Life is Better When We Bring Others Along

My life is much more enjoyable when I am interacting and connecting with others.  I would much rather bring people along as I travel through life than take the journey as a solitary traveler.  But how do we go about bringing others along on our life journey?  Below are 4 suggestions for building connections with the people you’re going through life with:

Include them in what’s going on in your life

Share significant news with those closest to you.  Don’t let them hear it through the grapevine.  Give people some details about what you’re up to when they ask, instead of just saying, “Not much” or “I’m fine”.  You don’t need to give a full account of every detail, or dump a bunch of bad news on folks, but let them know what you’re up to.  How can we be encouraged or comforted by others, or be encouraging or comforting to others,  if we don’t let each other know what’s going on in our lives?

Be interested in what others are doing

Going through life with others is not an exercise in collecting a supporting cast for ourselves.  It is bi-directional.  There is communication, concern, and caring that goes both ways.  The best way we can show interest in others is to listen to them when they are telling us about something going on in their life.  We can ask questions, not just for the sake of asking, but to learn more about them and how they’re feeling, what makes them tick, and what’s important to them.  I think one of the greatest gifts we can give people is our genuine interested attention.

Ask people for help

People want to help those they know and like.  For some reason thought, it is difficult to ask others for help, even when we could really use it.  We need to work at getting better at asking for help.  There’s no benefit to being a Lone Ranger, thinking we can figure a situation out all on our own.  Plus, we rob others of the opportunity to be a potential blessing to us with the assistance they could provide.

Treat people well

Thank others when they assist or bless you.  Tell them something you like or admire about them.   Send an email, write a letter, or make a phone call of encouragement, gratitude, appreciation, or comfort.  Depending on your relationship with them, let them know you love them.

When done genuinely, all of these steps require a degree of vulnerability.  That vulnerability comes from taking a risk to open up and share our real-self with others.  In doing so, we also give others a safe place to do likewise with us.

Coming in Second Place

I don’t mind coming in second place, as long as I know that I’ve done my best.  However, there is nothing more frustrating than coming in second place to a smartphone.

Has it ever happened to you?  You’re interacting with another person when all at once, they stop interacting with you in order to respond to incessant smartphone notifications.   Worse yet, without even being prompted by a notification, they decide that interacting with you would be a good time to check social media updates, look at email, or see if any new texts have arrived.

Maybe you’ve even been with someone who is close to you who would rather pull out their smartphone and totally zone out, all but forgetting that you are present and eager to interact with them.

What’s up with that?

What kind of messages are we sending to people when we use our smartphones take priority over our interactions with them?  Those coming in second place to a smartphone are likely thinking:

  • Do they think I’m boring?
  • Would they rather be doing something else than being here with me?
  • Why did they agree to get together when they’d rather be on their phone than interact with me?
  • Are they looking to see what others are doing that is more exciting than what they’re doing right now?
  • What’s so exciting on your phone that you can’t put it down long enough to have a real person-to-person interaction?
  • This is the last time I’ll agree to get together with them in person. I’d get a better response if I just sent them a text.

I don’t know if people are intentionally trying to kill human interaction when they do these things.  My guess is that they are not even aware that they are putting their smartphone in first place.  Perhaps they’re just choosing the path of least resistance, because for some, human interaction is work.

Here are a couple of suggestions to ensure that we’re putting the people we’re with in first place:

  • Put your smartphone in airplane mode before you meet the other person
  • Keep your smartphone out of site during your interaction. Sometimes just the site of your smartphone can cause the other person to think you’re expecting a call, text, or social media update.
  • Don’t be so quick to want to find the answer to every question raised. They don’t all need to be answered on the spot.  Sometimes it ok if they’re not answered at all.  Sometimes it’s ok just to wonder.
  • If you truly would rather not spend time with the person, then don’t agree to. That would be a much kinder solution than putting them in second place.

Let’s put those we’re with in first place by giving them the gift of our undistracted attention.  Not only will they appreciate it, they will be likely do the same for you.

Letting People Know

During our Thanksgiving dinner this year my mom asked a question of everyone at the table.  She wanted hear from each person about someone who has had an impact on our life over the past year and what that impact was.  What a great question and conversation starter.

