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
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.
Control that Biting Tongue – Words can kill, damage and destroy.
Dispel Dominance – Real love makes requests, not demands.
Talk less, listen more
Gifts: a Remembrance, a Symbol of love
The Gift of Self
In Everything you do, do it for Love
Hold her when she cries
Touch as if it’s always the first time
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.
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.
Last week I attended a Night of Worship at the Dover campus of NewPointe Community Church. I am a pastor at one of the other campuses, so it was nice for me to just be a regular guy attending and worshiping. I have to admit I went to see if I could get some ideas on how to make our worship event better the following week. As I got there and walked in I connected with a few people I know, but was pretty anonymous and slipped into a seat about a third of the way up. As the music started I sang, prayed and even raised my hands throughout the evening. I was also critiquing some of what was happening, making note of things I would do differently and things that I liked.
Then God did something unexpected. I don’t remember the exact time during the service or what song we were singing, but I heard God say “Don’t Eat!” I have to admit I was a little startled and confused. I asked God if that was from Him and if I heard him right. I heard it again “Don’t Eat!” That same morning in the church service I sat in on at my campus our senior pastor had mentioned the idea of Fasting as a spiritual discipline. I have fasted before with other people and by myself. I have given up TV, sports, coffee, food, meat and movies. Yet this time was different because God was telling me not to eat.
So I didn’t eat any food for the next three days. Each day I talked to God and when I asked if I could eat I heard “not yet”. During those three days, I was hungry and even felt some hunger pains. Yet each time I thought about being hungry I immediately connected with God and talked to Him. I felt such an inner peace and strength that seemed to get stronger each day. This three day fast reminded me how much I take food for granted. I don’t have to wonder where or when my next meal will come from. I can eat anytime I want and eat anything I want. Yet I am not all that grateful for what I have.
It’s the same way spiritually. God is with us all the time, we can talk to him anytime and ask for anything. Yet too often we take that for granted and only turn to him when things go wrong or we need something. Those three days of eating reminded me that I need God 24/7. That when I am connected to him the temptations are less powerful, the way I respond to things is much better and I make better decisions.
Psalm 63:1 says “God you are my God. I search for you. I thirst for you like someone in a dry, empty land where there is no water.” When I read that I had to admit that I do not pursue God like I would pursue water if I had none. Am I really hungry for God, desperate to know him more and more?
Jesus said this in Mathew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
When push comes to shove, what is most important to me? What takes priority?
God doesn’t need people to evangelize the earth, do missions projects or give away millions of dollars. He looks for people who will worship him in spirit and truth. Not just on Sunday mornings or whenever our day of rest is. God wants people who will worship him in the way they live. God made us to worship and every day we worship something.
When I hunger and thirst for God and seek him with all my heart, I get a glimpse of how much he loves me. As I grow, I understand a little bit better the depth of that love. God’s love for me never changes, yet as I change and grow, I get a clearer perspective of God, the world around me and the people in it.
That all came as a result of hearing two words from God and then obeying him. What would happen if we would listen to God all the time and really trust him with everything? What would happen if we did what he told us to do? What if we would follow his commands and live our lives fully surrendered to him?
On Thursday morning I woke up and knew I could eat again. The granola with Almond milk tasted better than ever before. I was grateful for the food I had in the house and once again my mind turned to God and his provision and care for me. I had a good day with my wife and got some time to rest and relax.
Then on Saturday something happened that I almost missed. It’s easy to just write things off as weird or a coincidence. I was bored and was flipping through the television, looking to escape into a movie or something entertaining before the Buckeyes came on that evening. We all know that there are lots of unwholesome things on television and I can get drawn into movies or shows that have too much sex, violence and bad language in them them. As I was searching, the smoke detector in the room beside be would beep from time to time. I thought that was odd, but dismissed it because I figured it just needed new batteries. I ended up watching a movie that was not the best choice.
I told my wife afterward about the smoke detector and as I was telling her I realized the smoke detector is hard wired and does not use batteries. It has not beeped since then. Then it hit me, was God warning me, trying to get my attention and help me avoid temptations. Then this verse came to my mind in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
I wish I had that power I felt when I was fasting all the time. If only I had paid closer attention to that warning, I could have fed my mind with something much better. I don’t always turn to God even when he is right in front of me. I guess that is the human side of us, yet God’s love never changes and he sees me as his beloved son even when I miss the way he gives me to escape temptations.
I am excited about what God is doing in me and who he wants me to become. The more I seek him and hunger after him the more he can use me to impact and influence other people. The more I listen and pay attention and then obey what he is telling me the more fruitful my life will become. We are all in process and when we allow God to drive and we trust him amazing things can happen.
When it comes to leadership development there are so many resources out there that it can be hard to know what to focus on. I love reading about leadership and how to develop solid healthy relationships. Developing as a leader is vital for you to survive in your work environment, your home environment and in your own personal internal world.
