The space between words

The space between words…

Recently I was at a formal dinner in London with Archbishop Angaelos, the new President of Bible Society. We talked about ‘gracious speaking with an honest edge’ which profoundly resonated with me. However, it was a passing comment that lodged with intent: ‘good communicators speak to be heard’. And this goes way beyond our choice of words…

Words and phrasing are only part of the equation. Carefully selected and well placed, they are pleasing, inviting us to dance.

But if they try to say everything we become passive and just consume. Words upon words, with no space for curiosity or engagement.


Paring back gives us room to breathe. To think and create, and make the connections that bring colourful meaning.

That’s why poetry can be so brilliant. It deliberately doesn’t say it all. We have to participate in the dance of words and their spacing. Letting them take us places we might otherwise not go…

Poetry lends us fresh eyes.


The space between words is also unpredictable. Speaking to be heard doesn’t follow the beat of a metronome. It’s a dialogue of different voices, each with their distinct pitch and vocabulary.

If I don’t understand who I am speaking with, it’s just words whose impact is uncertain.

When I take time to think about the hearer, my speech has the potential to become responsive and respectful, and the gap between us gets smaller. The space between our words becomes the carrier of meaning rather than the void of misunderstanding.

Holding silence

Sometimes our most profound experiences of togetherness are when we can be in comfortable silence. The stillness that doesn’t need words.

In our noisy, always-on world, this doesn’t happen very often. We need to be far more intentional.

And brave.

When I am working with others it’s much harder to hold a pause than to fill it with words. Yet at the right time, it can be the most powerful thing I can do. My greatest contribution can be silence!

Permission to think beyond where we are familiar, to reflect on places that don’t often see light. Encouragement to dream, to let go of the sides and swim out into the deep. Or climb a mountain and see the other side.


Can you hear the spaces calling?

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