How to Communicate with Your Spouse Part 1


When it comes to communicating with your spouse or anyone you are close with, the five love languages are a great place to start.  If your spouse feels loved then communication tends to be better and easier.  If they do not feel loved, communication will breakdown.

So let’s take a look at the five love languages.  You can read more about these in Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages

  1. Words of Affirmation

A compliment speaks a Thousand Words! – It’s nice to get compliments from your co-workers, your boss, your friends, your parents or your children, but nothing compares to a compliment from your spouse.

  • This love language helps encourage and give courage to your spouse.
  • If it’s their main love language a simple compliment or word of encouragement can fill a tank for days.

Control that Biting Tongue – Words can kill, damage and destroy.

  • Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
  • Proverbs 12:25 An Anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
  • Proverbs 15:4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
  • Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
  • James 3:8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Read that whole chapter!

Dispel Dominance – Real love makes requests, not demands.

  • When you tell your spouse what needs to be accomplished and do so by lashing out over-assertive words, even if you mean well, you will make your spouse feel Stupid and your words seem to belittle their know-how.
  • But if you make a humble request to your spouse, you are affirming their worth and abilities.
  1. Quality Time
    • Being close does not mean being together.
      1. Togetherness involves more of a connection than just being in the same room or the same house.
      2. Togetherness is when you are paying attention to each other while your together. Your giving your full focus, your fully present and engaged and listening.
  • It doesn’t mean you have to always be talking, it could be having a conversation and then going on a walk together, or watching a favorite TV show together or wash the dishes together or prepare food together.

Talk less, listen more

  • Ask questions and make sure you are paying attention. For men, don’t try to fix things, just listen repeat back some of the things she is saying and ask some questions if needed.
  • A great way to allow for this to happen is to ask your spouse how their day was and then shut up and listen.
  • Your spouse needs to be able to talk to you about what’s going on in their world – at work, at home with the kids, with family or friends.
  • Just 5-10 minutes of this can change the entire evening and atmosphere of the home.
  1. Receiving Gifts

Gifts: a Remembrance, a Symbol of love

  • Gifts can make a spouse feel important, cherished and sweetly remembered.
  • If this is a primary love language this will make his/her day and make them feel special, loved and secure.
  • It’s not as much how much you spend, it’s the fact that you thought about them and took the time to get them something.
  • It’s knowing your spouse well enough to know what they really like

The Gift of Self

  • Sometimes you need to give the gift of yourself by being fully present for your family.
  1. Acts of Service

In Everything you do, do it for Love

  • A husband helping with household chores like laundry, doing dishes, cleaning the house, taking care of the children etc or a wife fixing a leaking pipe, mowing the yard, fixing an appliance.
  • These need to be things that are not you normal household duties that you have agreed on.
  • Again it is when you notice something that needs done and do it without being told.
  • It sends a message that you are important to me, our home is important to me, our children are important to me.
  1. Physical Touch

Hold her when she cries

  • This can be hard for most men as they don’t know what to do when she is upset.
  • A loving husband will not turn and leave, go smoke, get a drink or give a lecture – he will hold her in a tight embrace, run his fingers thru her hair, maybe kiss her head, stroke her hand and make her feel safe in the power of his arms.
  • A physical touch can make or break a relationship – It can communicate love or hate

Touch as if it’s always the first time

  • Touch gives an emotional boost
  • It keeps the fire ablaze – is soothing and healing
  • For men physical touch includes sex but more than just the act of sex it’s the touching by both along the way.
  • Slow down and enjoy each other.
  • Just like a child needs physical touch in order to develop, adults need touch to stay emotionally and mentally healthy.

Talk to your spouse about what their love language is and what yours is

Tell your spouse what is most meaningful to you – don’t make them try to figure it out – (Women)

All of these are important even if it’s not a primary language

Start today, tonight before you go to bed.


