Month: April 2014

The Bigger Picture

How do we gauge our motives? This is one of the biggest challenges we face. We can feel someone has wronged us, and we want badly to react immediately and gain a “win”, however we view that. Yet, how do we know that is the best approach?

I would offer that our initial reaction is most often not the best one. Anytime we respond in the heat of the moment, we are likely to come across too strongly, out of anger, or respond to injure instead of inform. My personal gauge is to know when I’m feeling the anger growing inside me, then it’s time to emotionally step away and just hear what’s being said. I have to have time to think about what my response (if any) needs to be.

My additional step involves my asking what I would like to accomplish with my response. Am I wanting to punish the other person for the “wrong” done me? Am I wanting to educate them so they will have better information from which to speak? Am I wanting to win the debate (whatever that means)? If it’s for any reason other than simply helping them see more of the overall picture, I may be on the wrong track.

When we believe it is our job to change someone, we may be overreaching our bounds, and will just as likely further alienate, as to encourage or offer a better way.

If you have a good gauge to use, I’d love to hear it.

Slow Influence

Have you ever experienced the frustration of tying to convince someone of what you knew was to their benefit, but they would not agree? Of course you have. Likely, it happens all too often, especially if we think we’re wise enough to know what’s best for others.

It might help if we looked at our opinion more like a seed that’s planted in the mind and heart of the person we want to influence. It takes patience to allow a seed to germinate and grow, as opposed to the sledgehammer approach of immediate influence. The person may even believe it was their idea when they come to a new conclusion, and we need to let that be okay. After all, if they come around to a better way of thinking, isn’t that what we wanted? Does it matter whether we get credit? 

If we’re virtuous, we won’t mind not getting credit or thanks for the new insight, but grateful for a small change in the world around us. Patience is a great peacemaker.

The Cure for Political Overload

If you’re like me, you pay attention to national issues and are not always happy with what you see and hear. Maybe I should be more honest and say I’m seldom happy with what I see and hear these days on a national level.

How do we deal with the consequences of being informed? I do it by intentionally focusing on what is in front of me that I can affect. That means the next person I meet, the next need I encounter, the next issue that is within reach.

Since this is my job anyway, it comes easier. How would you do it? Could there be a neighbor, a relative, or a fellow worker who needs to be heard? Could there be a local charity or church that could use some assistance or some of your time? When you think about it, this is what keeps our country on track anyway; not which senator is currently creating a non-issue to grandstand, nor which government agency is overstepping its bounds today.

When you are able to focus on local needs, you will gain a little of your hope and optimism back. You will realize life is worth getting up for again. You will also strengthen some weak knees that will then be able to take a few steps of their own.

Gaining Trust

When I ask you if you would like to gain the trust of others, do not think of wondering what you can do with that trust. The basis of trust is not what can be done with it; it is of value in itself. In fact, it’s not for you at all, but for the other person.

This gets to the heart of what trust really is: being present and willing to be with another human being, for what it means to them. There are plenty of people seeking to gain our trust, but nearly all of them have an agenda of some type that will wind up using us. Sadly, it’s not only crooks and politicians (they can be different people!), but it can also include preachers, deacons and elders.

When you gain trust, the other person can relax in your presence, and let down their guard, and perhaps even talk to you. If you are genuine, whatever they do will be okay. If you sit for a half hour in silence, then you have given them of yourself without asking anything in return. If they talk for an hour, then your ears have accomplished more in that hour than you mouth could have in a year.

The ultimate question is: are you okay with that?

Broken Business Trust

When something goes wrong in a business relationship, it must be fixed and made right as soon as possible. If not, word will get around quickly, and the word will not be good for the business who broke the trust.

Unless you no longer want the relationship, or care what they say about you, it is imperative to show the “customer” that you value the connection, and want to do business in the future. How do you show that?

First, but acknowledging the break, taking responsibility for it, and either reimburse the cost, or do not charge at all for the product or service. In my previous work as a contract security provider, we had a guarantee that if any of our officers did not perform to the client’s expectations, “the shift is free”. We did not have to make good often, but we were sure to do it when needed.

Next, prove by your actions and continued contact that the dissatisfying action was not you normal practice, and that you will make any necessary changes and/or training to ensure the former high level of service will continue. Don’t be obnoxious, or pesky, but simply prove what you promise. You do the work, so the customer won’t have to.

If you have any experience in damage control in a business setting, I would love to hear about how you resolved it.

Local Support

While meeting monthly with a group of people in a year-long leadership class, I recently gathered at a local camp for children. The camp hosts kids of parents who are incarcerated. It is faith-based, and very supportive of the kids.

