The FABRIC of Family

Monday night I had the fun opportunity to speak at a Mother/Daughter banquet in my hometown.  Hometown speaking gigs are intimidating to say the least!  I’m happy to have made it through.  The theme of the night was family and since today is Mother’s Day, family life is heavy on my heart.  Here are the six things I introduced to weave or thread into the F.A.B.R.I.C. of your family.

F – a Firm Foundation

If there is one thing I can be certain about in this life it is this: things change.  The world is moving at a fast pace.  Ideas, research, and theories seem to shift like the sand along the seashore.  One phone call could literally change my  life as I know it. Any day, anytime, everything can change.   What can we trust?  Is there anything solid to hold on to?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke about people who live their lives based on His teachings.  He compared them to a wise man who built his house on a rock.  Though strong winds, heavy rain and flooding would come, the house built on the rock would stand.  Jesus promised.  (Matthew 7:24-25)

Is your house built on a firm foundation?  There is one thing I have found I can count on, now and forever.  One thing that is not subject to the restraints of time nor the decisions of man.  I find great comfort, confidence and security in knowing that the nature and character of God has not and will not change.  God is unique to that truth.  Because I can trust His unchanging character, I can build my life according to His ways, His design and His plans.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must build our house on a firm foundation.

A- Attitude of Gratitude

Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing,”  Really, ALL things?  Without complaining.  What a challenge.  Here is a great quote by Charles Swindoll I heard years ago.  This quote was the core of one of the first speeches I ever gave in high school.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.

As my mother says, “Be thankful for every normal day.”

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must have an attitude of gratitude.

B – Bond of Peace

We have all been hurt by our family.  Somewhere along the line, in some way, whether by something done physically or something said, no one goes through family-life pain free.  No one.  However, if we want to keep our families together, happy and productive, we must forgive.  Let it go already.  Have the talk.  Send the e-mail.  Get it on the table — if necessary — and let it go.  Romans says, “if possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

The best way to learn how to forgive is to make a list of all the mean, hateful, selfish, prideful and wrong things you’ve done and been forgiven for.  When you see the grace that has covered you, it becomes much easier to forgive others.  I am so thankful that a perfect and holy God extends His grace to me.  Who am I to withhold forgiveness from another?

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must desire a bond of peace.  We must forgive.

R – Respect for Differences

Aren’t you glad we are not all the same?  If my husband and I were just alike, one of us would be useless.  God is so creative.  I admire His artistry as I look at the people in my life.  All of us are unique and made for purpose.  Rather than assuming differences are flaws, we should respect and admire what makes us different.  In Proverbs, there is a famous verse that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older he will not depart from it.”  For years I thought the core intent of the verse was teaching us to train up a child in THE WAY.  I agree that is a solid plan.  I will do that.  But, actually, with a bit more research and learning, I have found that the intended emphasis is on the word he.  “Train up a child in the way he should go.”  Interesting.  We should raise our children in keeping with who they are and who they were created to be.  Of course, they should live within the bounds of right and wrong, and it is our job as parents to teach them the boundaries; but in terms of their personality and interests and passions, we should support and encourage them to go their way.

I am so thankful for parents who got this right three kids in a row.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must respect and even admire our differences.

I – In Tune with THE Mission

The mission that matters is simple; know God and make Him famous.  Life is short.  It really is like a vapor or a flower that blooms and then withers away.  Much of what we do day in and day out is in vain and is temporary.  The entire Bible is about God’s desire to have a relationship with mankind.  He wants to be known by us, now and for eternity.  Unfortunately, we are usually in the way of that relationship or distracted by our relationship with this world.   I want my family to be on mission with God through Jesus Christ to introduce the world to Him.  I want us to be a part of His team.  Not team members wearing jerseys and sitting in the stands, but team members on the field and in the game.  Why?  Because in the end, God’s team will win.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must be in tune with THE mission.

