Apples of Gold

Solomon, known as the wisest man who ever lived, wrote that the right words are like apples of gold in baskets of silver.  This is a beautiful picture of the impact of speaking the right words.  We pay attention when we hear words that encourage, inform, and affirm.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made the point when he wrote, “A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child.”

Sometimes when you intend to compliment a person, the result may be less than positive.  In front of a large audience, Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series, spoke after Ravi Zacharias, a renowned apologist.  Later a lady came to him and said, “It was so refreshing listening to you.  I was so tired of thinking.”

Focus on the positive words, and think before providing negative or critical remarks to an individual.  Listen to other people speak and pick up on unique ways to encourage and add those phrases to your own vocabulary.  Avoid sentences that contain, “wouldn’t,” “shouldn’t,” and “couldn’t.” Whatever follows those words is usually better left unsaid. The word “but” is usually followed by a negative remark.  “What’s troubling you?” is usually better than “What’s wrong with you?”

Speak these four phrases on a regular basis and you will be likely to change permanently the way you listen and speak:  “Thank you,”  “I love you,”  “How are things going?” and “What do you need?”  Most of the negative words we use would be better replaced with silence.

When speaking, be brief.  People pay better attention to people who say words in a brief and direct way.  One of my favorite sayings from my mother-in-law was “Never tell all you know.”  Just share enough information to answer the question or to share new information.

Appropriate words can have great value, as Solomon stated.  Remember the words of one of America’s greatest speakers, Daniel Webster, who said, “If all my skills were take away from me but one, the one I would want to retain is the ability to speak.  For with it I could regain all the rest.”

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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