As everyone shared, it was evident that we had all been blessed by the kindness of other people that had been willing to make meaningful contributions to our lives.  However, the conversation didn’t end there.  After everyone had shared, my mom took it one step further.  She encouraged each of us to contact the person we talked about, be it with a phone call, letter, or email, and let them know the impact they had had on us.

What a great suggestion!  Most people I know want to make an impact in the lives of others, but I wonder how many of them have actually been told that they indeed made an impact.  My guess is that the number is rather small.  Sadly, it’s likely the impact people have made in the lives of others is often not talked about until someone’s funeral or memorial service.

I don’t want to wait until someone’s funeral to talk about their impact on my life.  I’d rather tell them while they’re still around.  Therefore, I’m going to do what I’m mom suggested and write some letters, not only to the person I mentioned, but to others who have impacted me as well.

So who has impacted your life?  Who has made a difference to you or has made your life better just by their presence and willingness to invest their time into you?  As my mom did for us, I encourage you to let them know?  Make a phone call, send an email, fire off a text, or send a hand written note.  It doesn’t have to be something lengthy or formal.  It can be as simple as a couple of sentences stating what they have done for you, how it has impacted you, and your gratitude.

Imagine the impact your words of recognition and gratitude could have one someone who has impacted you.

 

 

Connecting With Those You’re With

I was out to dinner with a group of 6 people earlier this week.  At one point during the meal something funny was said, and one of the people at the table laughed out loud with one of those great infectious laughs that make other people that hear it begin laughing as well.  It went on for several minutes.  It was great!

Several times prior to this uproarious event there were instances when most of the people in the group were on their smart phones at the same time, either looking up someplace to eat, or just checking in on social media.   It’s always weird to me when a group of people that have made an effort to gather together spend so much time on their phones seeing what other people, that aren’t present, are up to.

After the meal I was thinking about the person’s infectious laugher and how it created a shared experience that was enjoyable and created a connection between everyone at the table.  I also thought of the times when folks were all on their cell phones.  There was no connection or shared laughter when people’s faces were buried in their phones.   The only shared experience we had at those times was that we were all occupying the same space.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think if you’re going to make an effort to get together and spend time with people in person, you shouldn’t be looking at your phone to find out what other people are doing, or what you might be missing out on.  I personally have never had an enjoyable shared experience with people who are all sitting together focused on their smart phones and disconnected from one another.

With the holidays upon us, we’ll likely have several opportunities to gather with others over a meal, for drinks, or just for the sake of spending time together.  Be mindful during these times about connecting with the people you’re present with, and consider leaving the smart phone in your pocket or purse.

And if you’d really rather not connect with the people you’re gathered with, it begs the question… what are you even doing there?

You Can Tell A Lot From A Little

Consider the following sentence:

“After work, he bought his wife some roses.”

By reading these 8 simple words, we very quickly learn quite a bit of information about this person.  For example, we know this person:

  • Is a male
  • Is married
  • Has some disposable income to buy flowers
  • Is thinking of his wife
  • Has a job

In addition to these details, our sentence also generates a number of questions for us, such as:

  • Why is he buying flowers for his wife?
  • How long have he and his wife been married?
  • Where does he work?
  • What does he do at his job?
  • How old are these 2 people?
  • Does he buy his wife flowers often?
  • Will his wife appreciate the flowers?

In just 8 simple words we now know a decent amount about this person and have several questions to ask that would help us learn even more about him and his wife.

So what, right?  I mean, that’s nice and all, but what does that have to do with anything, and who really cares?  Consider this…

Every day we exchange numerous sentences with other people through digital forms like text, email, social media, as well as through old-fashioned verbal communication.  Therefore, every day we receive a great deal of information about the people we interact with.  If you want to become better at connecting with people, or become a better listener, this information provides a great starting point to do so.

Begin paying attention to what people are saying.  Listen for the facts, but also keep your radar up for the questions you can ask that will help take the conversation deeper.  And when you have a question, ask it.  These are the initial steps in connecting with others.

I’m not saying you have to do this with every conversation you have, but if you’re looking to make a connection or build a relationship with someone, this is a great way to start.

Share Your Struggles With Others

I received an email this week from a friend I serve on a volunteer board with.  She was asking a question about one of the financial reports.  During her email, she confided that due to her lack of understanding about the financial reports, she felt inept to serve on the board.  I knew exactly how my friend felt, because they are in the same feelings I had during my first term serving on the board.