C – Commitment to the Cost

Commitment is a thread that has been unraveled in our society.  We scoff at the thought.  We are so conditioned to freedom, convenience, flexibility and disappointment, that we struggle with commitment.  I want my family to be committed to truth, to the mission, to God and to each other.  Just because something is hard, does not mean it must be wrong.  We will not walk away just because we are uncomfortable, inconvenienced, unappreciated or misunderstood.  Commitment is hard.  Life is hard.  We must consider today what it will cost to be committed rather than waiting until things are a mess to figure it out.  I want to raise a family that will finish.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must understand commitment and stand strong no matter the cost.

For those of you who come from or who are living in the midst of a family whose fabric has been unraveled, I have great news for you:

God can sew.No family is perfect.  Mine certainly is not!  But God uses imperfect people and messed up families all the time.  He is a master at healing hurts, correcting wrongs, putting people and families back together and working things together for our good and for His glory.

We are all a life in progress.

 

 

Nobody’s Listening! Learn to talk so people hear what you are saying.

Personalities & Communication

Learn to talk so people hear what you’re saying!

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

The key to knowing how to get along with people is knowing how to communicate with them.  Nothing is more frustrating than being misunderstood.  This month I want to address one of the most important topics on the planet; communication.

If you have been receiving this newsletter for long, you are aware that your personality affects nearly every aspect of your life.  In terms of how we communicate, consider this:

If I speak English and you speak French we are going to have trouble communicating until we each make the effort to learn the other’s language.  Or, we are going to spend a lot of money hiring an interpreter.  In the same way, if I speak the choleric/sanguine personality language and you are phlegmatic/melancholy, we are going to have trouble communicating unless we learn to speak each other’s language.  Or, we might spend a lot of money hiring a therapist or divorce lawyer.

Today I would like to share with you some practical tips on how to communicate better.  There will always be misunderstandings.  There will always be break downs in communication.  You cannot change how someone else communicates.  But, you can change how you approach others and in return, you will find that others will try to match your level of communicating.  You can work to minimize the problems and experience the relief, joy and productivity that comes with knowing you are heard.

In order to make this simple, let’s sort through the main how-to’s very directly by personality type.

Popular/Playful Sanguine – The Talker

If you are popular sanguine, limit your words and quit being so loud.  We talk too much and we talk in a loud tone.  It’s overwhelming to those who are not sanguine.  So, only say half of what comes to your mind to say.  Don’t finish a story that has been interrupted unless you are asked to finish it.  (Which, I’ll warn you, will never happen.) Practice saying only what is vital.  Listen intently for and use the other person’s name.  Stop dominating every conversation drawing the attention to yourself.  Invite others into conversations by asking them what they think or if they share your experience.  Practice listening and not interrupting.  Apologize when you interrupt and then be quiet.  Wait to speak until asked.  (I know, that one is tough!)

If you are communicating TO popular or playful sanguine, understand their personality language.  Tell stories, not gossip.  Sanguines do not keep secrets well.  Give colorful details.  The word “fine” is not okay.  Be more creative in your descriptions.  Use adjectives such as terrific, fabulous, fantastic, and amazing instead.  Give them attention and approval for their very being.  Accept their disconnected content and offer them a compliment.  Don’t tune out; rather, pay attention to what they are saying.  Give them deadlines and frequent reminders about tasks you are expecting them to complete in a timely manner or appointments they are meant to keep.  Learn to appreciate their fun and carefree communication style.

Perfect/Proper Melancholy – The Thinker

If you are perfect or proper melancholy, focus on thinking and speaking positively.  If you are communicating with people who do not share your personality type, limit the details.  Other personality types find numerous details overwhelming and honestly — boring.  Watch for opportunities to build up others by celebrating their small victories.  Adjust your expectations.  You must come to terms with the fact that there is no perfection on this earth.  Receive compliments graciously.  Do not point out the flaws when it is not absolutely necessary.  Practice giving praise and making positive observations rather than criticisms.  Add appropriate humor when you can or at minimum, smile.

