It’s no secret that the words you use with your spouse or children have a tremendous impact on your relationship with them. But did you know that the tones you use or the looks you cast have the same meaningful impact?
As I was hanging an over-sized dry erase board this evening, I gathered all the right tools to make it a quick install: the stud-finder, the large level, the tape measure, the drill, and a handful of screws with washers. I was marking the wall with the stud-finder, a nifty little grown-up toy that caught Dylan’s attention. As I got the first few screws in place, Dylan broke the silence.
“Yeeeeeesssss, Dylan?” I snarled back, eye brows pitched and eyes rolling.
“Um … Nevermind.”
I looked down at him and saw that I had changed his entire thought process with two small words, stated angrily, coupled with a facial expression that crushed his enthusiasm. I had to act quickly. I jumped down from the step stool, dropped the drill and got in his face with a smile: “What do you want, son?”
Was I too late? Did I truly steal his question from him?
“Dylan, I am sorry. This project is not more important than you. Your question matters to me. You matter to me. What did you want to ask me?”
“It’s no big deal. I just wanted to know how that thing finds wood behind the wall. That’s all.”
“That is a big deal … and a great question! I am sorry I tried to steal that question from you.”
We spent the next 15 minutes laughing and giggling about the stud-finder. It was close, but I almost put another wedge between me and another kid in my family. I’m good at that … are you? As you think about your words, tones and looks, remember these tips:
- Words are alive. When I think about the negative words I use with my spouse or kids, my mind often flashes to my dad and his father, who chastised dad every time he spilled his milk as a child. It became a prophecy of milk-spilling because my dad had heard those words so many times. Those words from granddad were alive…they pierced my dad’s young mind and heart…and they grew inside him like a tumor.
- Tones and looks change the words. You can say the same word, “Yes”, with 20 different tones and have 20 different meanings. You can roll your eyes with sarcasm or gaze softly, each sending a distinct message. People easily pick up on your tone and if they think you are unapproachable, they will stop approaching you.
- All of them are game-changers. Negative words are discouraging and positive words are encouraging. When you realize that your words, tones and looks can tear down your spouse or children, as well as build them up, there is not much of a choice to make. Proverbs 17:22 says that a “joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.“
Which do you want? You can make a difference. You really can be that parent who runs up and down the soccer field screaming “Go! Go! Go!” You really can be the spouse who says, “Great job with the kids today. I know it’s hard, but great job.” To be joyful is to be ready to spread encouragement, enthusiasm and positive words to others. Are you game?