Leadership Nuggets


Here are some things I’ve learned about leading people:

  • When people feel like you listen to them they work harder and perform better
  • It’s important to admit when you made a mistake or handled something wrong – be open about it and say it outloud
  • It’s good to change your mind if there is a better idea proposed
  • Ask for feedback and give people permission to be critical of you, the strategies and the ideas
  • Only ask for input from your team if your willing to change what your asking about, if you have already made up your mind it demotivates people to give input and then you just do what you want anyway.
  • Explain the why of your decisions and your strategies
  • It’s OK to have a bad day – if your always happy and positive you don’t comes across as genuine and real.
  • You have to be flexible; with your strategies, your work schedule, your timelines, your budget
  • People follow leaders that are humble yet persistent
  • If you think you know it all you’re not a leader your a dictator
  • Most people want to grow and get better – believe the best about the people you lead
  • Never stop developing yourself, read, learn from others, take risks and learn from failure
  • Write down your goals and share them with your team ask the people you lead to do the same
  • Keep reminding the people you lead what the main targets are and celebrate the wins
  • Be real and vulnerable with your team
  • Empower people and let them do their job
  • Stay connected to your team, meet with them on a regular basis to listen, coach, encourage and re-direct if needed
  • Communicate a lot – when you get information think about who needs to know this and tell them right away
  • Be direct and honest
  • Don’t lead everyone the same way, each person is unique and you need to know what motivates them and what encourages them and what deflates them
  • Love the people you lead – you don’t have to be best friends but you do need to care about them
  • Give feedback as quickly as possible don’t wait for the annual review to talk about things to improve
  • Take personal responsibility and don’t blame others
  • Hire people with good character, people skills and a desire to grow
  • Fire people that can’t get along with people and think they know it all
  • Make decisions and don’t be wishy washy – once you have the input you need make the call
  • Always be thinking about what obstacles might be ahead and how to avoid them
  • Share information quickly and often
  • Be yourself, don’t pretend
  • Pray a lot

My Life Focus


At some point in everyone’s life they ask themselves the question “Why am I here?  What’s the purpose for my life?”  Those are great questions and we should all wrestle with those to discover the answers.  As I’ve worked through those very questions I keep coming back to these three things:  Faith – Character – Leadership

My Life Focus: Sincere Faith, Humble Character & Servant Leadership

The first area of focus or purpose in my life is my faith.  We all have faith in something.  I have chosen to put my faith in Jesus Christ.  He is the most important relationship that I have in my life.  Because of my faith, my perspective on life, the world around me and the people around me is much different.  I believe that everyone is more spiritual that physical.  Our spirit is who we really are and it lives in a temporary body.  I also believe that our spirit will live forever, so even after our body stops working our spirit goes on.  We will live forever somewhere, either in the presence of God or separated from him.  That is why I put my faith in Jesus Christ, because he paid my debt, forgave all my sins and stands in my place before God.  Because I have a relationship with Christ I know where I am going to spend forever.

The second area of focus for my life is humble character.  To me character is about the qualities that a person is known for.  When someone says your name what are the things that come to their mind?  These qualities can be both good and bad.  When you think about what people will talk about at your funeral, that is a good indication of what kind of character you have.  For me, I want those things to reflect these qualities: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.  Our character is always under construction because no one is perfect.  In my life I make mistakes, fail, sin, have bad thoughts and do or say things I regret.  I sometimes have a bad attitude or respond to stressful situations in inappropriate ways.  What I try to do though is learn from those setbacks and bad moments.  Developing our character takes work, pain and struggle but it is totally worth it in the long run.

The last area of focus in my life is servant leadership.  Leadership has been a hot topic for a long time, yet servant leadership is not nearly as popular.  Most leaders would agree with the idea of serving the people around them, yet most people prefer to be served instead of serve others.  As a leader my main focus needs to be on setting the people around me up to win.  Creating space for them to learn and grow by allowing them to do what they are good at and coaching them on what they are not good at.  Servant leadership is about doing what is best for the organization, family or church rather than what is best for me.  Again this is easy to say and hard to do because we all have selfishness in us.  Our tendency is to look out for ourselves, make sure our needs and wants are met before we think about meeting the needs and wants of other people.  Changing that mindset takes work, focus and failure.  The question I try to ask myself is what would the people around me say if they were asked is Chad a servant leader?

