How to Communicate with Your Spouse Part 1

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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.

 

A Key to Stronger Relationships

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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.

 

Unexpected Words From God

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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.

The One Skill That Will Transform Your Leadership

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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.

  1. Stop trying to multitask – When you are in a meeting or someone is talking to you, stop what you are doing, turn your body to face them, look them in the eye and focus on what they are saying.  When you have your computer open or are watching TV or are looking at your phone or glancing past their shoulder, you are sending a message that this is not important to you and that you aren’t interested.  That immediately generates negative emotions in the other person.
  2. Ask Questions – When you ask questions to clarify or find out more, it communicates that you really are interested and want to understand.  This helps to avoid misunderstandings and keeps you from trying to redirect, avoid or be defensive.  When you are seeking to first understand before being understood you will automatically start thinking of questions to ask before you start giving your answer or your defense.
  3. Follow-up – When you follow up with someone or follow through on something it sends the message that you listened.  Even if you cannot do what they asked, it is vital to get back with them and explain why.  Simply sending a follow-up email, writing a note or sending a text are great ways to let that person know you heard them and value them.  When someone tells you something or asks you for something and you never get back with them it sends the message that you don’t care and they are not important.
  4. Respond quickly – When someone sends you a message, whether its a text, email, phone message or direct message, respond as soon as possible.  Even if you can’t give them a full answer, at least acknowledge that you got it and will be getting back to them.  People communicate through messaging and so as a leader it is important to respond as quickly as you can.  It sends a message that you value them.  Find a good system that works for you to respond to all the messages you get everyday – No excuses just do it.

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.

4 Ways To Growing Your Faith

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:

  • Listen – Most people are busy and we run from one thing to the other.  We can fill our lives with all kinds of activities that distract us from listening to God.  Brian’s new journey started while on vacation away from the distractions of life.  Say no to some things so you can slow down and listen more and run less.  Maybe its time for a short retreat to listen to God.
  • Read – Even if your not much of a reader, this is a key to growing spiritually.  Most people don’t use much of the brain God gave them.  I know I don’t.  Reading the Bible and books about God, christian living, relationships and even leadership will stretch your mind and help you to grow.  Brian told me he has read more in the last two months than he had in the last 10 years.  He said his mind has been opened up and he is able to learn and grow like never before.  Make a goal of reading a book of the Bible and another book on faith within the next two months.  Reading feeds your mind and is one way to hear from God.
  • Pray – That may sound simple, yet many of us don’t take the time to pray.  When we do its a quick thought or running through a list of items we need help with.  What I am talking about is having a real conversation with God.  Pouring out your heart and opening yourself up to what God wants to do in you.  Start to pray out loud even when you are alone.  Brian has gone on prayer walks and spends time throughout the day in conversation with God.  Make it a practice to praise and thank God every day, confess anything that needs confessed, pray for people that God brings to your mind.  Also pray for God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and for wisdom, courage and strength to do His will.  You might even consider fasting and praying.  Maybe you should get on your knees or even bow down on your face and pray & listen.
  • Do – It is great to read, study, learn and pray, yet if you don’t do something you will not change.  Brian got involved in his church.  He volunteered for the prayer ministry and quickly began leading that ministry.  This helped him put into practice what God started in private.  He started praying for people and God started using him to impact peoples lives.  He did some things that made him uncomfortable and stretched him, and God used it to change him and the people around him.  When you listen, read and pray God directs you in what to do.  God will give you opportunities to influence other people, serve other people, encourage other people and even heal other people.

Lead On