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To speak and to speak well are two things.

A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.

– Ben Johnson


I have a friend who cannot talk, rather who cannot speak clearly. The first time I met him, I was holding a camera and he asked me to take a picture. I did. Showed the picture to him and he started blabbing. He was really excited, but I heard nothing he said. I just showed interest and that kept him going. He reminded me of another friend I had years ago. I cannot remember his name but let’s just call the second friend Kunle.

Kunle cannot talk clearly, most times when he speaks nobody understands. But Kunle will always come to my place of work to see his friend — my senior colleague. Kunle loves talking, and sometimes my colleague would disappear whenever he sees Kunle. So I became his listening ear.

Overtime, I got to love Kunle. We became friends and engaged in weird conversations. Kunle would tell me stories and I would reply him the best way I could. Most time, I did not understand what he was saying. So when I met this new friend, I was drawn to him. He reminded me of Kunle. Kunle has Down syndrome.

Some days, I wonder what happens in his head. I wonder what happen in their heads. I wonder why they like talking. Few days ago, I stumbled on this; to be listened to is, generally speaking, a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating.  It is small wonder that people who have been demanding all their lives to be heard so often fall speechless when they are confronted with one who agrees gravely to lend an ear. Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts. But once offered these conditions, he becomes frightened. 

Robert C. Murphy

This gave me an insight to why Kunle and my new friend could not stop talking whenever I am around them. Could it be because they rarely have someone to listen to them?

It’s a sad reality because talk is cheap — even though its consequences are often expensive. Talk is cheap is a popular proverb I heard growing up. I think it means talking is easy, but is it?

Thinking about Kunle and my new friend often indict me. I can let words fly with ease, and realizing that people like Kunle who struggle to express themselves exist is even more indicting.

Debbie Olunjobi said words are like bricks, when laid down carefully, they build but when hurled at another with enough force, they tear down.

So how then should we speak?

How should we use words?

 

Most of us do not wake up in the morning and decide before we step out of bed to be rude. We do not place our right hand on our chest and then repeat aloud, “Today is a good day to speak carelessly.”

So why then do we speak carelessly?

Why then do we reply rashly especially when we are provoked?

Anger is a genuine reason right?

 

However, a soft answer removes wrath and a calm tongue is like honey to the bones. Those words are not mine, Proverbs said it, and you cannot really argue with it whether you are an atheist or a theist who do not believe in the bible. It’s an age-long truth that will always remain.

 

We speak not just with our mouth. On social media, our fingers become mouths and keyboards/keypads are voices which spew out words. Just as one should be discreet when talking with someone offline, caution shouldn’t be thrown away because the interaction is virtual.

IfeOluwa, one blogger whose writing gives me the shivers wrote in his post Spotting the Blue Mascara and Feeling for the Tissue  that

It’s a shame that these diverse conversations are becoming harder even as we now have better tools to have them. It’s almost impossible to find people with opposing ideologies having civil conversations on the internet without descending to insults. We all exist in echo chambers, lacking the grace to reach out to the other side and ask that they show us how to feel the tissue or spot the blue mascara, believing instead in the absolute greatness of our ideas, their progressiveness, and their immaculate nature. This, of course, is an illusion. We are all different, and the harder it is to communicate across these differences, the more difficult it will become to expand our understanding of our common humanity

 

The RelevantMagazine — another intriguing place to camp online especially for contemporary Christians. Re-emphasized Ife’s point:

These days, however, we tend to avoid the tougher conversations one-on-one, but show little hesitation to post, almost instantaneously, online. As a result, we create what’s often referred to as an echo chamber on social media.

We shout our feelings and thoughts online, preaching to an imaginary audience of dissidents, when the majority of our followers likely already agree with us.

 

Black and White Picture of a boundary

Boundaries By TheIncurableOptimist

I believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe in being responsible for every word that flies out of my mouth. Because we are judged by our words, even before our actions sometimes. And when we are fond of spilling careless words, we get to situations where sorry will not cut it. The damage has already being done, we have used our tongue to cut the string that ties us.

 

Most times, when we talk of abuse we limit it to the physical, but emotional abuse I believe is worse. Since talk is cheap, we can afford the words to throw around. We already have so many walking zombies, people whose self-esteem are tethering on the verge of nothingness. And with a careless word we can push them off the cliff, down into the valley of destruction where they might never return.

 

We should have the consciousness that our freedom of speech is limited by another person’s right to listen. That is why the law made provision to punish libel and slander. Yes you have freedom of speech, but only when your words do not breach peace, instigate violence, promote hate and damage the psyche of another person.

 

Speaking is a gift we have been given, it’s our responsibility to use it properly.

Like Reading, Seeing, and Listening, Speaking is a skill I am working hard to improve.

I am learning to be conscious of my words. To not talk down on people, to be intelligent without being condescending. To express myself without bullying and to disagree without being insulting. You too should, because we are accountable for every careless word spoken.

 


Once a word has been allowed to escape,

it cannot be recalled.

-Horace


 

 

Further Reading

The links for some of the quotes used on this article are provided below;

On Reading

On Seeing

On Listening

Why I stay Silent on Important Issues Online

Spotting the Blue Mascara and Feeling for the Tissue 

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