“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.