There is no magic pill to take to become a great leader. It takes hard work, patience, failure and learning from experience to become a great leader. The same can be said of a great marriage or relationship.
The one skill that I have kept coming back to, that makes the most difference is listening. If I had to name one skill that could make the biggest difference in any organization, family, marriage or individual it would be listening.
When the people around you truly believe you are listening to them they feel that you care and value them. That creates a place where people feel safe, trusted and valuable. When people don’t believe you are listening to them, it creates many negative emotions like fear, anger, frustration, helplessness and indifference.
Entire books have be written about listening, but I want to give you a few simple things you can do at work and home to improve your listening quickly.
If your focus is on listening to the people around you, you will also start noticing things. You will pick up on when someone is struggling or hurting. You can even get some great new ideas. Listening will also help you be more patient, less emotional and more respected.
If you think about the people you like to be around, it’s people that listen well, they ask you questions and seem to be genuinely interested in you. Listening is something that’s ultimately done by an individual. Yet an organization or family can also have a culture that endorses and supports listening in all directions and ways.
One of the best ways you can develop yourself is to become a better listener. The cool thing is that you can start today, right now, with the next conversation you have.
This week I met with my older brother Brian for lunch. We don’t get to spend much time together anymore so it was nice to meet with him and talk about what is going on in his life. He is facing some big life-changing things like starting his own business, being an empty nester and getting involved in ministry at his church.
As we talked, I could see and hear how much God has been working in his life. He has grown more in the last two months than he had for the last several years. God really has gotten a hold of him and he is following God with all his heart. As I heard him talk about how close he felt to God I got to thinking about how many people aren’t experiencing that kind of relationship with God. Brian includes God in every decision and won’t make a move without hearing from God. He works hard at what he knows he should be doing and waits on God for things he is unsure of.
So here are a few keys I learned from Brian to growing our faith:
Communication is one of the most important skills a leader has. The ability to clearly communicate with the people around you is vital to the success of any business, marriage or relationship.
Here are a few ideas on how to improve as a communicator. Do these these things consistently and your relationships will improve.
– understand your listeners frame of reference – this is important because everyone has a different filter. They have different experiences, personalities, hurts and hang-ups. So you need to think about how they might view what you are saying, not from your perspective but theirs.
– know the facts and the truth about the topic – focusing on the facts and truth can help take the emotion out of it. It also will help your listener understand the why behind your message.
– shed light on the issue – you need to clearly explain why this issue is important to your listener.
– get their full attention – you must know the best time to have the talk. Only address important issues when you have someone’s full attention. You might need to make a statement or ask a question that will get their attention. Never use negative tactics like sarcasm or yelling or swearing.
– use word pictures or stories – people remember pictures and stories much better than words. Try to use a story to bring clarity to what you are communicating and why you are feeling a certain way.
– focus on the real issues – it takes work to figure out the real issues that are driving someone’s behavior. Asking questions to try to understand the real issue is important, but you must listen without reacting or challenging them as they answer. Patiently ask clarify questions and even repeat back what they said.
– finally, be interactive – what I mean by that is don’t lecture someone, make it more of a conversation. When you listen before you speak, you send the message to the other person that you care about them. If things begin to escalate stop, take a deep breath and ask a clarifying question. If you cant do that, then you need a break until you or the other person are in a better place to talk.
Communication is something we do every day. If we don’t work at it and improve the way we communicate all of our relationships will suffer. If this is an area of struggle find someone to coach you, it will be well worth the effort.
Empathy is critical to emotional health. This is the ability to discern emotions in others and then experience, within ourselves, the same emotion. This is much different than sympathy, which is the mental awareness of what another person is going through.
Developing the ability to empathize is important if you want to improve your relationships and get healthy emotionally. Why is it important to be healthy emotionally. Well, I believe that our emotions play a big part in our physical and spiritual health as well. Emotions live inside us and if painful emotions are living inside you they eventually come out in behavior, thoughts and attitude. Unresolved emotions can lead to physical illness and mental damage as well. It also affects your relationship with God.
Emotions should not control us, we should understand and control our emotions. We should not try to shut off our emotions or hide them, that is why empathy is so important. It helps us to connect with and understand other people much better.
To develop empathy we must learn to listen and observe words, sounds and body language. Jesus was amazingly empathetic. He was moved with compassion as he discerned the needs and pain of others. Read Mathew 9:36 and 20:34.
