ARE YOU ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?

Breathing Life Into Your Conversations

landscape-666927_1920

Have you ever wanted to connect with people more effectively? You can. Here is one of the most surprising traits people of influence possess.

They listen.

Sooner or later, you’ll want to have a good conversation with someone. It may be a romantic interest, or a spiritual one, maybe even business. Whatever your situation, here is some great advice….shut up!

I know, not very polite. However, if you’ll learn to listen more and talk less, your influence will soar. Don’t believe me? Try it.

If we’re careful, most of us have the tendency to think we have to be the one doing all of the talking. After all, we love ourselves. As someone said we’re all tuned in to W.I.I F.M, or #whatsinitformefm. However, most people don’t want to talk about you, they want to talk about themselves. It’s just human nature.

So, rather than talking about yourself, listen. God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. And don’t listen just to be influential, listen because you really care. When you’re fully present with someone it shows them you care more than the average person. In fact, listening may just be one of the greatest gifts you can ever give someone.

Imagine if it got to the point where you became so familiar with your spouse that you no longer asked them about the details of their day or how they were feeling?  You may care, but if you’re not showing genuine interest in your mate, your actions are saying otherwise.  The same applies to your friends and co-workers, on different levels.

You’ll find you don’t have to be full of wisdom and perfect advice, you simply need the desire to help and be a good friend. Rather than worrying about what you’re going to say next or how you’re going to respond, ask questions….probe deeper. Help the person you’re listening to get to the heart of their matter. Rather than giving advice, ask them what they think they should do based on what they’ve told you.

It’s said that during a time of inner turmoil, Abraham Lincoln went to a friend and poured out his heart. When he was done talking, he got up, feeling much better and went about his business. Meanwhile, his friend had done nothing but sit and listen. That’s what good friends do.

When you become more interested in others, you become more interesting. People will tell their friends and co-workers about you and what a difference you’ve made in their life. Word travels fast.

“Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.”  Proverbs 17:28, The Message.

Again, you don’t listen to be manipulative or create fans. You listen because that’s what loving people do. You listen because you love God and He loves the person sitting across from you.  And when you listen, you become more like God.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  James 1:19, KJV.

Lets face it, God listens more than most of us ever realize. Yes, He’s got a lot to say, but you’d be amazed at how patiently he listens. You can share with him whatever’s on your heart and he’ll listen. You can talk for days, months, years, and he’ll listen.

So then, the last conversation you had. Did you do more talking than listening? Try and remember what the person you were talking with had to say. Try to recall what was on their heart.

While you’re listening, be sure to boil it all down. Just like sap that comes from Maple trees, words and thoughts need to be boiled down to make something sweet. You’re not really listening until you try to understand where your friend is coming from. Don’t just listen to the words, read their body language and facial expressions. Sometimes these two things say more than actual words.

If you’re going to grow in influence, you need to be more of a giver than a taker. One way to do this is to be a better listener.  When you do, your relationships will bloom.  In the words of someone wise, “people become more interested in you when they realize you are more interested in getting something for them rather than from them.”

THE BIG DEAL

The Supreme Trait of Maturity

mt-fuji-477832_1920

What if changing one thing in your life had the potential to change everything?

The longer I’ve studied people who are impacting the world, I’ve noticed one particular trait over and over again….they always assume the best. No matter what happens, regardless of how others treat them, you name it, they forbear patiently.

The same can’t be said for unsuccessful people. They wear their heart on their sleeve and are the first people to tell you exactly what they think. Everything is fine until you wrong them and then you’d better look out! If you were to check their bread crumb trail, there are a number of people they’ve written off or disassociated with.

What happens is a pattern develops. It doesn’t take long to develop the mindset that people are disposable. After all, if you unfriend someone on Facebook there are a hundred more people to friend. Who needs to put up with people who don’t produce?

Healthy people think otherwise. They love people who have done nothing to merit their love. In the words of a good friend, ‘Mature people live by their commitments, and immature people live by their emotions’. The world is full of people who love people who love them, but what it really needs is more people who love regardless of how others treat them.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. 1 Corinthians 13:4

So how do you rate? What’s your pattern? Either you are constantly loving and forgiving the people around you or you are punishing them or ignoring them for what they’ve done wrong. Going a step further, maybe you smile and act friendly to their face after they wrong you but eventually you write them off and unfriend them. There’s a term for that. In the world of psychology it’s called passive-aggressive behavior. For example, I won’t say anything mean to you, but I will accidentally block you in by parking behind your car.

Or I may not like your post, although it’s actually great material and highly useful. After all, you didn’t like my post.

Or I may like your post just to show you that I’m not jealous or envious, though I really am.

All fun aside, something begins to happen when you start repeatedly giving people the benefit of the doubt. Something happens in your heart. You begin to grow up. And when you begin to grow up, people begin to take notice. People begin to trust you with their hearts. They’re more willing to follow your leadership. In a perfect world, they also begin to grow up themselves and begin giving other people the benefit of the doubt.

The psalmist writes, “I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for it’s mother’s milk.  Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”  Psalm 131:2 NLT.

Most people don’t need another person to tell them how screwed up and unlovely they are. What most people are longing for is someone who loves them warts and all and inspires and encourages them. That’s not to say there’s no such thing as sin. There is and a true friend is willing to do the hard work of rebuking when necessary. The bible says “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” But the bible also says “Love covers a multitude of sins.” If you were truly honest, you might have to admit you’ve got the rebuke part down but the covering needs some work.

If you’ve developed the pattern of writing people off, maybe it’s time to change. You might think it’s no big deal, but it is. It’s affecting you more than you know. You’re hurting yourself and a lot of other people you love. Here are nine words to help get started. “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”

THE REAL THING

Why Your Routines and Good Habits Can Have Harmful Effects

coca-cola-862689_1280

What if good habits, strategies, or goals are keeping you from living your best life?

Lets back up. Congratulations! You’re moving forward and making good choices and improvements in your life. The world needs more people like you. You aren’t happy with the status quo. You’re convinced life has more for you. Great choice!

So lets talk about your thing. You know, the thing you’re always talking about these days.. The thing you think about most of your waking moments. It may be the work out routine you’re always posting about, or your diet, or the new kitchen project. You know what I’m talking about. This thing you’ve been working on.

Sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself saying “I’d love to, but I HAVE to…do my thing. Here is where you fill in the blank. Maybe it’s your morning devotions, or prayer, or your workout routine, or your project. Whatever it may be, the minute you find yourself saying that, there should be red flags popping up everywhere. Something is missing.

At this point, you may be thinking ‘What’s the big deal?”. The things I’m doing are good. These are healthy choices. I’m improving. Everything’s looking up.

Plain and simple, life is about more than your thing. If you’re not careful, your thing can become a substitute for the thing you really wanted when you first started out.

If it was a health routine, you were looking to feel better. Chances are if you’ve stuck with that routine for any amount of time, it’s working. Great. However, if your routine has become something you HAVE to do, then there’s a problem. It won’t be long and you’ll no longer WANT to do what you HAVE to do. What was once an opportunity has become a necessity.

It’s amazing how subtle this can all be. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing if it’s something you have to do.

So lets look at how that might apply to a marriage. Years ago you were thrilled to have the opportunity to spend the rest of your life with your significant other. For about the first six months you were in Hormone Heaven! Then something happened. What was once a joy became an obligation. You had to be home at a certain time. You had to be faithful. You had to dump the garbage or else….Before long, you slipped from a freeing relationship to a legal contract. Your marriage should be a great source of joy in your life.

The good news is that when you notice something is missing in your new routine or habit, or relationship, it’s an opportunity to investigate and see what’s lacking. Again, routines and healthy habits can be wonderful things but when they become ‘The Thing’, there’s a problem. Which leads us up to what the Real Thing is….God. Except he’s not a thing, but a person. In fact, he may let your thing be a source of happiness and pleasure for quite sometime. But eventually, when the new car smell begins to fade you’ll be reminded of the true source of everything good in your life. James says: “So my good friends, don’t get thrown off course.  Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.  The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” James 1:17 The Message.

Practically, here are a couple of thoughts on getting beyond your thing. First, take a deep breath. You’re not the first person this has happened to. Second, tell your Heavenly Father. Tell him specifically what’s happened. How you meant well, but feel like you’ve made a mess of things. Three, wait. Hard thing to do, right? But just because you’ve stopped doesn’t mean there won’t be fall-out for awhile. Fourth, learn. That’s what life is all about. When you stop learning, you start dying. Ask God what you can do to make the most of this moment. Ask him what he’s trying to teach you.

