“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” 
— James 1:19

In part one of our series on this passage we focused on how being “quick to listen” affects our relationships—now and in the future.  The second important point in James 1:19 that can have a great impact in our relationships tells us that we are to be “slow to speak.”

Slow to speak.  It sounds easy enough.  But how easy is it when you hear something that you disagree with?  What happens when someone is sharing something that you know a great deal more about or have just experienced?  Are you slow to speak when someone is totally wrong about something?  What if someone says something that you find offensive? 

'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.
— Abraham Lincoln

There has to be a good reason that “quick to listen” comes first and the only one of the three points that we are to be “quick to” do. Through personal experience, I have found that being a person who is “slow to speak” can make you a better listener, allow you to be better understood and be more respectful—not regretful.

Be a Better Listener

A couple of years ago, I had a blind date whom I knew next to nothing about.  She was pleasant, and I asked many questions about her, her job, her family, etc.  I was able to learn a great deal about her and her likes and dislikes, but by the time the evening ended, I noticed that she didn’t ask one question of me.  She didn’t know where I was from, she didn’t know what I did for a living and she didn’t know if I was orphaned or had a large family.  I don’t think she even realized that she did most of the talking and very little listening.  I did not plan on being “slow to speak” that night, but it did allow me to learn a great deal about her and about the importance of being a good listener. 

Job struggled with listening to God after his losses and during his affliction.  God told Job, “Pay attention, Job, and listen to me; be silent, and I will speak.  If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, for I want you to be cleared.  But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom” (Job 33:31-33).

Oftentimes, I get so excited to share something that I don’t even notice if the person is listening to me or not.  What I have found is that learning and wisdom come as a result of me being slow to speak and how well I am able to listen in my relationships.

Be Better Understood

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction out of Washington, “Communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding.”

One place where I enjoy listening to people communicate is Starbucks.  I find it fascinating (and humorous) to hear people put in their drink order.  There are over 55,000 possible drink combinations that can be ordered, according to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.  Fifty-five thousand drinks!  I appreciate how “my barista” listens attentively and is “slow to speak,” waiting until I complete my order before repeating it back to me to make sure it was understood. (Don’t forget to tip your barista!)

The success or demise of a relationship is often dependent upon whether or not there is communication and understanding within that relationship.  Oftentimes, we are quick to formulate an answer or retort (and quick to defend ourselves) speaking back before the other person is finished.  Problems can’t and won’t be solved (or understood) unless each person is first quick to listen and then slow to speak.  Both parties must take an active part in speaking, listening and most importantly understanding one another.