Seven Communication Ideas

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.

When it comes to any kind of leadership, it’s all about how you handle the relationships around you. Whether you are at home, work, school or out with friends, communication sets the tone. People want to be heard, understood and appreciated. If you can do that we’ll, you will be a great leader, spouse or friend.

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.

The Game Changing Relational Skill

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.

The Three Main Roles Of A Leader

 

 

 

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:

  • Care – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Guide – In this role you will need to guide people in the direction you want them to go. Sometimes a gentle nudge or sometimes a more direct push.  This can get messy as people are messy.  It’s knowing when to nudge and when to push.
  • Pay attention to immediate needs – If one of your team is having a personal crisis be sure to pay attention and listen to see how you can help them through it.  It can also be simply making sure your team members have what they need to get their work done.
  • Need-oriented – When you are in shepherding mode you are making sure that basic needs are being taken care of and that vital resources are made available.
  • Listen – Take time to get to know the people you lead.  Listen, ask questions about their family and show them you are concerned.
  • Listen some more – This is all about establishing trust with your team.  When you take the time to get to know them personally people start to trust you more
  • Be vulnerable – this takes courage as a leader, but your team needs to know you and what is going on in your life as well.  If you are real with them, they will be real with you.

Another important role of a leader is to equip the people on their team.  Here are some thoughts on equipping people:

  • Training – this is about making sure they are learning the skills needed to do the job.
  • Direct – In this role you will need to tell people what to do.  You will need to give them their objectives and maybe even help with the strategies on how to accomplish the objectives.
  • Task focused – to equip someone you need to assign some tasks to them to see how they handle it.  This is a great way to test them to see what their capacity is.
  • Skill-oriented – In this role the leader is focusing on skill sets that are needed to be effective in their area of work.
  • Coaching – this is when you are working on fundamentals and keep bringing them back to those basics that make a difference.  Explaining the why behind what we are doing.
  • Instruction – often the leader is in teaching mode or is making sure that someone on the team is teaching the others how to do something.
  • Demonstration – The leader needs to model what he wants done.
  • Experience – Here you need to allow people some room to grow, stretch and make mistakes.  Then evaluate those experiences with them to make sure they are learning from that experience.
  • Assessment – You need to debrief often with people so that they are clear on the objectives and expectations you have.  This should be done one-on-one and in teams.

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.

  • Training for personal growth – Here your time with them has a different focus, it’s more on their personal growth and having a plan for them in that area.
  • Influence – In this role you are more a presence and the people you lead will set their own objectives and strategies with your oversight.  They will take initiative on their own and you are more their cheerleader.
  • Personal Focus – You should have a plan for each team member based on where they are at in  their development.
  • Character-oriented – Here is where you dig a little deeper and talk about character qualities and work on developing stronger character and healthier relationships
  • Few – You usually can’t do this with everyone on your team.  This should be your high potentials.
  • Empowering – Here is when you can allow them to lead and get out of their way
  • Mentoring – Your role is more of a mentor, sharing your life experience with them and answering the questions they have.

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.

How Healthy Are You?

 

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:

  1. Approaching people from the beginning with an attitude of mistrust. Many people have a built-in attitude of mistrust.  This attitude says, “I will not trust you until you prove that I can trust you.”  That is the reverse of what a healthy person would think.  This attitude often is the result of being hurt in the past and therefore guarding against that ever happening again.
  2. Believing something to be true when you don’t have all the facts.  In other words assuming things that turn out to be false or untrue.  This happens when you don’t ask questions and dig for the truth.  It also happens when you automatically think the worst instead of believe the best.
  3. Believing what someone says without hearing the other side of the story or knowing all the facts.
    Healthy people don’t draw conclusions without doing due diligence.

So how do you build trust?  How do you change a culture in a home, church or workplace that has mistrust?

  1. Choose to trust unless you are given a reason not to.
  2. Assume that motives are right even when you disagree.
  3. Be proactive in clarifying issues rather than assuming something to be true.

Finally here are some trust building principles that will help transform your relationships at home and at work.

