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

For books to inspire you Click Here.

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

7 Keys to Strengthen Your Connections

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It’s almost humorous how attached we are to our smart phones. In fact, psychologists have coined the term nomophobic (no-mobile phone phobia) for those who have a fear of being without their phones. Oddly, with all this attachment, it’s easy to feel detached when it comes to connecting with those who matter most to us. Whether we are engaging with customers, clients, friends or family, there is always room for improvement in relating well with others. How do we increase engagement and understanding? What are the tools to help us introduce real and meaningful conversations between us? Here are seven positive keys to strengthen the connectedness within your business, your community and your personal life.
1. Perception – Body language and tone of voice can say more than you may think. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that only 7% of any message is conveyed through words. 38% is communicated through vocal elements like voice tone and inflection, and 55% are communicated through nonverbal elements such as body language. That means that 93% is non-verbal! In a culture that connects through texts and emails, a vast majority of our message is being missed. There are two takeaways that I think are elementary here. First we must recognize the power of our non-verbal cues when we are talking with someone whether over the phone or face to face. Secondly, if we want to understand others or be understood, the most effective communication is done in person.
2. Presence – Focus on the person you are in conversation with at the time. Be there. Be present through eye contact, body language and interaction. There are times when we must say to ourselves, “I’m not going to look at texts right now or think about all the other things I need to do. I’m going to listen and concentrate on the person who is talking with me right now. I’m going to see them and hear them.”
3. Power – Recognize the power of your words. Words have the ability to build up, or to destroy. They have the power to open up conversation or shut it down. Let’s use the power of our words for good; to inspire and encourage rather than to complain or argue. Our words have the ability to build bridges, yet in the heat of emotions often they become destructive. Let’s determine to use the power of our words for positive and proactive purposes, and never to tear down another person.
4. Perspective – Get to know the other person’s story. Often when we look beyond the façade, we find that there is a reason someone is acting in a particular way. What is their story? What have they been through in life? What have they experienced that is much different than our own experience? Each of us have different backgrounds and personality types, and so we view our circumstances in different ways. When we take the time to consider the other person’s viewpoint, we often build a connectedness and understanding, rather than condemnation and judgement.
5. Potential – No matter who we encounter, we must first see that person as a creation of God, and therefore as a person with value and worth. More than that, we must recognize that he or she has certain unique gifts, talents and abilities. I like to say that everyone is a treasure, and it is our job to do a treasure hunt to bring out the gems hidden within his or her heart. We can choose to see each person through the eyes of hope, recognizing their potential and seeing them as a gift to this world.
6. Practice – Connectedness doesn’t just happen. We must be willing to intentionally engage with others. We encounter people all the time, but how often do we stop to really see them, hear them and understand their story? When my husband was in the hospital, we came to know the nurses by asking about their lives and their families. We encouraged them and cared about them and listened to their story. They commented that coming into our room was like a breath of fresh air, because most patients were demanding and didn’t really see them as people. Practice connecting as you go through your day with the variety of people in your path.
7. Personal – The more balanced you are in life, the more positive your relationships tend to be. We have all been in those conversations with people who simply talk about themselves the entire time. It makes it tough to build a connection when the conversation is simply one-sided. Or what about someone who is consumed with anger or hatred or criticism? If we are to connect well with others, we must first consider our own emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Happy people are more likely to have healthy communication. Examine your life and consider if there are some changes or growth that needs to take place in yourself. Find your source of strength and comfort from God.

There is a deep need within each of us to be heard and understood. My hope is that these seven keys will spur you on to develop and deepen the relationships in your life, whether with family, friends or business associates. For the next several weeks I will expound on each key with stories, illustrations and practical applications. I hope you will join me. Let’s build bridges of connection together.

Click Here for more info on Karol’s new book, Positive Leadership Principles for Women.

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Addicted to Prayer

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Prayer must not be our chance work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer.   Spurgeon

 In his book entitled Prayer, Timothy Keller describes a conversation he had with his wife during a particularly challenging time in their lives. His wife Kathy urged him to pray with her every night, and she used the following illustration to convince Him:

Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine – a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it for some nights? No – it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.

Now please don’t think legalistically here. You are not going to die if you miss a time of prayer each day. Yet Kathy recognized her desperate need to go to the Father for everything in her life. Do we have that same kind of desperation in our own hearts? Last week I read through the book of Daniel and was inspired by his courage and faith, but more than that, I was moved by his commitment to prayer. Think about it, Daniel prayed even when the public policy was against him, and he faced the lion’s den.

If Daniel took life-risking measures to pray three times a day, then why am I not willing to get up a little earlier and spend time with the Father. Great work happens on our knees. God gives us insight on our knees. We grow more in love with Him, on our knees. Let’s make this a week of casting our cares on Him.

Here’s one of Daniel’s prayers of praise after God:

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.

Daniel 2:20-23

Why wouldn’t we want to pray to such a great and mighty Father?

Check out my chapter on being Pray-pared for Every Day in:

958042: Becoming a Woman of the Word: Knowing, Loving, and  Living the Bible Becoming a Woman of the Word: Knowing, Loving, and Living the Bible