If you are communicating TO perfect or proper melancholy be sure now is a good time to talk.  Do not interrupt their schedule, activities or communication.  Respect their time, space, silence and schedule.  Do not be nosy or pry for information you don’t really need.  Give factual, orderly details.  Save chit-chat for the sanguines in your life.  Laugh and cry with the melancholy.  Do not try to jolly them up.  Prepare your thoughts before you speak with them.  Know what you will say.  Learn to appreciate their structured and respectful communication style.

Powerful Choleric – The Doer

If you are powerful choleric, relax.  I know this hurts, but in most situations we are not as important as we’d like to think.  Other people are quite capable without us.  Our intensity scares people.  Stop making demands and start requesting desired actions.  Practice saying “please” and “thank you.”  Good manners are not a waste of time or a given.  You need to practice proper manners like everyone else.  Be careful of your tone.  Often you sound much more harsh than you intend and it is highly offensive.  When you sense you have been offensive, say you are sorry and mean it.  Show that you mean it, by changing your tone and allowing the other person to share their feelings.  Focus your interest and attention on the person, not the project.  Try to be still.  Do not pace or leave when someone is trying to talk to you. Slow down and actively listen without cutting them off.  Do not finish other people’s sentences or stories.  Read the rest of the letter or document.  Broaden your areas of interest.  And remember, just because you can, does not mean you should.

If you are communicating to powerful choleric, hurry up already.  Cholerics believe they are the busiest.  So, keep communication short and to the point.  Give the choleric the bottom line first in the form of sound bites.  This allows them room to jump in — and they will.  Only offer details and supporting information if asked or if it is critical.  Accept their curtness.  Cholerics are never trying to be rude; they are just very project focused.  Give them appreciation for their achievements and credit for their hard work and solid ideas.  Learn to admire their quick decision making ability and limitless energy.

Peaceful Phlegmatic – The Watcher

If you are peaceful phlegmatic we want to hear from you!  Practice expressing your opinion.  Make decisions and try to present choices.  Speak truth in love.  Think through presentations or formal speaking opportunities in advance.  Do not try to “wing it.”  Do not hesitate to share your ideas.  Practice speaking up in volume and content.  Show enthusiasm with body language and facial expression.  Often, you are misunderstood or dismissed because others interpret your casualness as apathy.  It is up to you to make us believe and perceive that you do care.

If you are communicating to peaceful phlegmatic show respect.  Look for the positive and freely give praise.  Give a few choices rather than an open ended question.  Learn to say, “I appreciate you because _______________ (attribute).”  Give the phlegmatic focused, not distracted, attention.  Wait to speak until they are completely finished.  Be patient.  Do not make them feel run over or ignored.  Learn to appreciate their listening ear and calming presence.

These communication how to’s will transform relationships because they work to meet the emotional needs of each person.  People do not listen to you or care about how much you know until they feel that you care about them as an individual.  Start communicating with this perspective, adjusting your approach to speak their language and things will improve.  I guarantee it!

In case you need a refresher, here are the basic emotional needs of each personality:

Sanguine  (yellow) : Attention from all, Affection (touching), Approval of every deed, Acceptance “as is”

Melancholy (blue) : Sensitivity to their feelings, Understanding, Space to be alone, Silence (no people)

Choleric (red) : Loyalty, Sense of Control, Appreciation for all their hard work, Accomplishment

Phlegmatic (green) : Peace and quiet, Feelings of Worth, Lack of Stress, Respect for who they are, not what they do

 

The Powerful Ones

The Choleric Personality 

While the Sanguine personality type is the most obvious to identify and the Melancholy is the second most obvious, being the Sanguines stark opposite, we find ourselves taking a different approach to determine the Choleric

As you read, try to identify the choleric in your life, understanding that you cannot change them.  However, you can change your approach to them in order to improve or save this intense relationship.  

If you identify yourself as Choleric, please slow down and hear me today.  You posses a tremendous amount of potential.  However, you are the most unlikely to reach your full potential because you are, by nature, not teachable.  I’m not asking you to agree; I am simply asking you to read the entire thing and hear me out.  Fair enough?  Please consider how you can best live in the avenue of your strengths and what steps you need to take to overcome and break through your weaknesses.  Don’t be fooled, your weaknesses will stop you from reaching your greatest potential.  The worst thing you can do is conclude, “Well, that’s just the way I am,” — that is, unless, you are willing to give that courtesy to everyone else including employees, coworkers and family. We are ALL a work in progress.    

