Tag: relationships

Someone Please Scream

Someone Please Scream "Whiskey!"

Have you ever thought about what goes on behind the scenes with the families you see everyday? Some of them sure look picture-perfect, don't they? My husband, Ryan, and I have learned that isn't always the case. For example, our most recent family portrait looks like any other happy family. It's easy to look at others and compare ourselves. We imagine other people's lives to be perfect, and sometimes it is hard to measure up to the picture we see.

That portrait of our family appears in our church directory. It appears next to pages full of other perfect family photos. All of us are smiling, all of us are wearing nice clothes, and all of us look like everything is going great.

But would anyone guess by looking at our picture that we were tense that day? We had difficulty getting everyone dressed on time. Our boys kept fighting. Ryan and I kept telling them through clenched teeth to be nice and stop arguing. Our baby girls were crabby. The picture was taken during their naptime, and they cried during most of the photo session. Our individual pictures of the kids show Moxie with red-rimmed eyes and a pacifier filling her mouth. The photo was taken during the summer, and we were all sweating. I was worried my face would be too shiny. Marin would not allow us to put her down, and Moxie would not let go of my bracelet. Maverick was rambunctious, and tripped over an umbrella light. Ryan wasn't happy to be wearing a suit. More than one of us cried that day.

To top it off, after we all got situated (I decided to ignore Moxie gripping my bracelet), the photographer told us to say "cheese". At that moment, our son, Maguire screamed out "whiskey!" instead, and the photo was taken. The family seen in that portrait was just trying to get through the photo session unscathed. We lived. And the pictures didn't turn out half bad.

I'm sure each family that had their picture taken that day has a story to tell. We all may smile when prompted, but there is more to each story. It is only by connecting with others and building genuine, deep relationships with others that the perfect picture dissipates and we learn each other's reality. It isn't always easy to let others in. It isn't always convenient. It leaves us vulnerable. It can be messy. But I have to tell you... it can be among life's biggest blessings.

We have gotten to know many couples and their families over the years on a deeper level. Our "masks" come off, the picture-perfect image subsides, and we get real. The friendships we have developed are amazing. We are blessed by friends who accept us, flaws and all. We are blessed by friends who allow us to make mistakes. We are blessed by friends who share their concerns, fears, and joys. We celebrate each other's victories and we pray through each other's defeats. We laugh together, cry together, and share our hearts. They know the real people behind our "perfect" portrait, and we know them.

I hope you have people in your life like that. If not, it is never too late to connect and dig deeper. I would be lost without those friends. I am thankful for them everyday. Thank God they are not perfect, and thank God they understand I'm not perfect, either. I'm so thankful they allow me to be me... because if I kept smiling like that portrait all the time my cheeks would get really, really sore. It takes too much energy to be that perfect all the time; I would rather just be real. We might be perfect for a moment in a photograph, but eventually someone has to scream "whiskey!"

Two Ears But Only One Mouth

Two Ears But Only One Mouth

Would you like to know the secret to becoming the most amazing conversationalist EVER?

LISTEN to the other person with genuine interest.

Most people enjoy talking about themselves (myself included!), but most people don't get to do that very often. They are swamped with work, kids, problems at home, and financial issues. Their usual conversations revolve around those topics, so they don't usually get a chance to discuss their interests, hobbies, or what is on their heart. If you take a genuine interest in those things and actively listen to what they have to say, you will be a great conversationalist and friend.

When I was younger, I mistakenly assumed that the way to have a lot of friends or be an interesting person was to impress everyone with myself and my accomplishments. It didn't take long to realize that most people do not care about that stuff. What they do care about is being heard. I learned to talk about myself less and ask more questions about the other person. I have been amazed by how easy it is to make friends and have great conversations when I turn my focus to the other person.

