By Kent Sanders
Society tends to judge men by their accomplishments and possessions. A man’s home, car, job titles, and wealth are all measurements that others use to evaluate his worth.
But possessions and accomplishments only tell part of the story. If you want to find out who a man really is, you have to examine his character. One of the best ways to evaluate a man’s character is by listening to how he speaks to other people.
In this post, we’ll look at four groups of people and how a man’s communication with each of them reveals his character. I call these “subtle clues” because they are easy to miss. However, they are each a major clue to what a man is really like. These clues are helpful not only for discerning the character of others but, more importantly, ourselves.
Clue #1: How a man speaks to his wife
A few months ago I went to dinner with a friend, and his wife called in the middle of our meal. It was impossible not to hear their brief conversation, and I could tell he was greatly annoyed with her. His tone of voice indicated he didn’t want to talk to her and she was bothering him. It seemed obvious to me that his tone of voice and general attitude was making the situation worse.
We’ve probably all had occasional spats with our spouse in front of other people. But there is a difference between an occasional argument and a constant pattern of belittling or antagonizing your wife. I don’t think much of a man who doesn’t respect and honor his partner.
Along these same lines, be wary of a man who puts his wife down when she’s not around. I once heard a public speaker make a joke at his wife’s expense, and my opinion of him immediately plummeted. If a man can’t be trusted to protect his most sacred relationship, he can’t be trusted with anything.
Clue #2: How a man speaks to his children
A man is in an authority relationship with his children, and it can be easily abused. We’ve all seen men (and women) verbally bashing their kids in public for even the smallest of offenses. So how should a man speak to his children, and why is it a test of character?
We should speak to our children with respect and love. We still need to discipline, we still need to correct, and those are not always pleasant experiences. However, it must be done in a spirit of love and a desire to do what’s best for the child.
This is a test of character because it’s easy to be harsh with our kids. I don’t get it right all the time, and I’ll be you don’t either. But as men, it’s important for us to use our parental authority to show love and care. Sometimes that means tough love, but we can still respect our children while disciplining them.
Clue #3: How a man speaks to people who are serving him
This is the most immediate way to gauge a man’s character. The way he speaks to retail workers, restaurant servers, cleaning staff, and others who are in a service role shows whether he truly respects others and is secure in is identity.
My wife worked in a retail job for ten years. I was amazed at the stories she would share about customers who treated her terribly. Some of these were men who appeared powerful on the outside but were secretly so insecure that they felt the need to treat others badly in order to make themselves feel better.
A man who is secure doesn’t need to put others down or disrespect them, no matter what their position in life. He knows that every person is worthy of respect, and everyone has a story worth listening to.
Clue #4: How a man speaks to his enemies
Every man at some point has “enemies,” people whom he dislikes or those who oppose him. Everybody has conflict with others at some point. But only a man with a good amount of restraint can hold his tongue when he needs, and at other times speak words that are appropriate (and not inflammatory).
I see this on Facebook all the time. People get into an argument and they post comments they would never say to someone’s face. Or perhaps they rant about a topic and show they have no self-restraint. (Not that all rants are bad, but they generally don’t leave others with a good impression.)
I confess that I have lost my temper at times and written or said something inappropriate in anger. There have been multiple times in my job where I’ve fired off an angry email, only to realize a short time later that it was too harsh, and that I should have waited until I calmed down to reply. Then I’d have to go to my coworker’s office and apologize for my behavior.
You have probably done something similar as well. We can all benefit from thinking before we speak and exercising restraint when we need. As Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
It’s easy to see faults in other people, and there are definitely times when we need to evaluate others. However, the real power lies in turning the magnifying glass on ourselves and working on our own weaknesses. How do you speak to each of these groups — your spouse, children, those serving you, and your enemies? Do you use words that affirm, uplift, empower, and encourage when needed? Do you seek to resolve conflict? Do you speak in ways that add value?
On the flip side, do you use words that tear down, dismantle, or otherwise harm your relationships? Do you use language that belittles, shames, or embarrasses others? Do you speak in ways that assert your power and authority, that make it clear you’re the one in charge?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all know that’s not true because words can cause great damage to others. Likewise, words can bring great healing and comfort to the people around us.
What kind of words have you spoken today, and what do they reveal about your character?