  • Choose to Trust – Choose to trust people unless they give you a reason not to.  When trust is broken make the effort to let that person know how trust can be re-established.
  • Be up-front and candid – Tell people what you are thinking and don’t hope they pick up on your hints.  Tell people what your expectations are and be clear about what you are thinking and why.
  • Keep your Promises – Do what you say you will do and be honest when you know you can’t.
  • Act Consistently – Your life needs to match your words.  You need to be consistent in how you treat people, how you express love to people and how you handle conflict.
  • Listen Carefully – This will transform your relationships because it will help to cut down on misunderstandings.  To listen well you need to ask clarifying questions, repeat back what the person said, honestly consider peoples opinions and suggestions and even change your mind if they have a better idea.  Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
  • Caring for People – Be genuine and treat people the way you would want to be treated.  Care about them as a whole person not just for how they can help you.  No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Be Self-Disclosing -Be quick to admit your own weaknesses and when you have made a mistake.  Share your story with people in appropriate ways.  For people you are close with open up and share the good the bad and the ugly.  If you are hiding something, it eventually comes out in your behavior.
  • Empower people don’t control – Give people the freedom to do what they are responsible to do.  Allow them to make mistakes and coach when necessary.  In a marriage relationship this means allowing your spouse to have other friends and activities they enjoy.  Clarify your desires and vision for your marriage.  Speak their love language without expecting them to speak yours.  Don’t give in order to get.
  • Clarify, don’t Assume – Always believe the best instead of assuming the worst.  When he is late again, believe that he had a busy day and something unexpected came up instead of assuming he intentionally worked late to make you mad.

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 Matter – 6 Principles

 

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:

  • Choose your words wisely – There is great power in the tongue it can quickly cut someone down or build someone up.  The way in which you talk to someone reveals a lot about the relationship.  If there is sarcasm, belittling statement, swearing, name calling and no respect it shows a very unhealthy relationship.  Often the way to start turning around a relationship is to change the words you are using.
  • Actively Listen – This is different that just hearing what is said.  To work at a relationship you need to actively listen by using good eye contact, and body language such as turning your body toward the person and giving them your full attention.  It is also asking questions to clarify what the other person is saying.  This is a huge key in avoiding misunderstandings which is the biggest cause of arguments.
  • Resolve Conflicts – Working through conflict is vital for healthy relationships.  When we have unresolved conflict it builds up under the surface of our relationship and and eventually comes back out, often in an unhealthy way.  Here are a few do’s and don’ts when it come to conflict:
  1. Don’t bury the problem or the pain it’s causing you.
  2. Don’t use inflammatory remarks, sarcasm, or name-calling. Don’t generalize or exaggerate.
  3. Don’t let the conflict broaden to other issues.
  4. Never use ultimatums or threats.
  5. Don’t use disrespectful body language or demeaning nonverbal communication.
  6. Don’t interrupt, don’t raise your voice, don’t walk away or withdraw or hang up the phone in the middle of conflict.
  7. Do take time out to regain your composure.
  8. Do prepare for the confrontation before you engage in it.
  9. Do ask for advice on what you can do to help resolve the problem.
  10. Do use many encouraging and positive statements.
  11. When possible, reassure the person of your ongoing commitment to them and your desire to strengthen and build the relationship.
  • Practice Forgiveness – Proverbs 10:12 says “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”  Anytime you get hurt, it is a great opportunity to respond with forgiveness and loving kindness.  There is no act or attribute that is more pleasing to God than when we forgive one another.  For any relationship to last, forgiveness must be ever present.  To combat anger we must forgive.
  • Fight against pride and selfishness – Those two things will cause the most damage in our relationships.  To fight pride, practice humility which means thinking more about others than ourselves.  It also means that we realize that we don’t know it all and that we can learn and grow.  To fight selfishness we need to serve others.  When we actively look to serve the people in our lives it shows our love and it also helps us to grow in character.
  • Know what the other person’s love language is and speak it often – The five love languages are – Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch and Giving Gifts.

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.