Finally, praise him! You’ve been set free to love and live in a whole new way. Use the lesson you’ve learned to be a constant reminder of your continual dependence on a Father who truly loves and cares for you.

You May Have More Influence Than You Think

3 Ways People Approach Life

A good friend of mine once said “as leaders we can be translucent without being transparent.  While we may not be transparent and share all of the details in our life, we can be translucent.  Things that are translucent blur images, but let the light through.”  Strong leaders may not share all of their problems in detail, but they are wise to share them.  However, if you’re going to be more influential, you need to share more than just your problems.

concert-882169_1920-2

I’ve got problems.  Boy, do I have problems.  As a pastor there are never enough volunteers or resources.  What a difference it would make if people who don’t give would just give $25.00 a week or sign up to volunteer for a service or two a month.

Not only do I have problems, there are goals not being met.  It’s frustrating to talk about goals until you’re blue in the face and watch people drift meaninglessly when their lives could be changed by setting a simple goal and working toward it.

Then there are missed opportunities.  Right now, our church has a small window of opportunity to become a vibrant spiritual destination in our community.  Again, there are opportunities being missed, daily, to write checks and jump onboard for change and transformation.

Before I go any farther, please understand I am not complaining!  These are just facts.  Now lets talk about the relevance of these facts and how you can leverage your influence.

It’s been said people have three approaches to life.  85% of all people are problem solvers.  The reason they are problem solvers is because in most cases they do not set goals or seize opportunities. That’s not knocking problem solvers!  They make the world go ’round.  Thank God for them!

The second group of people, 10 percent, set goals.  They are organized and think in terms of the long-range.  Not only do they set goals, they work methodically toward achieving them.  They are somewhat rare in that they are able to stick with their plan and follow through.  The results can be amazing.

Then there are opportunists.  These are the 5% of all people who are constantly on the look out for rare opportunities.  Opportunists are just as rare as the opportunities they seek!  They may solve problems and they may set goals, but primarily they look for things many other people overlook.  These are people like the scientist who recently raised funds, built equipment and got a crew together to look for a ship filled with sunken treasure.  It took two years, but they found hundreds of millions of dollars in gold!  Google it if you want the details.  Opportunists appear to be fools in the eyes of most people.

So how do you increase your influence.

First, as a leader, don’t be afraid to share your problems, goals and opportunities with those you lead.  Some of the best leaders do this and they have tremendous influence.  Not sharing these pressing concerns is truly foolish.  How can people help you if they don’t know there’s a need?  Influential leaders don’t get their needs met by keeping them to themselves.  They share them and give people the chance to help meet them.  They understand that most people want to do the right thing and be of help.  Remember, 85% of all people are problem solvers.  So next time you pitch your agenda, the first group of people you want to address is problem solvers.  Begin by saying something like, “This is the problem we’re facing….can any of you help me out?

Next, remember those who set goals.  This is generally about 10 percent of your audience.  So while you might want to take more time addressing your situation as a problem, don’t forget their are goal-setters out there.  Think about some goals you could present that will help solve your problem and present them.  Maybe you’ll say something like.  “Our goal is to….”  You get the idea.

Finally, don’t forget the opportunists.  They’ve been snoring while you’ve talked about your problems and goals but the minute they hear the word opportunity, they’ll lean forward in their seats and there ears will perk up.  Share the opportunity clearly.  Help them to understand why it’s important to seize it.

So the next time someone, anyone, asks you how things are going, be truthful.  Tell them about your problems, goals and opportunities and watch your influence soar.  Most people want to be a part of something greater than themselves and when you keep everything to yourself as a leader, you rob them of opportunities to play a vital role.

If you’re looking to help your leader out, don’t be afraid to ask him or her how you can help.  They won’t be mad, they’ll be glad!  Chances are they’ve been waiting for you to help out.  In most cases, they’re half-wondering if you really care.  Take the first step.  Show them you care.  Volunteer.  Help out.  You’ll be amazed what happens when you do.  We all have influence.  The difference is we don’t all have opportunities to spend time with people who have more than we do.  So if you want to be more influential, spend time with people who are more influential than you are and watch your influence soar!