Archive for the ‘Subtle speech’ Category

An online dictionary defines the word “subtlety” as:

1.  The state or quality of being subtle.

2.  Delicacy or nicety of character or meaning.

3.  Acuteness or penetration of mind; delicacy of discrimination.

4.  A fine-drawn distinction; refinement of reasoning: the subtleties of logic.
Children are known for their spontaneous thoughts and bluntness of expression.  A child tends to say whatever pops into his or her head; that can be charming, hilarious, and thoroughly delightful.  Some of this blunt quality is admirable in adults when it involves clear thinking and no-nonsense conversation.  Yet carried to extremes, the adult who thinks and speaks like a small child can be wearisome—as such a person lacks the mature refinement of subtlety.
The presence or absence of subtlety may be evidenced not only in what we say, but in how we perceive words that are spoken.  For instance:  If I see you doing a thing one way, and then take it upon myself to say that you should to do that thing in a different way, I am—in essence—saying “You don’t know what you are doing.”  I’m telling you that I think you need my advice! 
Yet I might vigorously deny having said “You don’t know what you are doing” on the basis of not having used those exact words.  I might emphatically deny having dispensed unsolicited advice.  My denial indicates a cluelessness on my part, a lack of subtlety.  I didn’t think carefully enough to perceive the inference of my words. 
Conversely you, the mature and subtle party in this hypothetical scenario, are subtle and sensitive enough to perceive and interpret my comments as unsolicited advice.  You correctly “heard” me as saying, “You don’t know what you are doing”—even though I did not use those specific words. 
I might then insist that I did not mean such an inference.  But the projected meaning was implicit in my original words whether I was perceptive enough to realize it or not.
Too often we humans create confusion, simply by failing to realize the subtle implications of our words!  Chaos results when we speak without weighing our words, without considering what those words will mean to the other person when carried to their ultimate conclusion!  Careless words can cause wounds, and sadly enough they often do!
“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even tempered.”  Proverbs 17:26 (NIV)
Margaret L. Been, ©2011 

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