The first thing I said to my sister when I called was that I couldn’t talk long.

“How long do you have to talk,” Patti asked. And then we both laughed. With the inflection in her voice, it sounded like she was asking, “How long must you talk to me?” rather than, “How much time do you have to talk?” which is what she intended.

Our words are often misunderstood. How many arguments include the words, “That’s not what I meant” and “That’s not what I said”? We don’t speak clearly, in correct language, or express ourselves accurately. We mumble and speak in sound bites. Nor do we censor our own words nearly enough, and once they are out, they cannot be retrieved.

Listeners also have their issues. We don’t listen well, we are distracted, take things out of context, and hear emotionally rather than intellectually. We interpret the meaning of what is said from our perspective rather than take it in literally. We talk at the same time the other person is speaking, which means we aren’t listening.

We talk to such a great an extent that it is impossible to weigh every word. If we say every thought out-loud (or on social media), how can we not get ourselves in trouble?

Peace between family and friends begins with one brief moment of consideration before speaking, texting, or emailing. If what we are saying is important enough to express, let’s vow to take a moment to do it clearly and thoughtfully. And let’s at least attempt to listen like we want to be listened to.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle