Speak Joy


In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.” – Brennan Manning

Seth Godin, who I enjoy reading, once wrote, “If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn’t come at all. Not adding value is the same as taking it away.” In Seth’s context, he was writing about business and organizational contribution. But the thought holds true for each of our interpersonal relationships as well.

Not adding value to the people and the conversations around us is the same as taking it away.

For one reason or another, we have been brought into the lives of the people around us. Sometimes we are involved in their lives because of choice (a spouse, a friend), sometimes because of a mutual interest (groups, clubs, churches), other times the nature of our relationship may be out of our control (work, assigned groups). But regardless of the nature of each relationship, we have a unique opportunity to add value.

There is incredible potential in the words we use to speak hope and joy and peace into the people around us. We need to be reminded of this truth often. And it should impact our approach to nearly every conversation we enter into.

Correctly understood, this simple, profound thought calls us to be more intentional, more thoughtful, and more persistent. It calls us to speak joy and contribution into our relationships whenever possible. It invites us to:

Speak with optimism. Optimism always lays a foundation for hope.

Give more compliments. Genuine words of praise are powerful. Yet, too few.

Draw on past experiences. Because of your history, you have learned unique life lessons—some have been positive, some have been negative. But nobody else in the entire world has had the same experiences as you. Draw on them. And when they are helpful, pass along the lessons you have learned.

Learn to listen. Every story is unique. Every life circumstance is different. The first step in adding value to another person’s life is to correctly understand their worldview and situation.

Ask more questions. Asking questions communicates interest, concern, and care. Plus, you can learn a lot about a person by simply letting them speak uninterrupted.

Earn the right to speak. Live an others-centered life seeking to put others first with your actions. You earn a far-weightier right to speak improvement into other’s lives after you prove with your actions that you genuinely desire to help them. Words are cheap. Actions reveal our true motives.

Speak always in love. All truth—even the most difficult—can be communicated with love. In fact, the more difficult the truth, the more love is required.

Our lives hold great potential. So do our words. What you say matters, choose wisely. And speak joy.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    “Earn the right to speak.”

    Although I know what you mean, and agree with the idea that actions prove intent, I do not care for your heading. We have a right to speak because we are. Each individual soul matters. There are far too many people with a poor self image that feel somewhere deep inside that they do not have the right to speak, or be happy, or whatever. We all have the right to speak. Through our actions we can earn attention and people will more likely listen.

    I do know that you had good intentions but the words made me cringe. See http://zenpresence.com/2013/01/touch-earth.html for more on the idea of your right to belong and feel at home.


    Dan @ Zen Presence – Ideas for Meaningful Living

  2. marina says

    Speak love, speak joy, what if what you have back is nothing even just close to those?
    I know we should love without expecting a viceversa, just giving, to please ourselves, but for how long? if we give love it’s cause there must be someone somewhere who need or deserve to receive it. and i feel the same. so where is my love, the love i need to receive, the love i deserve, cause i know i do.
    sometimes i feel i’m running out of energy.
    it’s frustrating…

    • kelly says

      You need not seek love for yourself. In giving love to all others, you are constantly receiving it from God. Find a place in your heart for that and let it be enough…
      I lived my love looking for love instead of spreading it, and i was miserable. When i turned my life over to God and made a commitment to living the way i believe He wants me to, I felt loved, complete, not lacking. Spread the love and you shall receive it…

    • says

      I think we first have to make sure that we’re surrounding ourselves with people who are positive. Yes, we should be kind to everyone, but we might choose to spend more time with people who build us up, rather than drain us. I can think of a few times when distancing myself from negative people made a huge difference in my mood. I was still kind and positive to them, but we do need to look after our own emotional needs as well.

      • Ellen says

        I agree here. I am a giving person who is sometimes surprised by how people who will take $ from you don’t want advise on how to keep it or earn their own. We all have a right to speak and be heard. Sometimes surrounding yourself with only positive people is difficult when the buzzkills are family.

  3. Karissa says

    Thank you for this thoughtful and encouraging post; I agree.

    HOWEVER, I echo Marina… The friends I spend the most time with are “draining” me… What do people like us do in these situations?

