3 Good Words: pillars of speech


Not all words are created equal. Speech can be strong, true and loving, but it can also be caustic, insulting and demeaning. What’s the difference between good communication—the kind that engages and blesses us, and bad communication—the kind that bores us, or worse?

There are three pillars of excellent communication—each one working behind-the-scenes and speaking to who we are and where we’re at. As we know, this kind of information comes through loud and clear every time, whether we rehearse the words or not.

What we say is secondary to who we are—there’s little point in fixing our grammar if our words are otherwise falling short, sounding hollow or otherwise alienating our listener.


Decorative detail of an ancient Ionic column

Strengthening our own pillars means our words will be able to carry the weight we place on them; do the work we expect them to do; and otherwise bless and right the world.



The first filter people run our words through is integrity. A speaker’s actions must align with their words for what they say to sound solid, ring true, lend strength. Integrity, which is all about our unsung-actions-behind-the-scenes, is the First Pillar of excellent communication. Do our actions align with our words? Do our public pleas persuade? Or fall short of the mark because we never quite reached it ourselves, in private?


Without integrity, words ring hollow.



The Second Pillar of fair speech is compassion. Having empathy for the situation or people we’re talking about informs the nature of our speech. We can say all the right things, but if our heart is prejudiced against our subject, this will deflect any good effect we were hoping to have. Compassion cannot be faked, and it cannot be hidden. It seeps into and through every word.


Compassion is the Second Pillar and refers to the attitude of the heart.


Without compassion, words are debased; they cannot elevate or uplift, strengthen or uphold.



The Third Pillar is respect. This is about actions and attitude combined. This is about mutuality and reciprocity. We want to be heard; and our also listener deserves consideration as a thinking, feeling person with ideas of their own. Otherwise, our words can become politicized; our communication used to achieve one-sided goals. People—our listeners—can become objectified as something less than individuals who deserve respect.


Where respect is lacking, communication deteriorates, distorts, becomes something else in light of people being taken for granted. Respect is the Third Pillar and it’s about mutuality; about communication being a 2-way street.


Integrity, Compassion and Respect. These are the three pillars of excellent communication and why not all words are created equal. Where these three are strong, people, relationships and business thrive. But, where they are weak, we’d be better off keeping silent.

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