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It pays to be right on time

Rosemary Dawson considers everyday ideas that go way back to the 66 books of the Bible

We need to think about the words we say and when we say them

ACCUSATIONS. Allegations. Denials. More accusations. More allegations. More heated denials.

On the weekend of Remembrance Sunday, it would be fascinating to know how many disputes, wars and conflicts, large and small, have started with an exchange of words – and even more intriguing to discover which diplomatic words were instrumental in restoring peace.

To distant observers of the Brexit negotia­tions, it can appear as if entente cordiale is not living up to its name, with neither side appearing willing to compromise.

In all areas of life, some people have a great gift for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Without meaning to cause offence, they somehow always manage to put their size-12s right in it.

With the shoe on the other foot, in every­day situations we can face times when we need to think about the words we say and when we say them. Most parents of teenage children know that the time to tackle them about the mess in their bedroom is not just as they get through the front door after a stressful day at school and when they have a mountain of homework to do. It’s much better to wait until they’ve had time to calm down and finished some of their work and then to phrase it so that they don’t feel got at.

In essence, it’d be best to follow some age-old advice from the Bible, which says: ‘A word spoken in due season, how good is it!’ (Proverbs 15:23 King James Bible).

One modern translation puts the proverb in another way: ‘Giving the right answer at the right time makes everyone happy’ (Contemporary English Version). Just as in the best comedy routines, it’s not the words alone that make the impact; it is the timing.

Whatever the situation, however much we might want to get something off our chest, however frustrating it is to stay silent, choos­ing the right words – and then delivering them at the right moment – is the way to peace of mind.

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