Here are 7 main points for you to know and expect about the Powerful Choleric personality:

1) Shift in Atmospheric Pressure.  I have found the best way to determine if someone is Powerful Choleric, is not by the way they dress or the volume of their voice, but by the shift in the atmosphere when they enter a room.  They never enter a room unnoticed.  If they are a positive force in your life, they bring with them a sense of energy and excitement. You brace for a new adventure and see them as someone to follow.  If they are a negative force in your life, they bring with them a feeling of stress and tension that could be sliced with a knife.  You know what I mean. 

2) Likeness to the energizer bunny.  The choleric person is highly productive and project focused.  They always have a TO DO list much longer than is humanly possible.  This is the person you look at and think, “Do they ever stop?”  The answer is no.  Even in their sleep, they are thinking of what is next.  They often find it difficult to rest.  However, they do understand that sleep and rest are necessary for production and so, once they decide to stop for the day, they stop.  Compared to the other personality types, Cholerics have the highest energy level and are re-energized by activity.  As long as there are things that need done, they seem to muster the energy and effort it takes to make it happen.  And then, they strongly desire credit and recognition for their achievements.

If you are not Choleric, you may find it difficult to keep up with this person.  You may find you are exhausted by all their projects and wild ideas.  Set clear boundaries with them.  They need to understand what you are willing to help do and not do.  They need to know how much is too much.  Otherwise, they will drive you right over the edge.  I assure you, nothing will seem like too much to them.

3) A love for being challenged.  The choleric is a thrill seeker who thrives under pressure.  They continuously challenge themselves to take things to the next level. Even when a new challenge is not required or necessary, they will make one up.  Often, this tendency results in the choleric making normal, routine activities and conversations more difficult.  Many people struggle in relationships with a choleric because it seems nothing is ever simple.  The choleric makes things harder and more complicated than is necessary.  

Cholerics are problem fixers who are quick to jump on rescue missions or to throw out options for solving problems unless they perceive a winning solution is not possible.  

You see, if the choleric can’t win, they won’t play.

4) Not a democracy.  Passionate about their business, family and causes, Cholerics are natural born leaders whose basic desire in life is having their way. And they will figure out how to have it.  In fact, my Choleric, entrepreneur father loves to say, “He who signs the check has the last say.” Truly, they innately believe they are right and the best person for the job, often convincing them-self they are the only one capable.  Usually, this personality type is the fastest to see the end, or big picture, which gives them tremendous decision making ability.  The problem is, they lack patience and communication skills to help everyone else see things from their perspective.  They are too busy to slow down and explain.  They will remove whatever or whomever is hindering progress rather than waste time helping them get on the same page.  They tend to lead like dictators with an inner, or perhaps vocal, attitude that screams “I’m driving the bus.  I know where we are going and I know how to get there.  Get on or get off, but I’m pulling out now.”  

When Cholerics are living in their leadership strengths, the bus will be full of loyal and devoted followers.  People are drawn to ambition and the ability to truly get a job done and done well.  However, what people won’t tolerate long is being made to feel like they are stupid, replaceable or not important.  Cholerics in leadership positions — which I am confident to assume are all cholerics — must remember these truths: people are more important than projects, people are not projects, and the kind of success that leaves a legacy is not possible without a team.  

Leaders need loyal followers.  Loyal followers need honest, compassionate and thoughtful leaders who are willing to listen, ask questions and consider other points of view.  

5) Respect redefined.  Because the choleric is so task focused, they define respect in terms of accomplishment and the ability to make decisions.  Without realizing it, most cholerics withhold admiration and respect for others until they have witnessed them succeed.  Respect is earned.  This explains why cholerics usurp authority and have a hard time submitting to someone who they view as incompetent or who has not rightly earned their way.  

