There may be no single thing more important in our efforts to achieve meaningful work and fulfilling relationships than to learn to practice the art of communication.   

Max De Pree

 

 

 

3 Effective Ways to Encourage Others

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Everyone needs a good word now and then. Like sunshine breaking through the clouds on a dreary day, so a bright ray of encouragement can bring hope to someone’s darkness. Certainly we must be sensitive to those who are going through deep sadness. Sometimes the best way to be an encouragement is to “weep with those who weep.” But there are many opportunities in our daily routine to provide a glimpse of joy for the people around us.

Here are three effective ways to offer a healthy dose of encouragement to family, friends, co-workers and even strangers.

Be Sincere: No one likes insincere flattery. If you are going to offer a kind acknowledgement, be truthful. You may need to look a little deeper to find a way to sincerely speak an honest word of encouragement. For example, if your child’s piano recital was a bit rough around the edges, instead of insincerely telling them that they did a fantastic job, consider the factors you can compliment. “It takes a lot of courage to get up there and preform. You were able to hit some tough notes under pressure. I’m proud of you.”

Be Specific: When we offer specific accolades we are not only offering a gift to the other person, but we are tying it up with a bow and putting a note on it that says, “This gift is just for you.” For instance, simply saying “Great job!” is nice. But saying, “Great work on the Simons account today. I liked your creative presentation and the way you spoke directly to the client’s needs,” is better! Look for specific words and phrases you can offer others to help them know you paid attention and focused on what they did well.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Smile: A smile speaks a thousand words. It says, “I see you. I believe in you. I know you can do it. I care.” Just as words of encouragement are a precious gift we give to others, so a smile can lift up those around us and help them along their way. Think about when someone takes the opportunity to smile at you – it makes you feel a little stronger. A smile is that non-verbal expression that gives you the sense that you are noticed and appreciated. Offering an encouraging glance seems simple, but it may be a day-brightner to someone who desperately needs to know you care.

The word encourage actually means “to give strength.” The root word cour comes from the Latin word heart. Sincere, specific encouragement with the added blessing of a smile can literally strengthen another person’s heart and turn their mediocre day into a monumental one. May our words and actions be used to build up, rather than tear down. Let’s bring glimpses of sunshine to the people God puts in our path each day.

3 Ways to Create Deeper Connections

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In a world of constant connectivity through phones and laptops, it’s a bit ironic how disconnected we often feel from other people.  A sense of loneliness and isolation can easily grow into a longing for deeper and more meaningful relationships. What are some ways we can strengthen our connection and understanding with family and friends? Here are three ideas to implement in your daily life:

Listen with Attentiveness – Everyone has a longing to be heard and understood. One of the ways we deepen relationships is by being an intentional listener. Renown salesman, Ben Feldman, always said, “We must learn to listen with three ears: One ear to hear what the person is saying, one to notice what they are not saying, and finally one ear to perceive what they want to say, but just don’t know how to say it.” As we interact with others, let’s ask perceptive questions, listen attentively and discover what is important to the other person.

Recognize the Power of What you Don’t Say – It is estimated that between 60 – 90% of our communication is non-verbal. That means that our body language and tone of voice go a long way to building a bridge of understanding. Eye contact, a smile, a handshake or hug, even our posture show a person that we are glad to see them and intent in paying attention to them. Certainly our words are important, but not as important as how we come across with non-verbal cues. One of the reasons online communication leaves us with a sense of loneliness is because it misses some of the most important aspects of human connection.

Be willing to be Vulnerable – No one wants to have a seemingly perfect person as their best friend. It’s our vulnerabilities and humanness that make us relatable. When we try to portray only how great we are, we distance ourselves from those we want to get to know. We deny the opportunity for depth and realness. Certainly we do not want to overshare or constantly be a drain on others with our problems and complaints, but we do want to give slight glimpses into our human side – sharing both our hopes and dreams as well as our fears and frustrations. Simply put, be real instead of trying to portray a glossy picture which hides all of your imperfections.

We were created for connection, so its important for us to be deliberate about deepening our relationships with the people in our lives. As we build understanding with others we develop a sense of personal satisfaction and emotional well-being. Let’s choose to strengthen our bonds and deepen our communication as we apply these three simple and positive tips

Three Positive Questions to Ask Yourself

 

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Life is filled with twists and turns. Each day brings with it a fair amount of joys and challenges and even some major disappointments. How do you navigate the rough waters of life and stay steady on your journey? Here are three important questions to ask yourself along the way as you chart your course and sail onward toward your goals.

How can I grow from this? Whether it is an unexpected derailment from your schedule for the day or a major life change, it is good to consider what you can learn and how you can grow through the experience. Certainly we must grieve the loss of our original plan, but we must also think about the glimmer of hope or the upside of our situation. How can you become stronger? What are you learning in the process?