    • Mama Kat says

      Karissa~ My daughter and I were just talking about this yesterday! Personally I would begin to separate myself from the relationships that wear you out and make you feel drained. I am not saying to hang up the relationships permanently, but take a breather. If you find that you tend to do more with friends start doing some of those activities by yourself. Go shopping or to the movies by yourself, get a cup of coffee and sit in the coffee shop people watching or reading a magazine. I find it amusing how when people are out by themselves they tend to be more friendlier and start up casual conversations. After doing these things a few times see how you feel. When we moved I went from being surrounded by co-workers, friends and extended family to being the new family on the block in a small town. What I found out was the people that I was surrounded by really drained me! Since we moved away I have begun to feel refreshed and refilled. We have met our friends in the unlikeliest places! And although we do not have that close connection yet, like I did with the people I had before, I am not being drained. I have met a new group of people who are pretty positive and up-lifting and after being in their presence I can totally feel a difference. I don’t remember who said this quote but it goes something like this, Stop chasing the wrong friends so you can give the right friends a chance to catch you! I didn’t realize that some of my most taxing relationships were ones that I seemed to be chasing. I invested a lot more time and energy into the relationship than they were willing to put in. Now my friendships are more equally yoked so to speak!

  4. says

    Very well presented post. Your final point sums up Buddha’s unalterable truth and echos the great leaders who have blessed this Earth, spiritual and otherwise. God has but a single law: LOVE.

  5. Patrice says

    I agree with the article almost 100%, but I am not sure it belongs on the becoming minimalist website. When posts are added to site that is not inline with the original message, I feel it also can “take away value”.

    • Adriane says

      I disagree. I think it fits very well on a minimalist site. Fact is we are a culture with a lot of words. I know I am trying to speak less as part of my minimalist journey. This post will help as a guide for when and how I us words.

  6. says

    The title of this post immediately attracted me! Such a simply solution to bringing more joy and happiness in the world, one that is entirely under our control. I appreciate your emphasis on listening as well as speaking.

  7. says

    I have found that speaking joy is harder when you are doing it through our modern means of communication – email. I find increasingly that I have to be careful what I’m saying in an email, as it might be misinterpreted. I check and double-check all my outgoing emails to ensure I do not sound angry or rude unintentionally. Trying to ensure all my communication no matter through which manner is full of joy is of the utmost importance. It is so easy to say something without thinking, and not realize it had a profound impact on the receiver.

  8. Lisa says

    Far too little positive attention is paid to those of us who don’t speak up often. We aren’t holding back because we don’t have any value to add, but rather because we wait to speak until we can add value. If I don’t have something meaningful to contribute, then I don’t contribute at that time. There are enough people speaking without saying anything; I don’t need to add to that. You can’t speak and listen at the same time, so please remember that those of us who are quiet are often the ones who are paying the most attention to what is being said at that moment, not to formulating our immediate response.

    • everlearning says

      Joshua’s post was truly an excellent message.

      That was all I was going to write until I read Lisa’s comment. I could be wrong, but it sounds like you (Lisa) are an introvert as I am. Your entire comment could have been my exact words. In a world that is mostly extroverted, those of us who are not and don’t speak because we are good listeners and/or are intentionally listening without forming an opinion or a response or a comment are often thought of as non-contributors. I don’t speak just to hear myself or to make sure I’m contributing as expected. I speak when I’ve taken in the information and have something that might truly add to the conversation. Otherwise, just adding to the conversation to “prove” one has something to say and/or to prove one has value – THAT is taking way from the conversation.

      Nevertheless, this was truly a very good read. Thanks, as always, Joshua!

  9. says

    I love this list. It’s sometimes hard to really pinpoint the things that make thoughtful friends/communicators stand out.
    My favorite is “ask more questions.” When I began to work on my conversational skills, learning to process interests and ask pointed questions are the two things that helped the most. I noticed a huge change in the relationships I developed and the quality of my interactions with people.

    • Mike says

      I disagree with what Seth Godin said. He seems to have no appreciation for the value of silence. Silence keeps words to a minimum, and allows the words that are used to have greater impact. Seth seems to think you should talk for the sake of talking. On the other hand, a person who appreciates silence talks for the sake of communicating. If you have have nothing to say, saying something anyway, does not really add value to a discussion. I’d even suggest that talking without really communicating takes away more from a discussion than silence. Being able to spend time with a friend in silence takes nothing away from the relationship and adds value at a deeper level than those who hinge their relationships on words. Words are over-rated, I believe that silence adds just as much, if not more, value to a relationship as do words.

      • Ellen says

        I agree with the silence. Often I will add only after careful consideration and listening for deeper content. Sometimes people just keep on talking and never stop to listen or engage in actual conversation…as if on a personal soapbox.

  10. says

    There is definitely something to be said for listening–it took me years to be able to just listen, without worrying about what I was going to say in response. I’ve found that just nodding, and being attentive often do so much.

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