My hope is that these three things will inspire you to pursue your life purpose and focus.  Never stop growing.

Lead On

Insights on Leadership


Here are some great insights about leadership from one of the best books ever written about leadership:  The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner

  • Ten Commitments of Leadership
    • Clarify your values by finding your voice and affirming shared ideas.
    • Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.
    • Envision the future by imagining exciting an ennobling possibilities
    • Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations
    • Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve
    • Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.
    • Foster collaboration by building trust and building relationships.
    • Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.
    • Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.
    • Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.


  • must “clarify values”.
  • are supposed to stand up for their beliefs, so they had better have some beliefs to stand up for.
  • inspire a shared vision.
  • live their lives backward, They see the results before the project begins.
  • clear image of the future pulls them forward.
  • cannot command commitment, only inspire it.
  • have to enlist others to a common vision.
  • challenge the process.
  • search for opportunities to innovate, grow, and improve.
  • must pay attention to the capacity of their constituents.
  • have to enable others to act.
  • must create a culture of celebrating values and victories.
  • have the ability to envision the future.
  • have to communicate the vision in ways that encourage people to sign on for the duration and excite them about the cause.
  • must inspire optimal performance fueled by positive emotions.
  • take strong stands
  • must keep promises
  • personify shared values
  • teach others to model the values
  • are able to envision the future
  • need to bring the vision to life
  • need a sense of ongoing learning
  • must be able to trust their team
  • must be trusted
  • often must relinquish control
  • actively seek out ways to increase choice

To promote trust, be the first to:

  • Disclose information about who you are and what you believe.
  • Admit mistakes
  • Acknowledge the need for personal improvement
  • Ask for feedback—positive or negative
  • Listen attentively to what others are saying
  • Invite interested parties to important meetings
  • Share information that is useful to others
  • Openly acknowledge the contribution of others
  • Show that you are willing to change your mind when someone else comes up with a good idea.
  • Avoid taking negatively about others
  • Say, “We can trust them”, and mean it

Lead On

Do You Have A Life Purpose Statement?


For the last 15 years I’ve been working on living out my life purpose statement of “Growing myself and others in Faith, Character and Leadership.”  This has been the driving force for me getting into full time ministry and the reason I get up every morning.  I’ve studied, written about and spoken about those three topics a lot over those 15 years.  Today I want to share why this is so important to me.

I grew up in a religious, conservative community.  We went to church, prayed and talked about the Bible.  I got a good dose of that as I grew up and it influenced me greatly.  I remember praying together as a family, kneeling at our couch praying for people in our extended family.  I remember coming home from High School or seeing my girlfriend and kneeling by my bed and praying before I went to bed.

I remember making a personal commitment to Christ with a friend at his church and then going through a discipleship class with my pastor before being baptized.  I remember having to give my testimony in front of the entire church before my baptism, talk about nervous.

As I got older I continued to follow and believe in God, but I also did a lot of my own thing and many things I should not have been doing.  I drifted away from God, but never gave up on God.  Church became more of an obligation and a social thing for me and I stopped growing spiritually in my mid to late 20’s.  I remember being involved in leadership at the church my wife and I attended, trying to lead change, search for a new pastor and then renovate a house for the new pastor.  I remember being confused about some of the teaching I was hearing and frustrated with the lack of leadership within the church.  I remember having conflict with the pastor and his wife and wondering why do I even try?  So when my term was up as Deacon, we stopped going to church.

For over a year we did not go to church and just did whatever we wanted without thinking much about church or religious stuff.  The church was not relevant to me, but I still believed in God and had a relationship with Jesus even though it was weak.  I was growing as  leader in the business community and was getting recognition for that.  So that is where I was getting my purpose and meaning and not my identity as a Christian.

