Connecting is All About Others

John Maxwell tells the story of traveling in South America and using a tour guide to point out various sites. It appeared the man was not too excited about showing off the wonderful ruins and landscape; perhaps he was all too familiar that he lost the wonder of such ancient history. You’ve probably heard a similar speech, perhaps even at a theme park attraction; the memorized speech. Sometimes what they have to say is much more important than the people they are hired to serve. Any questions can be an inconvenience to the guide, a situation that does not place any value on the tourists.

A Good Guide Draws Others In: Those who don’t get it will often see themselves as the center of the conversation. What they have to say is more important than those to whom they are speaking. Do we see the parallel to teachers yet? We have a message to share, but the message is not the most important part of the small group experience, it’s all about the people.

Self-centered Teachers Seem to Share a Common Philosophy:Ram it in – jam it in, students’ heads are hollow. Cram it in – slam it in, there is more to follow.” Good teachers, leaders and speakers don’t see themselves as experts with passive audiences they need to impress. Nor do they see their interests as most important. They see themselves as guides and focus on helping others to learn.

Sometimes when we deal with people we want them to hurry up and finish telling us their problem so we can give the solution. Perhaps we are not really listening because we are consumed with formulating our response to what they are saying. I saw a cartoon that has a man talking to a co-worker in an office setting, and he says, “There is no I in TEAM, but there is an M and an E, and that spells ME.” It’s really hard to get others interested and involved when we are me focused. When a leader attempts to cast a vision, he has to be focused on others.

Zig Ziglar once said, “If you will first help people to get what they want, they will help you get what you want.” Interaction with others is essential to communication. It is best to focus on others instead of our own needs.

It’s Not About Me: Connecting is never about us, it is about the person with whom we are communicating. We must change the focus from inward to outward.

Immaturity: When we are young, we do not see the big picture, that comes with maturity. Donald Miller says immaturity is like thinking life is a movie in which you are the star. That which we do is often all about us. Maturity is the ability to see and to act on behalf of others. Immature people don’t think about someone else’s point of view.

Property Law as Viewed by a Toddler – by Michael W. Hernandez:

  1. If I like it, it’s mine.
  2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
  3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
  4. If I had it a while ago, it’s mine.
  5. If it looks like it’s mine, it’s mine.
  6. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
  7. If I can see it, it’s mine.
  8. If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.
  9. If I need it, it’s mine.
  10. If I say it’s mine, it’s mine.
  11. If you don’t stop me from playing with it, it’s mine.
  12. If you tell me I can play with it, it’s mine.
  13. If it will upset me too much when you take it from me, it’s mine.
  14. If I can play with it better than you, it’s mine.
  15. If you are playing with it and put it down, it’s mine.
  16. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

Remember that maturity does not come with age; sometimes age comes alone.

Ego: Sometimes teachers can develop an unhealthily strong ego, which is a disproportionate sense of their own self-importance. Professional speakers and pastors need to be on guard because they might be looking for compliments after the message is over; positive strokes that say I did good or to validate my performance or competence. Maxwell says that no one can connect with others with this sort of attitude.

Failure to Value Everyone: As teachers we are to make this a priority, to value those in our classes. To succeed in life, we need to learn how to work with and through others. Maxwell tells the story of a Japanese businessman who was asked the most important trade language. Expecting to hear “English,” the response came, “The language of my customer.” Having a good product or service is not enough. Knowing your product but not your customers is like having something to sell but no one to buy.

As teachers, we must speak a language that clearing communicates the message. You can also talk to others until you’re blue in the face but people know in their if your really care about them. Are you a teacher who if fully invested in your class? Do you team teach? If so, are you also in the room the weeks you don’t teach? How do your students know that you really are invested in them if you drive by one week and then are out of their world for the next few weeks?

Insecurity: This is a sure fire reason that people will spend more time on themselves than on others. Ken Blanchard has developed a model of leadership based on the greatest leader ever to walk the planet, Jesus. He says that if a leader is Edging God Out, he will lead in one of two ways. He will either lead out of pride or out of fear. Fear manifests itself as insecurity. It says, “If these people only knew that I am not really qualified or capable to lead this group or teach on this topic, they would not follow me.”

A Matter of Connection: I read about a coffee business that changed it’s focus. While many people might believe that they are in the coffee business serving people, they are really in the people business serving coffee. That’s a great image and change of perspective.

