Thursday, March 31, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Rein the Tongue

One day, I had been called to the production floor because there was a problem with some product. I don't remember what the problem was exactly. I remember it seemed to be a careless error, one that could have been avoided if common sense had been used. One of the people gathered in discussion hadn't caused the problem but she had compounded it. "You know better than this," I chided. We finished discussing what we were going to do to fix the problem, and then I left.

Later, a supervisor came to tell me that the woman was upset because I had insulted her. A little callus to small jibes, I hadn't realized that I could have hurt her with my one little statement. I went out to apologize.

I have rarely raised my voice in anger. Oh, I have been angry because of frustration, perceived injustice, lies and so on. There was one memorable day I ended up yelling at the director of materials for buying the worst plates of steel he could find for the lowest price, causing us an endless run up in operating costs as we tried to use it. He didn't care after multiple attempts to use reason to find a different option. However, I hardly raise my voice. But yet, my tone of voice can wound. My wife is quick to point out how much my anger shows in my stern, clipped replies.

I know I've done a poor job of communicating my intent if I get a response different from what I expect. Either my tone or my words were atilt when someone gives me a pained look or a confused look. I start over, more cognizant of how it sounds and what meaning I'm projecting.

Today, be careful what you say. Listen to the tone. We can damage another person, and ourselves, very quickly. Recovery is slow from that kind of damage and businesses can't afford it.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, very few of us are such great actors that we can conceal half-truths, anger, embarrassment and so on. We should try to be honest, with full integrity of what we're about. Yet, we should consider our audience. Do we really mean to hurt them? James 3 asks if we can really praise God and curse people with the same heart. "Can fresh water and salt water come from the same spring?" Do we truly love God if we can't have caring words for our friends, neighbors, family and co-workers? (I John)

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