The Gift of Gab

When we have the “gift of gab,” we can use it in either positive or negative ways. We pay attention when we hear words that encourage 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.

The ability to use words freely can be a gift only when you seek to encourage and affirm.

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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