Following Jesus = Saying Less in Business

Ryan Derfler

I still say too much in business.

With one verbal chip after another I work to carve a masterpiece, and sometimes see it crumble before me. My sales pitch is often full to the brim with backstory and key updates (at least to me) on traction gained.

In short, with matters of words, I go long.

Commentary as a means of influence, now full frontal from dawn to dusk in real time across a litany of platforms by (often self professed) leaders, has lured me into the never ending truth-telling conjecture.

To be relevant, the world says, I simply must add my piece. And I have.

I realized recently that all this running at the mouth was affecting my business. Fueled by anxiety over deals I wanted too much, I found myself verbally barraging prospects to make my case.  Further, I prayed fervently for each one to come through. Most didn’t.

Quiet time with God helped me see that my anxiety was fruitless, striving foolish, and that one day’s “unanswered” prayer became the next day’s thanksgiving for sparing me from my own request.  

I questioned myself and God:

1. If I can’t discern what deals I need, why am I praying so hard for them?

2. If I know God is going to provide, why am I acting desperate?

3. What does peace look like in my dealings and how do I say less?

The Holy antidote to my loose lips? Drum roll please... the spiritual disciplines have to be there: prayer and fasting, daily scripture reading, and regular fellowship. Also extended prayer around strategic plans, new clients, and major moves. Perhaps a retreat to learn to enjoy silence.

This feels a lot like “the same old answer” to spiritual growth, but has taken on a new importance for me in the launch of my startup. And while I know the enjoyment in hearing myself make a case will not easily take a seat, I already see that growth in my faith should cut down my word count in these very clear ways.

1. Discernment about privacy

 As God gives ground to my business I am entrusted with sensitive information. A misstep erodes hard earned trust. The old adage “loose lips sink ships” is more true every day and I have to ask God to help me “tame my tongue” to, in some cases, literally prevent death and disaster.  

2. Willingness to wait or stop a relationship

Had I crossed paths with the rich young ruler (from Mark Ch. 10) a few months ago, I would gladly have had him back my business. And yet God desires his peace to rule in our heart (Col. 3:15) where the word rule means “umpire.” God should call the shots on every person we hire or have as a client or partner! We enter endless conversations that should not be simply because we forge ahead ignorant of the still small voice telling us to wait, stop, or go another direction.

3. Guarding against exaggeration, manipulation, and lies

Recently, I got a call from a prospect while on the run and heard myself say that another respected business had come on-board even though the deal wasn’t signed. I hung up the phone surprised at my own fast lie and had to repent. No surprise the deal imploded. Now, I closely examine my calls, emails, and pitches looking for dishonesty to root out and make tweaks on a weekly basis.

4. Comfort-ability with silence in conversations

Wisdom in negotiations says that he who speaks first loses and it has been proven that using filler words in a presentation erodes credibility. But how do we find the fortitude to be such a confident, patient negotiator and presenter? I posit that if our walk with the Lord is strong we ought to excel in our ability to be still and silent.

In summary, it’s become clear—the more I talk the less effective I am and it points to a lack of faith in God about my business. Do I truly believe that if I work hard and seek the Lord I am going to have all things provided? If so, my actions and, very importantly, my words (or lack thereof) ought to show it.

Don’t take my word for it...

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19

 “In a multitude of words sin is unavoidable, but he who refrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19

Special thanks Mark Skeet on Unsplash for the cover photo.