It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it

You may have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it”. From many years of teaching adults in college, as well as running one to one evangelism training, it is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of face to face communication to understand. With regards to the aspect of personal evangelism, I have met many people who are very concerned about what they have to say, which is of course important. As a result, they base great emphasis on this. However, the way that you say it carries a far greater weight.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” Colossians 4: 6 NIV

“Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” Colossians 4: 6 The Message

I read recently that, “We speak with our vocal organs, but we converse with our entire bodies”. This is one of the reasons that I have been writing so much about the way that we communicate the Gospel message. Take the Apostle Paul for example. I am certain that when he spoke on one a one to one basis or preaching to a crowd, that he didn’t use a boring monotone voice. Rather, he spoke powerfully with obvious passion, energy and great enthusiasm. In today’s terms, he would be known as a great orator.

In Acts chapter twenty-six where Paul testified before Felix and Agrippa, he must have told his salvation story with great power. It is a really great example of testimony sharing that we can all learn from. But of course, we are not all like Paul was. Although he did tell us, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”. 1 Corinthians 11: 1. That phrase still amazes me every time I that I read it.

Paul made great use of a term used in communication called Paralinguistics. This is often referred to as what is left after taking out the verbal content from speech. In more simple terms, language is what is said, paralanguage is how it is said.

Key Point: Do you sound passionate, enthusiastic and full of belief when you share the Gospel message or your testimony?

The Tone of voice that we use when we communicate is vital to improving our interaction. I ask the question, do you sound passionate, enthusiastic and full of belief when you share the Gospel message or your testimony?

As an example, we all can recognise a sarcastic tone of voice quite quickly. If we met someone for the first time and they used a sarcastic tone as they spoke to us we would likely to be concerned. It is said that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. That may well be true, but many of us use friendly sarcasm with our colleagues, friends and family in a humorous way.

No doubt at one time you have been in conversation with someone and remarked, “You don’t sound very happy today ” or the opposite, “You sound happy”. It is obvious from these three examples that people instantly process information based on what we say and how we say it. As we speak, our listener’s brains are quickly formulating information, making conclusions and assumptions from the words and tone that comes out of our mouths.  As a child, a great deal of us will have been cautioned by our parents, “Don’t take that tone of voice with me”!

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly”. Proverbs 15: 1 – 2

Psychologists tell us that people read and process 7% of what we say through the words that we use and 38% through our tone of voice. Therefore, we need to consider how we sound when we witness. We should check ourselves and go through what we say and how we sound as we say it, asking ourselves does it communicate an obvious belief and conviction?

Take this scripture as an example. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. The scripture itself carries great power. In my own experience for me, it was life-changing.

You could say this scripture with a quiet fairly monotone voice. I dare say that there will be times when that could be effective. Or you could say it boldly demonstrating total belief and passion. It is rather like someone saying, “The Lord’s Prayer” at school. In many cases, it is just recited blandly. In my own case, I didn’t believe a word of it when I was young. When someone is a true believer, you can immediately tell the difference.

Many years ago, I went to my uncle’s funeral in Glasgow. There was a good number of family in attendance that I had not spoken to in over thirty years because we had lost contact. I got chatting to the host of my table at the wake where we were having lunch. During our conversation, I let him know I was a believer and church goer. As the food was brought out he asked me to say grace, which I accepted. It was a large gathering and I would estimate that 95% of the people in the room didn’t know me. I said what I would consider be a normal short prayer of thanks for the food.

Later on in the day, a man introduced himself to me and said ” Moray, I am your second cousin Hamish. I could tell by the way that you said grace that there was something different about you, and the way that you sounded. That was no ordinary prayer, it’s obvious that you are a believer”. We became the closest of friends until he went to be with the Lord a couple of years ago.

When you speak about Jesus, how do you sound?

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About the author : Moray McGuffie

Moray McGuffie

I am an evangelist and author hoping to challenge and inspire Christians to share the Gospel through strategies that are simple, effective and above all Biblical. I have written two books, the first of which "A Fall From The Top" covers my journey to faith from being born into a showbiz family where my father was a violent alcoholic. In my teenage years I discovered martial arts and went on to become a professional instructor. Injury led me into the world of financial services where I climbed the corporate ladder only to fall from the top after traumatic period in business. My second book, "One to one witnessing for Christ ... made easy" cover simple and easy strategies that can be used to share the message of the Gospel. All are scripture based and have proven to a great benefit to readers. I travel the UK and internationally, preaching, teaching and sharing my testimony of Gods grace upon my life. He is amazing!

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