Perspective – The Key to Connection

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Have you ever had one of those awkward times when you felt misunderstood? Recently, while visiting with a colleague, I made a simple suggestion that would typically be warmly received – but not in this case. She snapped back and accused me of judging her, yet condemnation was the farthest thing from my mind. It was then that I had to step back and look at the bigger picture. What made her react in such a protective manner? What nerve did I hit? Why did my simple words rattle her?

When I considered things from her perspective and thought about her current situation, and the little I knew about her childhood, my heart softened and I understood why she responded the way she did. Initially I felt misunderstood, but the resolution came when I attempted to understand the issue from her point of view. Perhaps the greatest need that we as humans have is not only be loved, but to be understood. Choosing to see things from another person’s perspective can not only build connection, but can also reconcile our own feelings of being misunderstood.

This is especially true when it comes to client relations or customer service. When an unkind customer comes to you with an angry complaint, instead of taking it personally, choose to see things from their perspective. Ask yourself:

• Why is this so important to them?
• What could have happened during their day today to make them this angry?
• What’s going on in their personal life that is affecting their attitude right now?
• Are they like this all of the time? Are they a negative person by nature?

Sometimes, I even take it a step further and think about what their childhood may have been like and what kind of hurt or abuse they endured in their life. When we go the extra mile to see past the exterior anger, we can often find an opportunity to open the door of communication. When encountering conflict of any sort whether personal or in business, it helps to selflessly begin the conversation with statements such as:

• Help me understand what you are saying.
• Tell me why you feel this way.
• Let me make sure I hear what you are saying.
• What is it that is making you frustrated?
• In what way can I help resolve this?

Let’s push forward this week to build understanding with the people we encounter. Step into the other person’s perspective and be a thoughtful listener rather than a reactive participant. Ask God to give you His patience, kindness and self-control as you interact with the people around you. Most important, remember that you are loved and understood by the God who sees all and knows your heart.

thrive Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive: Passionately Living the Life You Didn’t Plan

5 Ways to Stay Focused in Conversations

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When is the last time you enjoyed an undistracted conversation with another person? Whether we are talking with an important client, a close friend or a favorite family member, most of us struggle with staying focused in our interactions. What makes it so difficult to experience a good, healthy dialogue in today’s world? The answer may seem obvious. Certainly with the increase in technology, we have become comfortable with texts, tweets and quick emails rather than enjoying real-life connections. And as much as we love our smart phones, they may be one of the biggest culprits in keeping us disengaged.

Interestingly, a study by the University of Essex revealed that simply having a cell phone visibly present in the room made people less likely to develop empathy or intimacy during meaningful conversations. Even if no one checked their phone – just having it visibly in the room lowered the level of engagement!* Isn’t it amazing to think of the power that little device has in our lives and especially over our ability to listen and focus with others? So what is the key to staying sincerely connected to the person with whom we are talking? Here are a few tips to help you stay mentally focused as you communicate with others.

Reduce Environmental Distractions. Put the phone away and out of site. The texts, notices and emails can wait until you are finished with your conversation. Additional distractions may be noise or other people in the room. Recently I met a friend for lunch at our neighborhood grill, and my chair faced toward the door. Bad idea! I knew half the people coming into the restaurant and felt an obligation to say hello to each of them. You can imagine the depth of engagement I had with my friend as we talked together. The better bet for me is to sit at the back of the restaurant or at least sit in a direction that doesn’t face the door. If there is a television in the room, turn it off or move to a place where it is not going to pull your attention away from the other person.

Reduce Mental Distractions. If you have an important email, phone call or task looming over you, take care of it before you enter into a conversation. Even if you need to ask the person to meet a little later. The less urgent things you have floating around in your mind, the better you will be able to tune into the other person. If at all possible schedule your day so that you take care of the more difficult tasks earlier in the day, then you will be able to focus on the one-on-one meetings you have with people later in the day.

Create a Focal Point.  Last week, I mentioned the importance of eye contact when you are interacting with another person. Now, you don’t want to overdo it, but studying the other person’s eyes can help you pay closer attention. Sometimes I will challenge myself to remember the person’s eye color when I am finished with a conversation. Eyes are the window to the soul, so if you can stay generally focused on the eyes, you may be surprised how much you will learn.

Ask Questions.  Asking questions (and then of course listening to the answers) will encourage deeper understanding and will help you maintain focus in your conversations. Ask questions like: How did that make you feel? How did you accomplish that? What is your secret? When did this happen? Most people love to talk about themselves or their experience, and asking good questions shows that you care about them and what they are saying.

Write it Down. There are times we become mentally distracted because a thought pops into our mind and we want to share it. Instead of interrupting or allowing your mind to wander with what you want to say, pull out a pen and quickly jot down a word or two to help you remember that thought, so you can bring it up later. I’ve been known to use shopping receipts or paper napkins or placemats to put my thought on to paper and out of my head. This little trick can help you maintain your interest in what the other person is saying without forgetting your thought.

The truth is, the deepest cry of every person’s heart is to be understood. True connection comes through listening well to others, going beyond superficial words and diving deep into the heart. May we sincerely see and hear the people God puts in our path. In a distracted culture, let’s make a deliberate effort to practice focused engagement with each person we encounter.

To love you as I love myself

 is to seek to hear you as I want to be heard

and understand you as I long to be understood.

David Augsburger

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* http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/digital-distraction-to-the-detriment-of-in-person-relationships/

Look for the Possibilities

Great opportunities come to all, but many do not know they have met them. The only preparation to take advantage of them is simple fidelity to watch what each day brings.  Albert E. Dunning

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It seems a bit ironic that a visually impaired woman would encourage others to have focus and vision. Helen Keller didn’t let her challenges keep her from looking at the possibilities in her own life. Born in 1880, Helen became both blind and deaf at nineteen months of age due to a childhood illness, yet she was the first blind and deaf woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and authored a dozen books and numerous other writings. In her book We Bereaved she wrote, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

Where are you looking? Have you allowed your eyes to zoom in on the frustrations that are right in front of you, making them seem larger than life? Or are you looking at the bigger broader picture – the picture that includes possibilities and hope? There are always possibilities around the corner, but we need to be looking for them instead of dwelling on what we don’t have. I like to say that the “B” in Plan B stands for beautiful. Often we think our Plan A was the perfect plan and that Plan B is second rate. Have you ever considered that Plan B is God’s Plan A and He can do a great work despite our disappointments and even our mistakes?

It may be difficult to conceive in your mind that anything good could come from hurt, pain and loss whether it is a physical, financial or a family tragedy in your life. We must be honest and grieve through the sadness that life brings. We don’t want to ignore our disappointment and hurt in our heart, but we also don’t want to close our mind’s eye to the redemption God can bring in the toughest of situations.  It may take time and perseverance. Plan B may be difficult, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t doable. Perhaps the “B” in Plan B means “Be patient.” Allow God to do His work in His way, and do not despair for there is always hope.

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