Then things changed, God never gave up on me and kept slowly drawing me back to him.  It started with people that had a relationship with me inviting me to church.  We finally gave in and went and it really jolted us.  I remember saying to my wife, are they allowed to do that in church?  The music was upbeat and louder than I was used to.  They had fun and the message really made sense.  We weren’t sure about everything but we decided to come back again.

Then the pastor contacted me and we met for lunch.  That led to more lunches and breakfast meetings and then to one-on-one discipleship.  I remember meeting with the pastor early before I went to work at the bank.  I started volunteering and we got into a group.  My wife and I started growing spiritually again and I quickly got involved in leadership.  I ended up on the leadership team and was leading a group and involved in other ministry activities.

As I grew in my faith, my character also started growing and I got better as a leader.  Then God rocked my world by calling me to be in ministry.  I remember the moment at a leadership conference at Willow Creek Church in Chicago.  I surrendered every part of my life and clearly heard God telling me to pursue full time ministry.

That pursuit took over two years, lots of prayer, journaling, studying and conversations with mentors and friends.  It was during that time of self-discovering, searching and seeking God with my whole heart that I found my purpose statement and wrote a description of the man I want to be.  This is what I wrote and this is what drives me to help other people experience what I have experienced in faith, character and leadership.  This is why I love to develop, coach, encourage and challenge other people in those areas as well. I believe a lot of people are on a similar journey, looking for purpose and meaning and wanting to make a difference in the world.  I want to help people avoid some of the mistakes I made and starting growing.

Purpose Statement:

Growing myself & others in Faith, Character & Leadership:

A man devoted to improving his personal relationship with God through consistent prayer and study. A faithful, loving husband. A leader in the community, the church and the workplace. A man of good character and integrity. A life long learner. A servant to God and others. A loyal, caring friend and confidant. A positive proactive person that is willing to learn and grow. A man concerned about having a heart more like Jesus. A life that reflects the fruits of the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.   A man above reproach, who is respectable, hospitable, sincere and honest. A good steward of what God has entrusted him. A mentor and a protege. A teacher and a student. An encourager and a builder. A speaker and a writer. Dependent on God Inspired to serve Devoted to glorifying Jesus Christ.

I am not perfect and I still am working on areas of my life that are not good.  I still have bad days, make mistakes and bad decisions.  But even with all those blemishes in my life I know that I am a child of God that is deeply loved and accepted.  It allows me to lead with my heart, love others, forgive people and press on.


Six Practical Leadership Principles



A lot has been written about leadership, I’ve read books, articles and listened to speakers.  There is not one thing that makes a great leader, each person is a bit different in personality, style, gifting and drive.  Some leaders are bold and charismatic while others are quiet and reserved.  I’ve seen great leaders with each of those traits.  So what’s important to know in leadership?  As a young person what can be done to grow as a leader?

Here are some things I’ve learned over the years in my experience leading in the banking/accounting world and also in full time ministry:

  1. Be the best version of you – Don’t try to copy another leader’s style or personality.  Work at knowing yourself and what your strengths and weaknesses are.  Learn from other leaders but be who you are and keep improving who you are.  Personal growth should be a high priority if you want to be a great leader. Early in my leadership I would often try to imitate leaders that I admired and would wish I had gifts I did not have.  That led to frustration and disappointment.  As I got comfortable with who I was, I got better as a leader.
  2. Ask for criticism and feedback – Give the people around you permission to criticize you and give honest feedback about your leadership and the systems, procedures and policies that are in place.  Create safe ways for that to happen.  Doing that allows people to be open and honest and helps to keep you humble.  When I get critical feedback it always motivates me to get better, focus more and make adjustments and ask questions.
  3. Take the time to plan – Most people do not take time to write down their plans and think about how to get there.  Developing a life plan that involves personal and business is critical for high level leaders.  This means setting aside time to think, study, analyze and dream.  It means writing down your plans or your vision for the future and then developing goals on how to get there.  It also means putting those goals on your calendar, updating your progress as you go and staying focused.  When you spend time planning it’s easier to say no to good things so that you can say yes to the best things.  Planning well keeps you focused on the right things, not the urgent things.
  4. Learn to relax – Most leaders have a high drive and love to get things done.  However, if you run at full speed too long you can blow a gasket or your whole motor.  High level leaders know how to stop, relax and recharge.  They understand when they need to take a break, get away and spend time doing something they love doing or simply spending time with family and friends.  Taking a sabbath day each week is a great place to start.  Don’t wait until you are burned out to relax and recharge, build it into your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly planning.  If you don’t deal with stress, the stress will deal with you.
  5. Build healthy relationships – Leadership is all about relationships.  To build healthy relationship you have to be healthy yourself.  So deal with your junk, go see a counselor or a coach and work on your issues.  Then work at deepening the relationships in your life at home and work.  When the people around you trust you, know you and understand you, the team will be much more productive.  This takes time, patience and lots of hard, honest conversations.  Speaking the truth with love leads to healthier relationships.  Caring about the people you lead is vital in leadership.  If people know that you actually care about them as a person they will follow you wherever you go.
  6. Take Personal Responsibility – This one is huge.  Instead of complaining about what is happening ask yourself how you can lead better, what can you contribute to make things better?  What part do you need to own?  What is under your control?  Doing this helps to keep you humble and focused on yourself and not the other person.  Coming up with solutions to problems instead of complaining about the problems is what high level leaders do.  They own their mistakes, admit when they failed and ask for forgiveness.  They don’t make a bunch of excuses or shift the blame.  This is a mark of maturity and builds incredible trust and respect.

Learning to lead is really learning about yourself, knowing your blind spots and barriers.  Knowing your core fears, weaknesses and scars.  When you raise your level of self-awareness you raise your level of leadership.  Then if you can surround yourself with people that will be honest with you and are gifted in areas you are not, incredible synergy can start to happen.

Six Guideposts for an Emotionally Healthy Life


Living an emotionally healthy life is incredibly freeing.  Yet it is very difficult to do because we all grow up learning unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy emotions.  Think of it like pieces of armor that we put on growing up, defense mechanisms, ways of handling conflict, how to treat other people, what we think about ourselves, others and God.

In order to get healthy here are a six guideposts that can help us all get healthier emotionally and live with freedom and joy.  Many of these guideposts come from researcher, author and speaker Brene’ Brown.