Three Questions People are Asking About You: The point is, we must be able to communicate the attitude of selflessness.

Do you care for me? Your most important life experiences likely involve those who care about you the most. Mutual concern creates connection between people. When we learn to care about others, we learn to connect with them. Connecting with others by caring for them goes beyond profession.

  1. Business: “You can’t make the other fellow feel important in your presence if you secretly feel that he is nobody.” (Les Giblin, former national salesman of the year)
  2. Politics: “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” (Abraham Lincoln)
  3. Entertainment: “Some singers want the audience to love them. I love the audience.” (Luciano Pavarotti)
  4. Ministry: “ I get a speech over with because I love people and want to help them.” (Norman Vincent Peale)

Calvin Miller says, when most people listen to others speak, they are silently thinking:

  1. I am lonely wanting a friend.
  2. I am weeping and want of laughter.
  3. I am sigh in search of consolation.
  4. I am wound in search of healing.
  5. If you want to unlock my attention, you have to convince me that you want to be my friend.

People live better when they care about one another.

Can You Help Me? There is an old saying in sales: “Nobody wants to be sold, everyone wants to be helped.” By helping others we often can help ourselves. As we lift others we receive a blessing and are then lifted up. In sales, I read that we are to focus on benefits rather than features. A feature may be irrelevant to the needs and interests of your audience. A benefit, by definition, is always relevant.

It is a difficult task to create a thirst for learning in your students. Many times we focus on the features (theology and theory) rather than the benefit (guidance in life, peace in your relationships, strength to withstand temptation, purpose and mission). People are bombarded with information and features. To get their attention you need to show you can help.

Can I Trust You? Have you ever bought a car? How was that experience? Much of the industry is designed to keep customers off balance, skeptical and suspicious. Trust is vital to life; it’s more important than love in relationships. Businesses want to create raving fans. These are customers who are loyal to the company or the brand. They recommend the store to their friends. If someone has a positive buying experience, they will even come back from out of state to someone they trust. When the members of our classes become raving fans, we have connected with them.

Connecting Principle: Connecting is all about others.
Key Concept: Connecting begins when the other person feels valued.

Practical Steps:

  1. Be a good listener when with other people.
  2. Ask good questions to discover what they value.
  3. Discover shared values and build the relationship based on those values.
  4. Acknowledge people’s strengths and potential contribution.
  5. Invite input and allow others to lead in their area of strength.
  6. Express appreciation for others.
  7. Do something special for your people.

Counseling and Loneliness

Loneliness knows no class, race or age: it hits everyone periodically. This is the lack of meaningful contact with other people which is accompanied by sadness, discouragement, a sense of isolation, restlessness, anxiety and an intense desire to be wanted. Lonely people feel left out, unwanted or rejected, even when surrounded by others. I have sent missionaries to East Asia, where they were be in a city of 15 million people and suffered terribly from loneliness.

1. Emotional loneliness: The lack or loss of a psychologically intimate relationship with another person

2. Social loneliness: Feeling aimless, anxious or empty, even “out of it”

3. Existential loneliness: The sense of loneliness which comes from being separated from God and the person feels there is no meaning in life

The Bible and Loneliness:

1. Adam was alone and needed a helpmate

2. Adam and Eve were instructed to multiply the race

3. Adam and Eve broke fellowship with God in their sin

4. OT giants like Jacob, Moses, Job, Nehemiah, Elijah, Jeremiah and even David were lonely at times. Jesus was alone in the garden, John on the isle of Patmos, Paul in prison having been deserted by nearly everyone.

The Causes of Loneliness:

1. Social causes

  1. Technology: As government and business gets bigger, people feel less significant, smaller and not needed, and people do not develop deep satisfying relationships.
  2. Mobility: Moving around is much easier, which tears up relationship, separates families, eliminates neighborhoods or a community spirit, and people don’t risk getting close to others in fear of being hurt later.
  3. Urbanization: As people move into cities together, they really tend to withdraw from one another. There is a fear of strangers, and this leads to suspicion and withdrawal.
  4. Television: Television enhances separation both by program content and seems to promote superficiality. People view the tube and seldom engage in meaningful communication.

2. Developmental causes: Ellison mentions basic needs that must be met

  1. Attachment: People need to feel close bonds with other human beings, especially as children. Children separated from parents, divorce and even child abuse can all lead to loneliness.
  2. Acceptance: Parents communicate this to their children by touching, spending time with them, listening, disciplining, and showing affection. If children are ignored or excessively criticized they will feel worthless.
  3. Acquiring skills: We all know social misfits. They are often insensitive to the needs and attitudes of others, and they don’t know how to develop smooth interpersonal relationships. They might try to manipulate or force themselves on others which only brings more frustration and increased loneliness.

3. Psychological causes:

  1. Low self-esteem: This is the opinion we have for ourselves. If it is low we will underestimate our value and withdraw, or if it is too high we will exaggerate our value to the point of conceit. Low self-esteem will cause a person to be weak or shy, and there is a need to depend upon others. When others are not available there comes a sense of insecurity and deep loneliness.
  2. Inability to communicate: This is at the root of many if not all interpersonal problems. If one can’t communicate, there is a persistent loneliness that follows.
  3. Self-defeating attitudes: There is greater possibility for loneliness when there is intense competition, struggling for self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, criticism or intolerance for others, holding on to grudges, using other people to satisfy our own egos.
  4. Hostility: Some people are just innately angry. They seems to feel threatened, frustrated or resentful because of real or imagined injustice. This anger can turn to self-hatred, and into loneliness due to constant complaining and negative attitudes, which will drive people away from them.
  5. Fear: People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges, which keeps other people out. These can have a fear of intimacy, rejection, or fear of being hurt.

4. Situational causes: Being single, divorced, widowed, grieving, or elderly can be lonely. Those in leadership positions, students away from home, affluent people in a financial crisis, those with deformed bodies or diseases.

5. Spiritual causes: Free will allows us to rebel against the only avenue of salvation for individuals. Existential loneliness comes when we refuse to acknowledge and confess our sin.

The Effects of Loneliness:

1. Isolation: Often but not always.

2. Poor self-esteem: Feelings of worthlessness; failure in relationships or activities; discouragement and negative self-talk.

3. Hopelessness: This can lead to despair or even thoughts of suicide, feeling there is no way out.

4. Alcoholism and drug abuse: As a means of escape.

5. Violence: Some will express their frustrations in destructive ways

Counseling and Loneliness:

1. Admitting the problem: They might feel this admission of loneliness is the same as being a social misfit, unattractive, unable to relate to others.

2. Considering the causes: It is possible to work on the source of the problem and not just the symptoms.

3. Accepting what cannot be changed: Self-esteem can be changed, while a widow’s cannot bring back her husband.

  1. One must develop an inner life of positive interests, appreciation for what is good in life, and a sense of humor. It is more than positive thinking. It is a rejection of self-pity and a willingness to see the bright side.
  2. One must develop a lifestyle of keeping in touch. Involve yourself in play, creative activities and daily news which can keep one from a tendency to brood.
  3. One must develop a religious faith that can keep one in touch with the realities of life, seeing life in its wholeness. One will find meaning which can under-gird the individual.

4. Altering what can be changed: Watch less television, spend more time on family activities, get involved in useful church activities

  1. Developing self-esteem: People need help for them to see their strengths, abilities, gifts, and weaknesses. People spend a lifetime telling themselves that they don’t look good, are incompetent or are disliked by people. We compare ourselves with others which aids fuels our feelings of inferiority. Every person has value to God, is loved, can be forgiven, has gifts and abilities.
  2. Taking risks: It takes great courage to reach out to others, even if one has good self-esteem. It can be embarrassing or threatening.
  3. Learning skills: Many people are social cripples and need to learn basic skills of relationships.

5. Meeting the spiritual need: Jesus and me makes a majority, so why be lonely? Then one can be incorporated into the family, the body of Christ.

Preventing Loneliness:

  1. Recognize that as a believer you are adopted into the family of God.
  2. Get involved in a local body of believers or organization with whom you share beliefs.
  3. Find a mentor of someone to whom you will be accountable for growth goals and taking risks of getting out of your comfort zone.
  4. Identify and name your weaknesses, making sure to not put yourself in vulnerable positions.
  5. Rid yourself from isolating activities such as computer, television, gaming and work toward activities that force you to be in community with others.
  6. Discover your giftedness in serving others; it’s hard to be lonely when you are serving others. Visit the local homeless shelter and volunteer, there’s nothing like volunteering to put life back into perspective.