help to remove psychological barriers that neither of you probably even know exist. It unconsciously communicates equality and acceptance. On the other hand, NOT moving to eye level may create emotional barriers that can cause either you, or the person(s) you are meeting with to feel mildly uncomfortable.

  • When You Are Above Eye Level
    When you remain above eye level with people you may be unintentionally and unconsciously communicating that you are above or better than them in some way. At the very least, you may be increasing the potential for them to be intimidated, especially if you have an intimidating personality or are in some form of authority over them.

NOTE: Just to clear things up. Whether you are in authority over them or not, you are certainly not better than them – at least in God’s eyes. If you ‘like’ the feeling of looking down on people then I suggest you do some self-evaluation. That could be a sign of an unhealthy insecurity or pride on your part.


  • When You Are Below Eye Level
    When you remain below eye level you risk doing the exact opposite. It’s possible that you are unintentionally communicating that you are lower than or not as good as they are. Additionally, you may also be communicating that same thing to yourself. Personally, I don’t think you are communicating humility so much as insecurity – even if you don’ t mean or want to.

    NOTE: Again, just to clear the air, it’s not healthy to convince yourself or others that everyone else is better than you. That’s simply not true. God didn’t pick you ‘last’ for the game as if He didn’t have any other options. You have a holy calling just like the next guy/gal and it’s OK for you to live and act as someone of value in God’s sight. After all, He died for you so that you can live in complete freedom and authority.


How To Do It.
If you don’t normally move to eye level when talking to others, then it might feel awkward for a while until you develop the habit. For me, I often move to eye level unconsciously, without even realizing it.

Let me give you some practical examples of how to move to eye level.

  • Meet Sitting Down.
    If you know your conversation will be more than a few minutes and you are considerably taller or shorter than those you are meeting with, consider asking them to sit down with you. It doesn’t matter where. You can sit down at a conference room table, on the seats in your sanctuary or the front steps of the church.
  • Adjust Your Chair.
    Most of us have an office chair that adjusts up and down. If you don’t, then I recommend you invest in one if you are in the habit of meeting with others in your office. Adjust your seat immediately after they sit down to the most appropriate eye level. If they are taller than you, move your seat up; if shorter, then move your seat down. Don’t make a big deal out of it and don’t spend more than four seconds making the adjustment.
  • Remove Furniture That Forces Awkward Eye Contact
    Years ago I had a couch in my office. Everyone who sat in it would sink far down into the couch. Even after moving my chair to the lowest setting I would still find myself peering down at my visitors. I eventually got rid of it and have never regretted it. If you have a couch or chair in your office that is extra plush, then consider replacing it with something else or sit in a similar seat in the office that will place you near their same eye level.
  • Small Group Settings.
    If you are leading a small group discussion or meeting and plan to sit together at a table or in a circle, try to adjust your chair to the average height in the room. For example, I lead a team meeting every Tuesday at Elim Gospel Church. I sit at the head of our conference room table. One of my first acts while everyone is getting settled and before the meeting begins is to adjust my seat to a comfortable eye level with most people in the room.
  • The Wheelchair Bound
    The rules don’t change when someone is bound to a wheelchair. In fact, it may be even more important to find simple ways to meet them at eye level. They spend the majority of their time looking up at people and will very much appreciate the extra effort to meet them at their level. It will communicate volumes to them.
  • Talking to Children.
    I am a firm believer that the best way to greet a parent is to first greet his/her child. The best way to do this is to simply kneel down to their level while you are greeting them. Of course, it’s important that you maintain a safe distance from young children or kids that don’t know you so you don’t freak them out. However, children will almost always light right up when they see you stoop down to their level to talk with them. I’ve never met a parent who didn’t appreciate it either (unless you totally ignore them after you greet the child.)
Disclaimer: Please understand that I am not suggesting that you become legalistic about this tactical tip. I’m simply trying to empower you to care for, honor, and show respect for others in one very simple way whenever you can. I am also not trying to burden you by causing you to become self-conscious about eye levels when you meet with others. Just remember this tip and adjust to eye level if and when it’s most appropriate.
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