I remember so clearly a conversation I had with the board chairman during my first term.  It seemed to me like I didn’t bring any value and questioned whether I should even be on the board.  He told me that I did in fact add value, and the best thing I could do was to continue asking questions like I had been doing in previous board meetings.  Those comments really encouraged me, so I did what he said.  After a few more board meetings, my own feelings of ineptitude began to wane and I started to feel like I was actually adding value.

I’m so glad I shared with the chairman how I was struggling.  He gave me some encouraging advice, and also communicated that I was needed and offered more value than I realized.  What’s even better is that I got to share that experience with my friend who is currently having a similar struggle.  I was able to have empathy and offer encouragement and remind her of the value she brings.

It felt great to encourage someone and remind them of their value in a particular situation, especially when that value was in question for them.

None of us are perfect.  We’ve all faced struggles that leave us feeling overwhelmed, inept, and even discouraged.  The good news regarding these situations is that once we get past them, we can offer encouragement and perhaps a new perspective to someone who is experiencing a similar struggle.

Pay attention to what the people around you are saying.  Listen for struggles they are facing that are similar to ones that you have experience and be quick to offer encouragement and to reinforce their value.

What a tremendous blessing to be able to encourage someone in their moment of need.

The Power of Commitment

This week I celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary.  As I’ve ben thinking back on our 21 years, I’m reminded of the power of a commitment.

Being committed to something is far more powerful than simply being “in” something.  When you’re “in” a marriage it implies there’s a way out and that you can give up at any time when things get difficult, boring, or old.  There’s really nothing solid keeping you “in”.

However, when you’re committed to something, you’ve decided in advance that there is no getting out when things get tough.  Commitment means you’ve already decided that instead of looking for exit strategies, you’ll look for solutions and strategies to successfully overcome issues you face.  Difficulty, challenge, or boredom do not signal an upcoming off ramp, but rather remind you it’s time to double-down on your efforts.  Why?  It’s because you’ve made a commitment to do so.

This is true of commitment to a number of situations, including:

  • A marriage
  • Parenting
  • Mastering a challenging new skill
  • Establishing a good habit or replacing a bad one
  • Getting in shape
  • Achieving a worthwhile goal
  • Building a good relationship
  • Becoming a person of character and integrity

When you’re committed to something, it changes your vision.  You start to see opportunities to do better and overcome obstacles, instead of excuses why can’t.  You see the bigger picture you’re striving for instead of the immediate circumstance you may be struggling with.  With the vision of commitment, you know where you’re going and more importantly, why.

Are there any areas in your life you need to be committed to, rather than just being “in”?  Better yet, are there any areas where you need to recommit to do something you’ve let slide?  Spend a few minutes thinking about these questions, and then make, or re-make, any necessary commitments you need to make.  Doing so will enable you to start tapping into the power of commitment today.

Taking Opportunities to Connect (Part 2)

This week I was again reminded of the desire people have to connect with one another.   My church is kicking off small groups for the fall and winter and the group I’m leading had their first meeting on Wednesday evening.  There were 6 of us and we all hit it off really well.  This is going to be a fun group!

As a way to get to know one another, our group opened with 2 short questions that each person responded to.  Those 2 questions were:

  1. What is something you enjoy doing
  2. Why are you in this group?

From the answers to questions 1, it is obvious that our group likes getting out doors and hiking.  I see a potential group hike in our future!

There was a strong theme regarding the 2nd question that had to do with connecting with others.  People in the group, including me, were interested in connecting with a smaller group of people and establishing relationships that went beyond the busy Sunday pleasantries of, “How are you doing?  I’m fine.”  We are all interested in getting to know people and to be known as well.  That is one of the best reasons for joining a small group that I can think of.

I’ve been part of several small group settings including:

  • Groups at church
  • Professional groups and workshops
  • Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace
  • The Dale Carnegie Human Relations course

It’s amazing to me how much people open up when they’re in the company of others with similar interests.  What’s even more amazing is once a safe environment is established:

  1. People are willing to honestly share what’s going on in their lives.
  2. How supportive people are to others in the group.

People are social creatures and were made for interaction with others.  Although it’s easy to shut ourselves off from others and go about our days without connecting with others, I think this is a bad plan.  Long term it leads to potential loneliness and a life lacking the richness that is often provided through connection with others.

