I struggle with crafting a good response when my paradigm of the world is challenged. But, how I respond is an important factor when representing the organizations I help lead. The easiest “out” is to be silent and not engage in the conversation, especially publicly in places like social media.
But staying silent does not help change the world, and it just makes me feel like a coward.
Whenever I am faced with the temptation to respond harshly to an opposing world view, I like to do what I call a “heart check” of myself. These are the thought strategies I’ve found most helpful:
- Play the devil’s advocate and seek to understand the other party. If I were in their shoes (had grown up where or when they did) would I see it differently? I remember often being very critical of my parent’s conservative handling of their possessions. But I did not grow up during one of our nation’s worst economic depressions. They did.
- Consider the end goal. Is my goal to change the other party’s mind or tear them down and make them look like a fool? When I do the latter I most always end up looking and feeling like the fool myself.
- If I am honest, am I able to identify any good motives in the other person’s position? Knowing that there are good intentions does not always bring agreement. However, it sure opens the door to understanding and a civil debate of the issues.
If these measures bring no hope of understanding, or making the other person feel understood, then my wisest choice might be to not engage in the discussion. The engagement will possibly just make me angry and bitter, and I don’t want that spilling over into my other relationships.
“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”
Who is a true patriot?
You would think it would be easy to be a true patriot in a free country like the USA. Who doesn’t want this kind of freedom? Who doesn’t want to live in this kind of country?
But with freedom comes the inherent right to be an independent thinker. If we are both thinking independently, what you think is loyal and just, may not be what I think is loyal and just. What is really interesting is that two people, who fundamentally believe the same things, can have totally different responses when their beliefs are challenged.
In every country there is a tension between individuals, people groups, generations, schools, religions, cities, states and political groups. But in a free country this tension is often created by our freedom to speak out in accordance with our beliefs, values, and loyalties. It becomes apparent that we don’t all have the same beliefs, don’t agree about what we should value and don’t have the same priorities when it comes to loyalty.
So this week, as we celebrate our independence, are we truly able to be grateful for this independence that allows others to think differently than we think, to have a different world view, a different sense of what it means to be patriotic? Do we have a spirit that allows a humble, kind response to the differences and the tension created by our freedom? Good questions for this holiday weekend. Have a wonderful Independence Day!
Give generously and love, expecting nothing in return.
Effective leadership requires a 360 degree view. Vision and seeing forward is a integral ingredient of effective leadership. Equally as important is seeing what you are leaving in your wake. I call this self awareness. Are we willing to look in the rear view mirror of life and see how we affect others by our words, attitudes and actions?
For some, self awareness is intuitive and for others, not so much.
Now don’t get me wrong, we all have our blind spots. We all occasionally find ourselves dealing with pride, and selfishness. Sometimes we don’t notice the unhealthy things we are doing that may affect ourselves and others. But this does not have to be the norm.
Just like a good car operator we need to stop and check our mirrors when navigating the relationships in our life. Relational wrecks can be as destructive as the ones in our automobile. They can often be avoided though, by slowing down and checking your mirrors once in awhile to see if you have run someone off the road, or worse yet run them over. The only way to know this is to glance back, while still keeping our eyes on the road.
Have you ever lost your emotional balance? Recently, I found myself having an unusual number of bad days in a row. There was a noticeable aggravation lingering in my spirit. The problem was I could not identify anything specific that was causing it.
As I reflected on current events in my life I just could not identify anything out of the norm. There were the usual problems, nagging health issues with myself and people I love, people getting on my nerves, things just not working like I had hoped. None of these were anything new. Nothing drastic had changed that would throw me into this low spot I was experiencing. It was just everyday life. I thought to myself, what am I missing?
It took some uncomfortable time sitting still in silence to realize that my life, particularly my thought life, had lost its balance. It had become predominantly focused on me and less on others.
I know this may sound trite and simplistic, but all it took was a few intentional acts of generosity toward others and I could feel my spirit and attitude righting itself almost immediately.
This Sunday is Mothers Day. Reach out, whether it’s in person, by phone or just resurrecting a memory of your mother. Practice focusing on someone other than yourself and see what happens.
There are times when we break from a role because it seems meaningless to us when in reality it is exactly where we should be, because it is preparing us for something better. Even if that something is simply a lesson.
Back in high school I was a part of a club. Well, it wasn’t officially a club, it was just something two of my basketball teammates and I made up. We were the OG’s, short for “other guys”.
The three of us got a lot of time on the court during JV games and made up the heart of the scout team, the group of players that would run the offense or defense that our next varsity opponent would likely run against us. However, we rarely got into a varsity game. We were always asked to suit up for the varsity games, in addition to playing on the JV team, and maybe, late in the game, if we happened to be fortunate enough to be far enough ahead, the coach would lean over and look down the bench and say “hey, you other guys, get up here.” That’s how we got our name.
Truthfully I did not mind playing JV or being on the scout team. I took my role very seriously and worked really hard at it, in hopes that I might earn a chance to play a more meaningful role in a varsity game. It never happened. I decided not to go out for the team my senior year. At that time seniors did not get to play JV ball and I just could not stand the thought of putting in all that time and effort and not getting to play the game.
My senior year I signed up for track, a huge disappointment to me. I was not in the best physical condition and in spite of good intentions of working out (during those evenings free of basketball practice) the discipline and conditioning of basketball practice was missing. I was not at my best.
To this day I regret that decision. First, I let myself quit based on my perception that “playing time” in the game was the most important thing. Second, I failed to see how my participation in basketball prepared me for much different roles, later in life.
The lesson was clearer to me as I became a coach and employer. I realized, with great appreciation, the roles held by players on my teams. I learned the importance of showing appreciation, in every possible way. Now, I try to share with them how their participation might prepare them for the future in other endeavors. To me, they are more than just those “other guys”.
When I find myself in a situation where wrong has been committed under my authority whether intentional or not, the quickest and best way back to forgiveness and trust is through a plan.
When Something Goes Wrong
Recently I had a customer contact me regarding a recent charge made by my business on their credit card. Three months prior they had made a purchase from us, but not recently. It was not a large purchase, but a purchase nonetheless.
Pausing in this story, I have to give these people credit for how well they monitor their finances. This was not one or two weeks later when they reconciled their statement. This was the very day the charge was made.
Now this greatly alarmed me. We take people’s trust in us very seriously, especially when it comes to handling their sensitive financial information. At first I had a sense of disbelief that accidentally charging the wrong person’s credit card was even possible. But, as I soon found out, it had happened, and it was due to an unforeseen breakdown in how we processed charges. I won’t go into all the details, but it is worth noting that even though we had this system in place for years without problems, the problem was apparent now and needed fixing.
Turning Problems into Opportunities
Thinking that customer relations problems were opportunities to build trust, we have always handled resolution by doing the right thing, fixing the product or refunding their money. But for some reason, in this situation, it did not feel like enough. It wasn’t because I had thought it through or heard advice about it. I just knew that we needed to fix the system and then share that information with the customer, to demonstrate that we had a conscious plan of correction for the future.
I was right. The customer quickly responded with gratitude. She had received a brief but detailed plan of prevention and was assured that the mistake would not occur again. And, of course, the charge was quickly reversed on her credit card.
There has been so much to learn from this situation. When faced with a problem that involves trust, actually sharing a corrective plan of action with the wronged party goes way beyond just making it right by doing the right thing.