Bless Your Heart

It’s not what you say but how you say it.

That’s a widely accepted maxim of communication strategy. From back in my speech communication days at UW Oshkosh, I remember that only 7% of the actual words comprise the meaning transferred to the hearer. Things like tone of voice, gestures and facial expressions convey far more of the meaning behind the words.

But there is also a phenomenon called “contextualizing” that shades the meaning of our words as well.

A short time ago someone pointed out to me that certain phrases can be used to preface almost anything and somehow, make what is said acceptable even if there is criticism or negative context in what is said. In Alabama, where I grew up, we used the phrase, “bless your heart” to kind of soften what was said so as not to be hurtful or demeaning. My little league baseball coach once said, “Bless your heart, Cleveland, you just can’t seem to hit that old baseball, can you?”

What he was probably trying to say in the nicest way possible would have been translated more like, “Man! Cleveland, you just can’t hit the broad side of a barn! Have you considered trying out for the water polo team?” Yeah, right, like we had water polo in Alabama. Anyway, you get the idea, when you say, “bless your heart”, you say almost anything and it somehow sounds complimentary.

Consider these other phrases……

Bless your heart…..

….you have a face that only a mother could love


….your teeth look like the grill work of a 56 Buick.


….bless her heart, that girl friend of yours has a face like a buffalo

OR bless your heart, Cleveland, your blog page is the most boring thing on the internet…

Well, you get the message. So, the next time you have something to say and you’re afraid it might be too caustic or critical, just say, “bless your heart” but then try to be kind about it. Even if you need to get something off your chest, it’s best to say it in a way you’d like it said to you. That’s kind of the golden rule….communication style.

If you want to send me some feedback on this, I would appreciate it. I do value feedback. I really do.

But, sweetie, bless your heart….your opinion of this blog is about as important to me as a ham hock is to a vegetarian. But if it makes you feel better, send it on. Bless your heart, your life must be really boring if you’re reading Southmoon and a cup of Java again. Bless my heart, I must really be bored if I took the time to post this thing up in the first place. Bless all our hearts….


About Gary Cleveland

An old chunk of coal waiting to become a diamond some day. I spend the bulk of my time focused on spiritual development. I teach, preach and stand by the hurting and wounded. I believe our heavenly Father offers us daily opportunities to discover who we are and what we can yet become. I serve as a bringer of good news in and around the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
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