How are you doing at connecting with others?  I encourage you to look for opportunities to connect with others in the days, week, and months ahead.  In my opinion, life is more enjoyable when we invest in the lives of others, and they do likewise with us.

Taking Opportunities to Connect

This week I was in a 3-day workshop with 50 other folks on the topic of Data Display and Dashboard Design.  I’m sure this topic is causing most readers to yawn (but hopefully keep reading!).  For me however, this was an exciting workshop that I had been looking forward to for several weeks.  I’ve been struggling to find people in the data display field to interact with, so I was excited at the opportunity to “geek out” on this topic with other like-minded folks.

In the weeks prior to the workshop, I committed to making an effort to meet and connect with as many people as I could.  I decided I would take the initiative to introduce myself to others, initiate conversations, and invite folks who seemed to be on the periphery into conversations I was having with others.

I’m so glad I followed through with my commitment!  Just the connections and conversations I had with people at the workshop were worth the price of admission.  The actual content provided in the workshop was an added bonus.

By stepping out and deciding to connect with others I:

  • Was encouraged and motivated by what others in the field were doing.
  • Learned answers to a couple of significant data related questions I had been struggling with.
  • Made some great professional contacts.
  • Met some very nice people.

Connecting with others is not always easy and can sometimes be awkward, especially if you’re normally a shy person.  However, I’ve found that people I introduce myself to at a workshop or other event are usually glad to engage, and often thankful that someone has initiated conversation with them.  It feels like people are eager to connect, but often tentative about taking the first step.

The next time you’re at an event with people you may not know, take the initiative to connect with the other attendees.  Know in advance though, that it will require something from you.  It will require:

  • Getting your face out of the smart phone and actually talking to people.
  • Putting yourself out there by getting outside of your comfort zone and being the first to introducing yourself, or start a conversation.
  • Not running off at breaks or lunch to check your email, smart phone, or any other convenient distraction that normally keeps us from connecting with others.

Not connecting with others and keeping to yourself is easy, but it’s also unrewarding.  Being the one to initiate contact can be scary and makes you vulnerable, but it’s so much more rewarding than being alone in a room full of people you have so much in common with.

Be the one that goes first.  You’ll be rewarded for your efforts, and others will be blessed the interest you’re taking in them.

Seven Tips to Keep from Losing Your Mind to Emotion

When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.”  ~Mari Smith; Social Media Thought Leader

When I heard this quote from Mari Smith on the Entreleadership Podcast, I was instantly able to recall several accounts from my own life when I’ve been in this very situation.  I cringed, because, unfortunately, those have not been some of my finest moments!

What about you?  Have you ever been in a position where you feel the emotion rising, while at the same time your intelligence waning?  It’s not a good feeling.  Historically, I haven’t realized this was occurring until after the conversation or interaction where it occurred.  By then, it’s too late to change course because common sense and better judgement have already left the station.

So what can we do to keep from losing our minds when we notice our emotions starting to heat up?  Here are 7 suggestions to keep emotions from depleting our intelligence.

  1. Know the types of interactions that cause you to become emotionally charged so that you can either avoid them or be aware of the possibility of reacting emotionally.
  2. Know how you react physically when you’re emotionally charged. Do your hands get sweaty, your face get warm, or you ears get hot?  Knowing how you react can help you identify when you’re becoming emotionally charged.
  3. Determine in advance how you will respond when you feel yourself becoming emotionally charged. If we don’t know how we’ll respond in that moment, we’ll likely put ourselves on auto pilot and let emotions take over.  Usually not a good option.
  4. In the moment, take a few deep breaths. I know this sounds cliché, but it works.
  5. Put things in perspective. Ask yourself what’s at stake and determine if it’s really worth getting worked up for.
  6. Look for something positive like humor, a silver lining, or opportunities to connect with the other side on a human level.
  7. Decide not to get worked up.  This may sound hard, but we have far more control over our emotions than we realize.

There seems to be no shortage of things to spin us up and charge our emotions.  The good news is that this gives us a lot of opportunity to practice the tips above.

Being emotionally charged up and momentarily losing our intelligence does not help us to be at our best.  Decide today to be in charge of your emotions and not a follower of them.  That sounds good to me, because I can’t afford to lose any of the precious little intelligence I have!