  1. Cultivate authenticity and let go of what other people think –   Authenticity is a choice and must be practiced every day.  It’s letting ourselves been seen for who we really are and also setting healthy boundaries in our lives.  It’s being able to say no in a kind way yet stay firm when pressured.  It’s choosing to have a hard conversation instead of stuffing it and letting resentment fill us up.  It’s paying attention to what we are feeling and why and dealing with the truth.  It’s speaking up instead of holding it in.  It’s taking our mask off and being our true self, imperfections and all.
  2. Cultivate self-compassion and let go of perfectionism – Perfectionism leads to frustration, anger and a host of other unhealthy emotions.  It also leads to negative self-talk and keeps you from moving forward in relationships and projects.  It can feed fear and keep us paralyzed.  To let go of perfectionism we need to be able to practice self-compassion or being kind to ourselves.  It’s allowing ourselves to deeply feel what we are currently going through and understanding that we are not alone in our struggles.  Others have gone through similar things and survived.  We must be able to love ourselves before we can love others.  It’s giving ourselves a break from having to be perfect and always doing the right thing.
  3. Cultivate a resilient spirit and let go of numbing behaviors – This involves knowing who we are and how we are wired.  It is the self-awareness to know what our numbing behaviors are and a willingness to get help to avoid going there.  It’s understanding our purpose in life and God’s plan for our lives.  When we grow spiritually it strengthens our spirit and allows us to bounce back much faster when troubles come.  It’s having a healthy outlet for venting frustrations and pain.  Allowing people close to us to know us and be vulnerable with them about what is happening.  numbing behaviors include things like spending hours on Facebook or social media, watching TV, video games, working.  It can be drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking or watching porn.  It can also be focusing on our phone and not being fully present with the people around us.
  4. Cultivate gratitude & joy and let go of scarcity & fear – It’s not just having an attitude of gratitude, but actually practicing gratitude.  Keeping a gratitude journal and actually telling others how grateful we are for them and the things we are grateful for.  It’s living with an eternal perspective and knowing we have a higher purpose in life.  It’s noticing the little things in life and being able to live in the moment and just be.  It is being comfortable in our own skin and not trying to be somebody we are not.  It’s having an abundance mentality, and not a scarcity mentality.  It’s being generous with our time, our money and possessions and our abilities by helping and serving others.
  5. Cultivate intuition and trusting faith and let go of the need for certainty – Certainty is not real but uncertainty is.  Our intuition comes from the experiences we have had in life.  To cultivate intuition we need to think about and learn from our experiences.  It’s also important to grow in our faith and keep searching for answers to life’s questions.  Yet it’s also being OK with not having all the answers.  Many people would rather be miserable and certain than emotionally healthy and uncertain.  One way to cultivate intuition and trusting faith to create time for silence and solitude.  Building time into our schedules to connect with God, feed our soul and nourish our minds.
  6. Cultivate creativity and let go of comparison – Every human being is creative, some people practice using it more than others.  Unused creativity turns into unhealthy emotions like anger, judgement, rage and depression.  When we start comparing ourselves to others our creativity goes down because of fear.  Often because of something someone said or did to us as a child we avoid being creative because we fear not being good enough.  When children get to be in the 4th and 5th grade their level of creativity goes way down because that is when their art begins to get graded and compared to others.  To cultivate creativity we need to start doing something we gave up or thought we were no good at.  Start drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, taking pictures, making videos.  Finding our creative side and exercising it will bring joy, freedom and energy into our lives.  Do something creative today.

Start pursuing an emotionally healthy life by cultivating the good and letting go of the bad.

Top Ten Proverbs


Recently I challenged a group of guys I meet with to read through the book of Proverbs and identify their top ten.  We all found that very challenging as there are so many great Proverbs.  So here are my top ten:

  1. Proverbs 3:5,6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
  2. Proverbs 4:23  “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
  3. Proverbs 11:2  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
  4. Proverbs 11:25  “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
  5. Proverbs 12:18  “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  6. Proverbs 19:11  “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
  7. Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
  8. Proverbs 27:1  “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
  9. Proverbs 28:13  “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
  10. Proverbs 27:17  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

If you can’t read through all the Proverbs take some time over the next several days and read these 10 and ask God to help you understand how they apply to you personally.



Summer 2015 Reading List



Reading is one of the most important things you can do to learn, grow and improve yourself.  I love to read and I try to read one or two books a month.  I also listen to pod casts, and audio books to keep feeding my mind good stuff.  As a leader this is vital to keep stretching and pushing yourself to get better.

So over the next several months I plan on doing a lot of reading.  I have carved out some extra time to allow for this by taking some vacation time and incorporating it into my regular work schedule.

Here are the books I am currently reading and several I plan on reading later:

Business Books:

Spiritual and Personal Growth:

Audio Books:

Just for Fun:

A Key to Stronger Relationships


I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships.   Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic.  Much of this post is based on her research.

One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame.  Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement.  However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow.  So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others.  Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.

In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it.  This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own.  It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them.  It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up.  It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.

Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental.   Most of us are  judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame.  We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves.  We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.

Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally.  Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.

When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation.  It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole.  Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened.  When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  There is a big difference.

When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage.  To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions.  It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.

However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable.  When we are vulnerable we are our true self.  We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy.  The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all  of that and the person loves you even more.

So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective.  Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together.  Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life.  Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame.  When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.