I must express a word of caution as a choleric who desires to develop into a woman of unshakable character.  Being a person who can claim to be respectful means, that even when it is difficult, you choose to show and give respect regardless of whether someone has earned it.  Respect does not mean you agree, it means you treat others with the same kindness and courtesy you expect, no strings attached.

6) Controlling or just right?  I already noted the Choleric’s basic desire to have their own way.  They desire control of people, situations, finances, projects, etc.  What I need every reader to understand is that the Choleric’s desire for control is not a choice or an attempt to drive you completely nuts, it is a need.  They need control like they need oxygen.  The good news, is that they are designed for it and they can handle it.  A choleric, living in their strengths, has an ability unlike the other personality types to do well under extreme pressure.  They can think clearly and make the right decisions under difficult circumstances without falling apart or worrying about what others will think.  I hope you can recognize the blessing of such a person!  The warning to the choleric is in the approach.  The most important thing for a choleric to control is self.  You cannot just take over as you wish, say what you want, to whomever you want and when you want.  Just because you can, does not mean you should.  Not every project, person and situation needs to be rescued.  Use discernment and consideration as you seek to help.  The cholerics desire for control often leads them down a path where they are involved in so many things, they lose their ability to manage time wisely and wind up failing in most everything rather than being extremely successful in a few.

7) Powerful emotions.  The choleric is often the most easy to identify when their emotional needs are not being met.  They become impulsive, overbearing, impatient and angry.  To obtain and maintain emotional health, Cholerics need loyalty from the troops, a sense of control, appreciation for service and accomplishment.  

In the simplest terms, the choleric in your life needs four things from you;

1) to know, without a doubt, you are on their side,

2) to be able to make some decisions to which you submit and enthusiastically agree,

3) to hear you say ‘thank you’ for all of their hard work and efforts,

4) time to get things done.  

I have found that the best thing you can say to fill the cholerics emotional cup is something along the lines of, “I don’t know how you do all you do.”  Watch the resolve on their face lighten.  Express gratitude to them often and your relationship will soar.

My challenge to you this month is that you take these seven things, one for each day of each week this month, and think about how you can use the information to build up your Choleric relationships.  The key will be actually doing something with the information.  Perhaps you need to have a conversation laced with appreciation, offer to physically help get a project finished, promote your Choleric to a role that better suits them, or simply get out of their way and watch them go.   

Or, if you are Choleric, consider how you can make better decisions to change your bad habits, attitudes and communication style for a better you this month. 

Remember, healthy relationships make for a happier, healthier more productive life.  And besides that, people are worth it.

Lady Gaga & Oprah

So, I just watched a recent interview Oprah did with Lady Gaga on her new series Oprah’s Next Chapter.  I feel an urgent need to respond in some way and this blog was my first thought.  In the interview, Oprah, in typical fashion, is trying to get to the “real” Gaga and understand who she is and what she wants in life.  The truth is, Lady Gaga is as she appears; creative, strange, bizarre, famous, wealthy, and disturbed.  I am not a Lady Gaga fan for the simple fact that she is too vulgar for me.  However, I can respect her hard work and genuine talent and I do enjoy listening to a song or two.  However, my personal opinion of Lady Gaga is not important to this post.

What is important is what she, and Oprah, had to say about her new foundation, Born that Way.  The episode shows various clips from Gaga and Oprah’s launch of the foundation at Harvard University.  Obviously, the combination of these three platforms –- Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and Harvard University –- drew a huge crowd and media attention.  I have no doubt the message of the foundation will spread like wildfire.  When people with so much fame speak, people listen and minds are influenced.  The message of the foundation is one of anti-bullying, acceptance, and encouraging youth to embrace who they are with the understanding that they were “born that way” and they should love themselves, not caring about what anyone else thinks for the purpose of their happiness.

Sounds good, right?  I mean who in their right mind is pro-bullying or all for people hating themselves?  No one.

While listening to the interview, you certainly get the impression that Lady Gaga fully believes and embraces her message.  I could never label her as a hypocrite, she practices what she preaches.  There is nothing Gaga is not  willing to do or try or say if and when she feels like it.  It is clear that this message defines her; she is whoever she wants to be, with no limits and nothing holding her back.   Gaga and her mother attribute her worldwide fame and success to this creative freedom and share touching stories of cruel experiences Gaga had as a teen who was bullied.