Quite honestly, this shift is not difficult! I truly like people and finding out more about them. It is astonishing how gifted and talented other people are. Everyone has some hidden talent that they love to discuss if asked! It's amazing to hear other people's experiences... some people have sure overcome some adversity in their lives! Others have achieved huge successes that surprise me and make me so glad I asked! I have found that I have something in common with everybody, and there is some way for us to connect no matter who I'm talking to. Other people are INTERESTING! Each one was hand-crafted by God; no wonder they are so fascinating!

Someone once pointed out that humans have two ears but only one mouth, and we should listen and speak in that proportion. Makes sense, doesn't it?!

By listening more, it's easier to understand why people are the way they are. When I know where they've been in their lives I can empathize with their struggles and offer encouragement when appropriate. By listening more, I can network more effectively. For example, by talking to a woman recently I discovered she was a retired artist who loved to create business logos just for fun now. I have a friend who popped into my mind who could benefit from her service and I was able to connect the two. Everyone excels at something and it's an awesome challenge to discover what it is and encourage them on their journey!

So the moral of this story is that the best way to be a friend is to listen more and be genuinely interested in the other person. The saying goes, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Care enough to ask questions and learn about someone else. That is more impressive to someone else than all the accolades on your resume!
Relationships Are Key

Relationships Are Key

Salespeople are taught that in order to make a sale, you must first develop a trusting relationship with the customer. Such is true in all areas of life: Relationships are key. As the saying goes, "People BEFORE Process". Relationships must always come first and be the highest priority, both personally and professionally. You can't influence someone if they don't like or trust you.

In John Maxwell's book, "Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships," Maxwell discusses the importance of identifying what we find attractive in others' personalities and then implementing some of those aspects into our own interactions with others. It is equally important to identify unattractive traits and avoid implementing those. For example, no one really likes "Negative Nancy," so we wouldn't want to behave as she does. Most people do, however, like being greeted with a warm handshake and a smile so implementing those traits into our own interactions would be beneficial to our relationships with others. His advice is especially true in a customer service, business, or work setting, but it's definitely applicable in our personal relationships as well.

Maxwell lists a few questions to get us thinking about our own relationships with others and how we can improve them:
1. Are we quick to respond to others' needs?
2. Do we run from problems or face them?
3. Do we talk more about bad news or good news?
4. Do we give people the benefit of the doubt, or do we assume the worst?

Good questions.

Some people are super difficult to deal with, aren't they? Certain people are miserable, often negative, disagreeable, or argumentative. Some are bossy. Others are know-it-alls. What I'm learning is if I don't like those traits in others, chances are others will not like them in me. Conversely, I love people who are friendly, who use direct eye contact, and who remember my name. Those people make me feel like I'm important to them. Those are traits I'd like to model in my own behavior. Maxwell's list of questions is a great start and gave me a lot to reflect on.

He goes on to describe the Golden Rule and how vital it is to relationships. He says,"What's the key to relating to others? It's putting yourself in someone else's place instead of putting them in their place." It's treating others the way you'd like to be treated. Sometimes it means being friendly even when the other person is cranky. Sometimes it means smiling warmly and striking up a conversation with the person in the room who seems tentative or uncomfortable.

Sometimes it means genuinely listening to someone's story when you'd rather do something else. Sometimes it means stifling the urge to share the horrible thing your boss did at work earlier that day. Sometimes it means forgiving someone for something even if they won't admit wrongdoing. The Golden Rule can be difficult, but it is absolutely essential to developing great relationships and becoming a person that others want to be around.

It is difficult--if not impossible--to accomplish anything of significance if no wants to be around you. It would be impossible for others to see the love of the Lord through you if they are sprinting in the opposite direction.

The good news is that the Lord has granted each of us attractive traits that we can utilize in order to build better relationships. He has also granted us the ability to change and refine those traits that are still a little rough around the edges. I find prayer to be especially useful when one of those traits is detected, as well as reading good books on the subject (and then implementing the advice!).

And don't forget the all-important Golden Rule. It's found in Matthew 7:12:
"Therefore whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them."
People matter. Do your best to love them.