The reason for being there was the class requirement for a community project of our choosing. This posed a challenge, but that was part of the project. Eleven of us had to agree on what to do, and we needed to do it before graduating in the summer. Our choice gave us the chance to work hard, help the camp organizers, and make the atmosphere better for the campers.

Though it’s great to support national projects, there is something even better about supporting local efforts. This further builds trust where it counts most, where we live. It was a great experience, and we learned more than anyone.

Trust and Relationships

We are aware that a fire requires three basic elements to survive: oxygen, heat, and fuel. If any of these are taken away, the fire will go out. Without attempting to name the other elements of a relationship, let me suggest that one of the crucial elements is trust.

If we think about it, any relationship suffers greatly when trust is lost. Husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, coach/player, student/teacher, fellow workers, boss/subordinate, physician/patient, and counselor/client are just some of the many types of relationships we encounter in our lives, and all require a certain level of trust to survive.

When some or all of the trust is lost in any of these relationships, the breakdown will affect everyone involved to some degree. In many of the cases, there is no more relationship. What’s more, it is more difficult for most people to form new relationships after one has been broken. This is the nature of trust, and the importance of maintaining it if at all possible.

How does one go about forming a new relationship? That depends on what type and to what extent trust is involved. We’ll explore these in the future.

Trust from the Land

When our country made the transition from an agricultural nation to an industrial one, we lost something. Before I mention what that was, I do believe the trend was likely inevitable. The demand for manufactured goods was worldwide, and the basic nature of our capitalistic leanings was to supply the need by whatever means necessary. Yet, the pace at which the change occurred, (and still does) was part of the problem with what we left behind.

We lost the methodical, predictable rhythm of the rise and set of the sun, the coming of the rains and seasons, and the harvesting of a crop that was planted in previous months. True, we fought against the droughts, floods, heat and cold. But these were also the very things that re-made and replenished the land in their own way. Farm families stuck together (they still do), and it was a location that brought them back together at the end of the day. We simply needed to find a market for our crop, and get it there. The “idle time” called for by weather and seasons were always spent constructively mending equipment or growing gardens, or teaching our kids. Yes, farmers went bankrupt, but the land did not go away.

Factories ran three shifts, so night and day did not matter. They could speed up or slow down production when called for by demand or efficiency. We were our own bosses, for good or bad (we’ve had both). One could be “transferred” to another branch of the company and asked to travel for meetings or sales events. We spent much time in traveling and thus away from families. This was all part of the “progress” of our industry. The increased speed in demand and competition can only speed up the pace of this life.

Yes, things have changed. Yet, the world still eats, and someone still grows those crops. They still value what most of the country once did. They still have the trust they gain from the the consistency of the land.

My Way or…

One of the best tests of a person’s character is how he/she reacts when things do not go his/her way. When the athlete loses the contest, the candidate loses the election, or the applicant doesn’t get the job, how does he/she react?

This can be observed in nearly every setting in which we find ourselves. When we are part of a group, and the group doesn’t follow our advice, do we stay and continue contributing, or do we leave in anger?

I know several people running for public office, and for the most part, I would love to see them win. Yet, there is a good chance not all of them will. I will be interested to see how they respond to loss.

I hate to lose as much as anyone, and likely more than most. Yet, losing has taught me a lot of what I needed to learn, even if I didn’t want to learn it. First, losing has taught me that I will not always win, and perhaps shouldn’t. (How could that be?) Second, it has taught me that losing is the greatest opportunity to learn. After all, I learn very little when things are going my way. Third, losing has taught me how to allow someone else to win, and that may be the better lesson for the moment.

How have you dealt with loss? We all bring something to the table with this subject.

It Matters

I am fortunate to be able to talk to a lot of people, in various trying circumstances. At times, those circumstances bring out the best in them, instead of the opposite. It is as these times I am truly priveledged to be a part of their day.

Recently in a group setting, a young woman who was in a trying time in her life allowed the best in her to show forth, as she displayed amazing wisdom, beauty and grace in the things she said. As she spoke, she did not show bitterness because of a physical challenge she bore, nor because of a terrible deed committed against her. She talked about the importance of the spiritual walk.

She then said, “what we do matters.” I asked her to explain. “If I treat someone badly, my child may see it and treat someone else badly. What we do matters, so we should always do the right thing.” Such profound depth I could only observe, and enjoy. Whatever else she is, she is a purveyor of what life is really about. At least in some things, she is someone to be trusted.