However, everything we believe and live out has consequences.  It is a simple fact.  Gaga has lived fully in her belief and her extreme creativity has made her a superstar around the world.  But, there is always more than meets the eye.  When someone incredibly famous starts spreading a message that thousands are going to hear, I listen and consider the impact.  And I believe there is a fundamental flaw and a contradiction in her message that will lead many down a path of destruction.

Here is where I get confused, Gaga is quick to admit she is not perfect, in fact she says no one is perfect.  I agree.  But, think about what she is saying.

If we accept and believe that we are not perfect, then how do we spread the message that we are born perfectly fine and we should embrace who we are?  Which is it, Lady Gaga?  If you are not perfect, then can you please explain which part of you is wrong?  Is it the profanity, the half-nakedness, the sexually charged choreography, the alcohol binges, the days you refuse to make contact with family and worry them sick, or something else that makes you imperfect?  According to Gaga all of these things I just mentioned are the results of her creative process.  There is nothing “wrong” with any of it.  In fact, her own mother said the only thing she doesn’t like is when Stephanie curses in public.  But, she goes on to surrender to the fact that cursing is just a part of who Lady Gaga is, so it’s okay.  So, even her mother agrees, there is nothing actually wrong with anything.  Why then does Gaga think she is not perfect?  How does she define what is okay and what is not?  Call me crazy, but this makes no logical sense.

My fear is that if we teach youngsters that there is nothing wrong with them, then is anything they desire or any behavior actually wrong?  How do you even make a case for positive change or personal development?  How do we determine rules at school and enforce them?  How do we parent?  Should there even be rules or should we just let everyone do as they please, if and when and how they feel like it because it makes them happy?  Imagine.  This is the world Lady Gaga is trying to create.

You see, when we lose the ability to define right and wrong, we become very confused, messed up individuals.

The truth is no one is born perfect and, yes, we know it.   We are all born with natural tendencies to do wrong.  Think back to when your first-born child was six months old and decided to slap you in the face.  Babies are inclined to assert themselves when you refuse to give them what they want.  They are “born that way”.  My four-year old son is highly competitive and is inclined to run you over if he thinks you are going to win his race.  He would rather see you bleed than win.  He was “born that way”.   Many a man has been born with a temper or felt inclined to dominate every situation in his life, it makes him happy to control women and children in whatever way he sees fit.  Many a woman has been born with a desire to feel attractive and has obsessively destroyed her body trying to achieve her desired look.  She was “born that way”.

Being “born that way” does not make you right.  Unless, of course, there is no “right.”

Listen, I am all for being nice and respectful toward those who are different from us.   Different is not the same thing as wrong and I teach that concept in almost every presentation I give; different is not wrong.  But, I am careful to say, “but, wrong is wrong and there is right and wrong.”  Gaga’s attitude of total acceptance seems good on the surface, but I am warning you, if our culture continues to embrace this idea, then right and wrong are out the window.  Everything becomes relative, there are no lines to be drawn.  We need to ask ourselves, where will it end?  If Lady Gaga feels inclined to perform naked, who’s to stop her?  If young people want to behave in certain ways because it makes them happy, do you have the right to stop them and tell them what they are doing is wrong?  According to this theory, no.  There are no absolutes, except of course the statement, “there are no absolutes.”  That statement, I guess, is the exception.

My solution is this:  Surrender to the idea that there is a rule giver.  There is an almighty and perfect God who created the boundaries for our good and for His glory.  He IS right.  Here is my anti-bullying message, “Don’t be a jerk.  Treat other people the way you want to be treated.  Everyone is precious and valuable because they were made in the image of God and they deserve to be treated as such.  Bullying is wrong and if you do it, there will be consequences.”  See how easy that was?  When we submit to the authority of our creator, everything else falls into place.

When we try to design and develop our own rules, things get really screwed up.

Why?

Because as Lady Gaga put it, none of us are perfect.