Skip to content

Chewing Your Words

The Dr. is in


We chew our food to aid in the digestion process. Our teeth break the food into small pieces while our saliva changes the molecular structure of the food making it soft enough to go through the esophagus. We need to chew our words when the person to whom we are speaking needs help in processing our message. If we skip this step, the other person might choke on our message. Let me share a recent example.

I taught summer school, and I had a student who came in late and would walk directly to the front of the class. He missed the handouts, had no idea what is going on, and disrupted the class. After he did this for the second time, I decided that I was going to flay him after class, but I felt that familiar tug on my mouth strings keeping it shut. I thought about what I had planned to say and looked closely at my non-traditional student with graying hair and skittish eyes. I decided he still needed to be chided about his tardiness, but I chewed up the words for him a bit. I broke them into smaller, bite-size pieces. My tone softened them. The student left the conversation with his dignity and an understanding about how I felt about his late arrivals, and I left it feeling good that I got my point across without flaying his flesh and preventing him from learning anything else.

So how do we know when we should change what we want to say into something more palatable or manageable? Try this:

Is your message clear? Sometimes we may use words, phrases, or analogies that may confuse another. Keep it simple. Say what it is that you mean.Is your tone appropriate for the conversation? Sometimes when we ruminate on a situation, we make it more than what it really is. Be sure your tone reflects the situation. Don’t roar when a whisper will do…and vice versa.

Does the other person have the same information you do? When I went over my expectations for students, the tardy student was not present, so he did not know how important prompt attendance was for me. “Flaying” him would have been counterproductive, as he didn’t have the information I thought he did.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”

Chewing with my mouth closed,

Dr. Tame Your Talk


Published inChristian Communication 101


  1. Jackie Peterson Jackie Peterson

    Oh how I loved this one!. You gave us an adequate antidote, think first, then speak. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *