Our theme for this month: “Changing the tone of the conversation”
Our Bible verse for today: “The one who guards his mouth (thinking before he speaks) protects his life; the one who opens his lips wide (and chatters without thinking) comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3 (Amplified Bible)
Our thought for today: “Don’t be a motor-mouth!”
In yesterday’s devotional I encouraged all of us to be patient and empathic listeners who really do listen to others and who don’t interrupt them. I said that I believe interrupting someone is rude and that as a considerate listener, you will let the other person finish what they’re saying before you start talking.
Being a good listener and not interrupting people is a basic rule of good communications and should be observed most of the time. But what do you do when dealing with a motor-mouth? You know what I mean, the person who chatters away mindlessly, just running their mouth because they love the sound of their own voice. How long should you let that go on before you try to stop it? You could be there a while, and so unless you brought your lunch and you’re prepared to spend the day, you will probably have to find some way to stop them. But still, you don’t want to be rude and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.
As a pastor I’m sometimes faced with that exact dilemma. There’s a lot to be said for just visiting with people and “shooting the breeze”. But on the other hand, the typical motor-mouth will usually corner you at the most inconvenient times to tell you all about the rash they have, what the doctor said about it, whether or not this particular ointment is helping, “and oh by the way, speaking of rashes, my neighbor’s friend has a cousin who has a granddaughter with a bad diaper rash. Please pray for her.” And on and on it goes.
My usual response is to be patient, listen carefully, and respond sincerely. But then, as it becomes apparent that this is going to go on for a while and that it really is just a lot of talk about much of nothing, I will look for an opportunity to gently jump in and steer the conversation to a conclusion. I mean, sooner or later the person will have to come up for air. Sooner or later there will have to be a pause in the flow of conversation so they can catch their breath. That’s your opportunity! That’s when you jump in with a sympathetic expression, you thank them for sharing, you invite them to keep you informed about how it all turns out, and you quickly move on to the next person.
In some respects this is humorous, but it’s also serious. Motor-mouth type people monopolize the conversation and they use up lots of other people’s time with long conversations about nothing. But still, they’re usually very nice people and you don’t want to hurt their feelings. So be patient, be kind, and … pray for that opening! They will need to breathe sooner or later.