I spend a good bit of time with people that are in the midst of personal catastrophes. Most are relational struggles, whether in a marriage, a family or at work. The health of our relationships are an indicator of the health of ourselves.
Whenever I am meeting with someone that is going through a relational struggle, I always try to bring it back to the person I am talking with. There is not much in life that we can control, but when it comes to ourselves, we do have a choice in what we do, think, say and believe.
For someone that has a broken relationship, it always starts with yourself. It is easy to look at those around you and blame their behavior, attitude or hurtful actions for why things are so bad. Yet that will never resolve the issue or change the circumstances. It always starts in your own heart. It starts with your own character. Your character is who you really are. It will reflect how much you accomplish in life and how well you love yourself and others.
Your character is the internal script that you follow in response to conflict, mistreatment, pain and even success. When that script is focused on yourself and preserving or getting what you want, the actions that follow will usually dig the hole even deeper or add fuel to the fire. Part of our character is the defense mechanism’s we have developed over the years in dealing with conflict and pain. It might be sarcasm, humor, withdrawing/silent treatment, yelling/escalating or even going into fix it mode.
Changing that internal script is hard work, yet it is the only way to work through a relational crisis. It starts by taking personal responsibility for what you contributed and how you have reacted. Then it involves the hard work of self-actualization, seeing yourself, your reactions, your character and your beliefs and where you are off course. This is hard work and will take the help of God and other people. It means being humble enough to ask for help and to admit your mistakes. When you get on your knees and ask God to change your heart and character, that is when the rough edges start to get smoothed out. It will take time, perseverance, patience and practice, but you can change.
Working on yourself is one of the most productive things you can do in order to be successful in life. Take the time and energy to get healthy emotionally, to work through the hurts and hang-ups from your past. Take time to grow in your faith and connect more with God and involve him in every area of your life. Take time to build trust with yourself and others and work on relational skills like listening, asking questions, asking for and extending forgiveness.
The best thing you can do for any relationship in your life is to be healthy emotionally, spiritually, relationally and physically. In a relational crisis the way in which you respond will either add fuel to the fire or add water to the fire. How you respond is a reflection of your character. The choice is always yours.
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.