When we can empathize with someone three things will happen:
1. The other person will feel that someone cares for them and is willing to enter into their emotional world.
2. They feel like someone understands them.
3. They feel that it’s ok to be emotional and express emotions, in other words, my emotions are legitimate.
All emotions can be grouped into two categories: Potentially painful and potentially positive. The Bible teaches us how to attune or empathize to these two groups of emotions. In Romans 12:15 it says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”
When someone is sad, we often think it is important to try to cheer them up. That is our natural response, but what is actually most helpful is to be sad with that person. Seems odd, but that is what empathy is. The people around us will feel blessed when we allow and encourage them to express their positive or painful emotions and we either rejoice or mourn with them.
This life skill of empathy is a game-changer for relating to other people. This skill allows you to connect with people in a way that helps them feel safe and valued. They will actually feel better after talking with you than before. It also helps you to better understand why people do what they do.
As a mentor and a pastor this skill has helped me to help other people. When people cannot process their emotions with someone they end up in a downward spiral that leads to destruction of relationships, and their physical well being. It often causes them to feel distant from God as well. To stay healthy emotionally a person must be able to process and express their emotions to God and other people.
As a leader, spouse, parent, boss, employee, sibling or friend, the ability to empathize will improve your relationships and deepen them as well. Learning this skill takes time, effort and patience. Paying attention to the details, asking the right questions and sometimes just being silent and feeling the emotion the other person is feeling. This can be hard work and frustrating at times, but in the long run empathy leads to better emotional health for you and those around you.
Whether you are a leader in the business world, non-profit world or church world, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ you have three main roles. These roles are each important, but you can’t be effective as a leader unless you are doing all three.
The three roles I am talking about are Shepherding, Equipping and Developing. First lets look at shepherding. This may not be a term you use much in the business world but it is a great description of a leader that cares for the people he is leading. You see a shepherd is responsible for the flock of sheep entrusted to him. He knows each sheep and makes sure they have what they need and pay attention when one gets hurt. He leads them to where they need to go and develops a trusting relationship with the sheep.
So what does that look like in today’s world. Here are some things a leader can do to shepherd his team:
Another important role of a leader is to equip the people on their team. Here are some thoughts on equipping people:
The last role is that of development. This is the hardest of the three roles because it takes the most time. However, this is the most powerful role a leader has and brings the biggest results in the long run.
These roles are all vital and you will have to play each role every day based on personal and work situations. At times you will need to shepherd and care for even your most talented people. It takes some time and practice to be able to switch gears based on the situation and the person, but the results will be worth it.
When we talk about health most of us think about our physical health. That is an important thing and I try to take that seriously by eating healthy and exercising. Emotional and spiritual health is something we don’t think about or talk about as much. I believe that they are even more important than physical health because they contribute to physical health. When we are unhealthy emotionally or spiritually it can actually contribute to physical problems because of the unhealthy beliefs and thinking that contribute to the emotional state we are in. So how do we get a handle on how healthy we are emotionally.
One of the biggest indicators of emotional health is the level of trust a person has. The dysfunction of mistrust hurts relationships, marriages, work environments, churches, families and even entire countries. Mistrust and control often go hand in hand. At its core control comes from not trusting others to make healthy and wise choices. Mistrust is often present when there is not proper clarity and when boundaries are not defined. When their is a lack of communication people begin to mistrust. Here are some things that create a culture of mistrust, either at home or at work:
So how do you build trust? How do you change a culture in a home, church or workplace that has mistrust?
Finally here are some trust building principles that will help transform your relationships at home and at work.
Healthy people trust, unhealthy people mistrust. It is the same way spiritually. Healthy people trust God completely and believe He will do what he says He will do. I encourage you to get healthy, take a risk and start trusting more.
Relationships are so important and yet they are also so challenging. When you think about it relationships are what matter most in life because that is what people will remember. I have been doing a lot of funerals lately and am always reminded that none of know how long we have or how old we really are. That is why it is so important to make sure that we are working on the relationships in our lives. Checking our priorities to make sure we are actually putting things like family, spouse, children, friends and God at the top of the list. The real test is what we actually do, not what we say. That is where the real work comes in, putting effort into the important relationships.
Here are several principles that will improve all your relationships if applied:
- Don’t bury the problem or the pain it’s causing you.
- Don’t use inflammatory remarks, sarcasm, or name-calling. Don’t generalize or exaggerate.
- Don’t let the conflict broaden to other issues.
- Never use ultimatums or threats.
- Don’t use disrespectful body language or demeaning nonverbal communication.
- Don’t interrupt, don’t raise your voice, don’t walk away or withdraw or hang up the phone in the middle of conflict.
- Do take time out to regain your composure.
- Do prepare for the confrontation before you engage in it.
- Do ask for advice on what you can do to help resolve the problem.
- Do use many encouraging and positive statements.
- When possible, reassure the person of your ongoing commitment to them and your desire to strengthen and build the relationship.
I could keep going, but those are some of the best things we can do to improve any relationship that is important to us. Keep working at it, it is worth the effort. A healthy happy relationship will bring great joy and peace into your life.