Faith and Family Business: When "Soft" is as "Hard" as it Gets. (Proverbs 25:15)

By Bill Long on April 25, 2016

       Last month I looked at Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver,” and concluded that “apt” or “fit” words can be the difference between success and failure in your relationships and family business. But I left unanswered the question of what “fit” words are, from the perspective of Proverbs.
       Today I would like to answer that question by moving down a few verses to Prov. 25:15, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue can break bones.” The key thought is contained in the last few words, where the remarkable idea is expressed that the most powerful persuasive tool in our arsenal is a soft (also translated “gentle” or “tender”) tongue.
That such a tongue is rare, even exceptional, can be inferred by how we use language. Note which words we normally use with “tongue.” We talk about a “biting” or “acerbic” or “sharp” or “bitter” or “caustic” or “sarcastic” tongue, but rarely is a person commended for a “soft tongue.” Yet the Scriptures point to “softness” as fundamental.
       So fundamental is it that, paradoxically enough, it can break the hardest thing in the body—a bone. How can words, as it were, break bones? In a word, soft words do this by helping to reframe a conversation. What began as someone’s assertive or angry or dominant statement can, when met with gentleness, turn into a new encounter. Gentle words give a person space to reconsider his or her anger or strong speech, and give the conversation room to grow. Try gentle words in your work with your family business. See where it gets you.