In what ways can I serve? There are always opportunities to use what we have learned or experienced to reach out and help another person. Look for ways you can use your gifts, talents and interests to serve those in your community who could use a helping hand. Whenever we lift up others, we ourselves experience a unique satisfaction and joy in serving – which is always an added benefit.

What is my motivation? It’s a good idea to do a little introspection and consider why we are doing what we are doing. This gives us a chance to examine and perhaps rethink our “Why.” Why am I pushing forward in this direction? Why do I think I need to accomplish this? Why am I being so hard on this particular person? When we check our motives, it helps us consider if our goal is worth pursuing, and it helps us recognize our own selfish ambitions or conceit. Knowing our “Why” can push us forward or help us redirect our path.

Routinely ask yourself these three questions as you face the ups and downs of life. You may even want to write then on an index card and keep them in front of you as a reminder. Life may be unpredictable, but positive questions can help us clarify what we want and where we are going.

Photo by Sean O. on Unsplash

 

How to Have Hope

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Like a dense fog, sometimes the clouds of discouragement can descend on us blocking out any glimmer of hope. Perhaps there have been times in your own life where you felt a sense of despair. How do you have hope when everything seems to be going wrong? Let’s look at a few ways to part the dark clouds.

Look Up instead of At. When we are going through a challenging time, circumstances loom large and are sometimes the only thing we can see. Certainly we must recognize our grief or pain, but one of the first steps toward seeing glimmers of hope is to change the direction of our focus. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Set your minds on things above.” When we look only at our circumstances, it is easy to become overwhelmed, but when we look above our circumstances, we remind ourselves that there is a God who loves us. He is bigger than our challenges. He is the God who sees, and He is not surprised by this situation. When we turn our eyes upward, it helps us gain a broader perspective.

Praise. While we are looking up, let’s take a moment to praise God for who He is and what He is able to do. Actively praising God changes us within and opens our hearts to the possibilities of what He can do. Open the Psalms or open a hymnal, or play some worship music or simply pray something like:

“Father, I adore you as the God who is able to do immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”

“Father, I praise you that you are Sovereign and Powerful. You know all things and can do all things.”

“I exalt you my God, because You see the bigger picture and You know what is best.”

“Praise you that you walk through the darkest valley’s with me. I am not alone.”

Or as Jeremiah prayed from the pit of despair,

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
  Lamentations 3:19 – 24

Encouragement. One of the apostle Paul’s prayers for the early believers was, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God is the God of hope, so let’s not hesitate to ask Him for hope, wisdom and guidance as we navigate rough waters. We can also pray that God sends a person into our life that can encourage us or walk along side of us through our dark moments.

James (the brother of Jesus) gave the persecuted church powerful and positive advice,  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. “

My friend, there is always hope. It may come in unexpected ways and look slightly different than how you thought it would look. Keep looking up and keep your heart open to what God wants to do in your life. I believe there is always hope, because I believe in a God of hope. I believe what the Bible tells us – that He is a redeeming God, and He will never leave or forsake those who trust in Him.

Photo by Łukasz Łada on Unsplash

 

What’s Your Word?

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Have you ever chosen a “word for the year?” I find that it gives me a great sense of focus as I pursue my goals and move toward what I want to accomplish for the year. Simply put, choosing a word gives me a constant core reminder of a way I can zero in on one area of improvement in my life. Here are a few thoughts on choosing your word and allowing it to encourage you throughout your days.

Pray, Listen, Observe.  As you consider your one word, ask the Lord to guide you and give you direction. Be still and think about some of the ways you want to grow and become stronger throughout the next year. Pay attention to words that seem to continue to resurface as you are reading His Word or in conversation with others. Look for a word that defines some of your current interests, ambitions or drive.

Write It Down. As you figure out the word you want to focus on for the year, write it on several index cards and place them in locations where you will see them on a regular basis. Seeing your word will serve as a reminder to spur you on in your pursuits. I encourage you to choose a Bible verse or quote to memorize that goes along with your word and write that down as well.

Share it. Tell other people about the word you chose for the year. It will not only inspire others, but it will also strengthen your resolve to keep you on track as you now have accountability. I love to hear about the words my friends have chosen and why they decided on that particular word. It always reveals something about them and their desires for the year, and I can offer encouragement to them in the process.

So… what’s my word for 2020? My word is “deeper,” because I desire to grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord and in His word. I also want to grow deeper in my relationships with friends and family. Finally, I want to go deeper in my research for both my writing and my parenting organization.  I’ll close with the Bible verse that I chose to go along with my word. It’s found in Hosea 6:3:

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.

 

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash