Tag Archives: relationships

Monday Morning Moment – Giving Unsolicited Feedback…Or Maybe You Don’t

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Feedback’s a good thing, right? We all want to know how we’re doing…how we’re being received?…maybe. Let’s define the term:

Feedback is a response from the receiver that informs the sender how the communication is being received in general”. – Bizcom_coach

Here’s a scenario: excitement is high at your company with the launch of a new product. The designers and project managers have put long hours and much brain power into getting everything just right. Colleagues and customers alike are riding the wave of enthusiasm at the magnificent capabilities of the product. You’re also caught up in the moment.

In your first test drive of the new product, you find a couple of glitches you didn’t expect. In fact, it’s a little harder to maneuver than you imagined. At first you think, “Well, it’s me. Operator error.” Then you think of how a few adjustments could potentially fix the glitches and smooth out of the bumps of its user unfriendliness.

Do you offer feedback?Photo Credit: Raquel Biem

Beware of the vast wilderness of unsolicited feedback.

It’s not like this product (or program or service) was thrown together without great forethought and brilliant design. If you noted the glitches, it is most probable that others have as well. Others, who are much closer to the product than you are…much closer to its design process than you were.

A wise position to take is: If you are not asked for feedback, your feedback is not wanted. Or, a bit less personal maybe, if you are not in the already established feedback loop, then the presumed right people are already working on it. The it being whatever you’re burning to give feedback on.

Feedback and advice can mean the same thing to the receiver, whether we consider them the same or not. In fact, we may feel it’s irresponsible or indefensible to withhold feedback when it would assuredly help both the company and the customer.

Where we think feedback is warranted, the project manager or design team may have already reached a point in the process where advice is not welcome. Affirmation? Yes…but advice (or feedback), no.

Whatever our position, expertise, or personality, we will, at times, see the need for offering feedback…even when it’s clearly unwanted.

I certainly have had that experience. One has to ask the question: Is my feedback serving my own ego or my company’s outcome? If we truly believe that what we offer to the mix will make a huge difference, then we may risk offering unsolicited feedback.

There was a time…even as recently as last week, when I thought the reward would outweigh the risk. My thinking has changed (especially in seeing that feedback could be construed as a form of negativism and therefore only clouding the issue rather than clarifying it.

I offer 10 steps toward giving unsolicited feedback. Within the 10 steps there are disciplines and delays that help fine-tune both our thinking and our actions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this…your feedback (in the Comments below).

  1. Pretend you are the project manager, the one executing the new program, product line, or service.
  2. Tear into it. Make as exhaustive a list as you can as to both the positive and negatives you observe.
  3. Now…set it aside…for a few minutes, or days, or forever (this is a bit tricky because feedback should be timely…but we’re talking about unsolicited feedback).
  4. Face the reality that your feedback wasn’t requested. Let that settle your itchy finger set to send the email.
  5. If you still can’t rest, thinking your input has merit, then choose wisely what few points of feedback you especially think would add value and warrant the risk. No more than 3.
  6. Don’t do anything…still.
  7. Consider who may already be at the table giving feedback. If you are not one of those people, can you trust that your concerns are already before them?Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
  8. Resist the urge to gossip your feedback if you don’t feel free to give it to those appropriate to receive it.
  9. If you can’t rest, (even while determined to trust other decision-makers and keeping your unsolicited feedback to yourself), then choose one point, one concern. Make sure it is not just style vs. substance. Also confirm that it relates to a process not a person.
  10. Give your feedback to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Succintly, positively, and friendly. If it seemed that crucial to you to share what was not requested, it is done. Hopefully, the outcomes will be positive. If not, you took a risk. You did not stay silent. It could make a difference down the road. More importantly than the result is the relationship. That matters most.Photo Credit: Ken Whytock, Flickr

Again, remember, I would appreciate your feedback.

10 Common Mistakes in Giving FeedbackCenter for Creative Leadership (includes excellent infographic)

Don’t Ask for Feedback, Unless You Want It Ron Ashkenas

Before Providing Feedback, Ask This One QuestionLelia Gowland

Giving Feedback to Your Boss – Like a BossThe Muse

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch

Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment

I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.

This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.

Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”.  Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.

Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.

This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah  22:3

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”Isaiah 58:6-9

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.

As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.

God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.

A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.

This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image.Jonathan Storment

Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power.Jonathan Storment

Think back over the people who have made a difference in your life. Chances are they had roles as teachers/parents/mentors/friends. If they helped you flourish in your life, it was because they were acting in some kind of authority, and exposing themselves to some type of vulnerability. They had authority because they had the capacity to make a meaningful difference in your life, and they had vulnerability because they were opening themselves up to someone (you) who could potentially hurt them…Crouch is talking about what the word vulnerability really means…woundable.Jonathan Storment

Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]

Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it.Jonathan Storment

“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]

The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption  process.

I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.

[God help me here.]

Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. Jonathan Storment

Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Strong and Weak: The Hidden Vulnerability of Leadership – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Flesh and Bones – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Crown of Thorns – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Numb to the World – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Drunk on Power – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Up and to the Right – Jonathan Storment

What Is True Worship? – Got Questions

Worship That Pleases God – Isaiah 58:1-14 – Brian Sandifer

Characteristics of Acceptable Worship – Gregory Brown

5 Friday Faves – Perspective, Academy Awards, Malcolm Gladwell & Success, Relationships, and Changes in the Weather

31 years ago yesterday, I woke well before dawn and knew right away why. It wasn’t the wild wind of Spring, bringing in the month of March “like a lion”. What woke me was the beginning of labor that would last all day. As we drove to the hospital, the wind gusts pushed against our little pickup truck and added to the deep memories of that morning. Many hours later, our firstborn arrived.

This morning was very much like that morning long ago. I was, however, wakened this time by those March winds, blowing hard outside. No going back to sleep, I settled in front of the fireplace with coffee and reading…reflecting on all the good of this week.

Here are my five favorite finds:

1) Perspective – Two authors this week caused me to think deeply about how we make decisions and choose directions. Writer pastor Scott Sauls (author of a favorite book Befriend) wrote a series of “What ifs” in his blog this week. Here are a few:

What if, in the spirit of Paul intelligently and winsomely engaging Greek academics with the truth of the gospel, Christians became known for engaging in thoughtful, enriching, challenging, and honoring discourse about God, humanity, and life (Acts 17:22-34; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15)?

What if, in the spirit of how care was given to vulnerable children and women in the early church, women experiencing the trauma and fear of an unplanned pregnancy began to think first of local churches, not local clinics, as a comprehensively life-giving place of comfort, counsel, and care (James 1:27)?

What if, in the spirit of Scripture’s vision for the integration of faith and work, Christians became known as the bosses everyone wants to work for, the colleagues everyone wants to work alongside, and the employees everyone wants to hire (Ephesians 6:5-9)?

[Read the rest here.]

Photo Credit: Flickr

Also innovator Steven King wrote of making a decision NOT to become a professor in North Korea. Unlike professor Tony Kim and others who now languish imprisoned there without benefit of a trial or any contact with family or other representative. Remember the #USA3.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Could I Have Been the Professor Being Held in North Korea? – Steven King

2) The Academy Awards – The 2018 Oscars ceremony is coming up this weekend. Among the nominees is The Greatest Showman‘s “This Is Me”, the original song by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The song celebrates the beautiful humanity in all of us, no matter our differences or peculiarities.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you have not heard this song yet, I have links below. They are in a particular order, and you definitely should take your lunch or coffee break to watch all of them.

  1. The Greatest Showman – This Is Me [Official Lyric Video]

2. The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me” with Keala Settle (The Making Of)

3. Beyond the Guitar’s arrangement of a Greatest Showman medley (including This Is Me)

4. This Is Me (from The Greatest Showman Soundtrack) – Official Fan Video – Nathan of Beyond the Guitar is included at minute 1:26 and 2:05

[Sidebar – There are 4 other original songs in the Best Song category of this year’s Academy Awards. One of them is Remember Me from the film Coco. Here is the Beyond the Guitar‘s arrangement of this lovely lullaby.]

3) Malcolm Gladwell & Success – Author Malcolm Gladwell is a tireless student of human nature and culture. My husband brought my attention to him through his books The Tipping Point and Outliers.

Gladwell is scheduled this year to teach writing in the online Master Class. In the promo (below), he tells a story about the Goliath’s in our lives.Photo Credit: Guillaime Courtois, Wikimedia Commons

“Why do giants lose? Because they can’t see….they’re so big and strong and powerful they lose the ability to kind of properly appreciate the world around them. It’s not just a story about David’s courage and greatness…it’s a story about Goliath’s blindness.”

In a video montage (archived on YouTube), Gladwell gives clarity to how we can be successful in life (even with Goliath’s):

Gladwell’s 10 Rules for Success

  1. Have the courage to pursue your idea.
  2. Try a new approach.
  3. #Believe in meaningful work.
  4. Constantly revise your conclusions.
  5. Distinguish yourself from others.
  6. Practice.
  7. Explore.
  8. Be patient.
  9. Understand the rules of business.
  10. Outwork others.

YouTube Video – TED Talk – The Unheard Story of David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

4) Relationships – They are the heart of life. Relationships. Friendships. As we get older, too often we allow friendships and family relationships to go untended, unnurtured. To our own peril.Photo Credit: Flickr

Writer Anna Goldfarb gives wise counsel in her piece How to Maintain Friendships. In brief here’s what she advises:

  • Communicate expectations.
  • Nix “I’m too busy”.
  • …Then examine your busyness.
  • Personal, small gestures are the way to go.
  • Cultivate routines.
  • Come through when it counts.
  • Acknowledge efforts made.

Read her whole article for detail and context. Wisdom.

How to Maintain FriendshipsAnna Goldfarb

This week, I also discovered this young and dynamic pastor, Michael Todd. His sermon series on relationships is like having coffee with a trusted friend who knows stuff and is funny to boot. The first sermon is Before the Person: Relationship Goals. [You can start 20 minutes in.]

He presents how God provided for Adam in the Garden with Eve, but not before He set other things in place first.

Before the Person:

(Genesis 2:15-18)

  1. Place
  2. Purpose
  3. Provision
  4. Identity
  5. Parameters

Good teaching, for sure.

5) Changes in the Weather – I love this changeable weather. This week was such a mix – short sleeves one day, cap and jacket the next. As I say earlier, this morning was so windy, it woke me up before 4:00am. It’s still blowing hard hours later. Our wind chimes are ringing like church bells on a wedding day. Crazy wonderful weather.

[My garden flag flew away and I grabbed my jacket and I walked, still in pjs and slippers, until I found it.]

The beauty of this time of year in Virginia also changes with each passing day…more and more blooms heralding the coming of Spring.

So there you have it. What were some of your favorite finds this week? Please comment below. Also, take care out there in this weather. Enjoy the sun when it comes, and take the rain as a gift to wind down a bit from your week. With much love.

Bonuses:

Rising Tide Startups – Podcast with Glenn Hirchfield, Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Did you catch the ice skating gala performance on NBC the night before the 2018 Winter Olympics closed? The finale was amazing, as all the medalists performed to the Oscar nominee song “This Is Me” (yes…again). I thought it would be easy to find the professional videotape of this event but all I could find were fan videos. Still, they are fun to watch…especially capturing the joy of Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Enjoy:

The rehearsal:

The final performance:

Quote:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Dementia Awareness Every Day

5 Friday Faves – Leaning Into Relationships, Year-End Review, Coco Guitar Arrangement, Attention Management, and For Better or Worse

Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.

1) Leaning Into RelationshipsDr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.

“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Robert Waldinger

Lean into relationships.

TED Talk – What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness – Dr. Robert Waldinger

Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better – Liz Mineo

2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay

This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.

Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry.  His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”

That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.

3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.

It is Remember Me by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The film depicts the story of a young Mexican boy seeking both his destiny as a musician and peace with his family’s past. Lots of skeletons and spirits in the film, as it focuses on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I may have to watch it now.

Here’s Beyond the Guitar‘s lovely arrangement of Remember Me:

4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?”Oliver Burkeman

Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives – Oliver Burkeman

Are Smartphones Making us Stupid? – Christopher Bergland

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – Deb Mills Writer

5) For Better or Worse – Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.

As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.

She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.

Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.

His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.

Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.

Bonuses:

Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.

Quote:  “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis

Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Listening? Or Are You Silencing Voices?

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.

Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.

We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.

At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.

This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.

In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.

Leadership coach Kate Nasser posted a bold article on the workplace scenario of silencing employees.

She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:

  1.  Look unapproachable.
  2.  Have a thin skin and make it about you.
  3.  Do not ask for input.
  4.  Bully and berate others or their ideas.
  5.  Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
  6.  Ignore ones who raise issues.
  7. Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
  8.  Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
  9.  Take credit for others’ ideas.
  10.   Accuse and blame in public.
  11.   Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
  12.   Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
  13.   Pit one person against another.
  14.   Override every decision others make.
  15.   Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.

Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.

YouTube Video – The Power of Listening – William Ury – TEDxSanDiego

We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.

“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.”William Ury

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.

Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.

Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.

We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.

[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]

We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.

Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.

Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? – James R. Detert & Ethan R. Burris – Harvard Business Review

6 Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work – Glenn Llopis

7 Tips for Wooing Your Employees Into Loving Their Jobs, Again – Matt Straz

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Ready For Your Workday? – Lessons From Cintas

Photo Credit: Food & Beverage Magazine

Next time you head to the restroom, take a look around. Unless it has just been stormed by a tour group that needed more than the usual service, you can get a sense of readiness. Not the readiness of the restroom, but of the person or agency servicing it…and you as a customer. I wrote about this level of customer service once before  here. Why I wrote about clean restrooms then is why it begins my topic today. Clean restrooms demonstrate a sense of pride and caring. We want restrooms to be ready for the workday. How about our own readiness?

Readiness is defined as being fully prepared and willing to execute.
It is not just about being prepared for one’s workday. It’s also a ready-set-go willingness to be on our toes, stepping up, taking the ball, and scanning both the horizon and the lines drawn on our playing field.

When a Cintas truck rolls into the parking lot, I can almost smell the clean linens and uniforms inside. Their branding includes this mantra: Ready for the Workday: A confident image, clean facility and safe workplace start here. Here’s their commercial that I just saw this weekend, It got me thinking about the broad reach of readiness in the workplace.

My husband walks out of the house ahead of me every morning with his computer bag and a thermos of coffee. He has his schedule on his phone and he keeps a journal. He has thought about the day. He is prepared…the willingness to execute then comes into play as he goes out our door and enters his company’s door…and all the rest of the doors of his day. Both are disciplines – the preparedness of readiness and the willingness to execute.

Readiness keeps momentum going and momentum has huge impact on business and workplace excellence.

After watching the Cintas commercial, I went to their website. What a feast for anyone wanting to learn about leadership and a healthy workplace culture. Check out their Code of Conduct and Business Ethics page. Nothing on their agenda about Business Casual – and everything about dressing and performing aims at positive impact, and helping their customers do the same.

The website’s drop-down menu displays a variety of helps and services. Honestly, it’s hard to believe this company is for-profit based on the generous sharing of information for helping others (their customers and competitors) be “ready for the workday”.

I want to close with some of the quotes from the Cintas website – both from their own founder and from writers who speak for and to their own leadership. Enjoy.

Corporate culture is the single most important distinguishing factor between greatness and mediocrity. It is a major reason Cintas is different from our competitors and other companies. It is our ultimate competitive advantage.” Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

A key to our success has been a culture that encourages meaningful, respectful relationships between the company and our employee-partners and the commitment to always do what’s right. This spirit of teamwork, camaraderie and trust has become our most important competitive advantage and is a cornerstone of the Cintas culture.” – Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

“Those who rise to senior leadership levels in almost any organization have one critical attribute in common — they’ve embraced soft leadership skills. This includes having the ability to build relationships with the people you work with. There’s never been a leader in this world without people who wanted to follow them — and the first step to getting people to want to support you is to get them to like you. Take the time to get to know the people you work with, and learn what’s important to them.”Karlyn Borysenko

Be transparent. Insincerity and evasion chip away at trust, so whenever you can, be transparent about what’s happening with the business. Of course, there will be confidential data you can’t disclose. Carolyn O’Hara of the Harvard Business Review notes, ‘regularly distributing other information—like financial results, performance metrics, and notes from board meetings—shows that you trust your employees, which in turns helps them have greater faith in you.’”Lee Polevoi

Don’t micromanage or give step-by-step instructions. Instead, provide guardrails while giving [employees] the freedom to find smart and creative solutions.Chuck Leddy

Photo Credit: LinedIn – Cintas

Hope you enter your workplace ready for the day today! The best part of Monday is its own possibility of a new beginning. Of course, that sort of “Monday” can come any day of the week.

On ready!

6 Essential Leadership Skills That Will Advance Your Career – Karlyn Borysenko

Building Trust in the Workplace – What Business Leaders Can Do – Lee Polevoi

Agile Process Management: An Approach For Business Success – Chuck Leddy

16 Things You Should Do at the Start of Every Workday – Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes

6 Tips For Building Momentum  During Change – Sallie Sherman

Why Preparation Is Better Than Planning – Craig Jarrow

Being Ready For Your Workday Feels Great! – Advance Preparation Is the Key to a Successful Day – Craig Jarrow

What Does Casual Dress Really Mean Today? – 6 Wardrobe Tips For Career Success – Lynn Taylor

5 Friday Faves – Skyrim Guitar Cover, Workplace Wisdom, Repair Cafes, Belonging, and Movie Previews

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Just jumping in today with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Skyrim Guitar CoverNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted a new arrangement on Youtube this week – Skyrim – Dragonborn Main Theme. You video gamers probably know this song.  I’ve no experience with this personally, but this song seems to generate sweet emotions for gaming folks. This young man amazes me with his skills, yes, but especially his heart. It comes out in his music. On another note: He has over 1 million views of his Harry Potter medley on the Facebook group Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Exciting.blog-nathan-mills-guitar-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

2) Workplace Wisdom – Finally…on millennials. I know, I know…there is so much written and spoken about millennials. I usually just pass over it…but Simon Sinek’s observations on millennials in the workplace are fascinating and telling. I appreciated that what he sees applies to both millennials and the rest of us. blog-simon-sinek-leadership-and-millennials-why-millennials-matterPhoto Credit: Why Millennials Matter

It is wisdom. Sinek came on my radar this week through a talk he did on IQ with Tom BIlyeu. In his talk, he focused on four components that millennials bring with them into the workplace that affect their professional maturing. These are 1) parenting, 2) technology, 3) impatience, and 4) environment. His take on “failed parenting strategies” may apply to some cultures, but many parents of millennials saw early on the fallacy of communicating how “special” our children are…no matter what they bring to the table. Sinek does communicate a victim mentality here and that’s the weakest of his 4 components. The other three were applicable to the workplace, in general, and to millennials, in particular.

Technology can be a crutch and squelch our creativity more than fuel it. Technology has a negative impact on the depth and breadth of our relationships…we have to pay attention to this. Impatience – for purpose, impact, advancement – is a big issue in the workplace. We need colleagues willing to hang in there through the doldrums. Environment at work is changing at a rapid pace…as much as it appears, on the surface, that it is bending toward the millennial, what is needed is a workplace where millennials can actually grow their skillsets. Sinek speaks to this.

4 Damaging Mentalities Millennials Must Break – Jeremy Chandler (a millennial)

3) Repair Cafes – Wouldn’t you love to have a place within an easy drive where you could take your aging laptop, or blinking lamp, or burned out leafblower for a repair? Is it possible to ever reasonably repair instead of replace? There is a phenomenon around the world where this is happening…not just in rural “third world” settings but in cities. Repair cafes are on the rise. If you want to find one, or start one, go here. This isn’t just about being frugal; this is a craft – this learning how to repair your own broken stuff with the help of a skilled professional – someone’s mom or dad who has learned how to fix things. The closest repair café to us is in Charlottesville, Virginia – do you have one near you?blog-repair-cafe-nytimesPhoto Credit: New York Times

4) Belonging Scott Sauls‘s book Befriend: Create Belonging in in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear is next on my reading list. Belonging is a core need for all of us, and Sauls takes the reader deeply into the realm of true friendship and solid relationships. Whether between peers, family members, colleagues, or even strangers at first encounter. I long to get past superficial and to know and be genuinely known by at least a few people. My desire is to be open to the possibilities of befriending and being “friended” with true authenticity. This book seems a good place to reboot.blog-befriend-scott-sauls-amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

I discovered this book from a tweet about Matt Smethurst’s article 20 Quotes from Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship. I ordered the book based on those 20 quotes. Here are three:

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.” (75–76)

“This is what you call reversing the flow of the umbilical cord: parents demanding that their children function as their source of life; their emotional nourishment; their identity; their Jesus. This always ends in sorrow and alienation and loss. Just as in marriage, we must not place a burden on our children to provide for us the things that only God can supply.” (87–88)

“The best way to measure your desire to serve is to look at how you respond when someone treats you like a servant.” (98)

5) Movie Previews – Call them teasers and then trailers. Whenever we go to the theater, we have to be in place with a family-sized popcorn before the previews start. That is just how it is. I love these glimpses into coming feature films. Two I’ve seen recently follow: On the darker side – Jackie. On the lighter side – Table 19 . Whether I ever see these movies in the theater, watching the trailers was satisfying and wholly entertaining!

blog-friday-faves-table-19-cdn-colliderPhoto Credit: Collider – Table 19

Have a safe and peaceful weekend. Tacky Lights Tour is on our schedule…let the festivities begin.

Also:

Life On My Knees – Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie – Angela

blog-aletheia-praise-band-nathan-angelas-blogPhoto Credit: Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie

YouTube Video – Big Crosby & David Bowie – “The Little Drummer Boy” (Peace On Earth)

Macy’s Christmas Adv 2016 Video – #OldFriends – [Sorry about the Poo-pourri ad at the beginning of the video.]

 

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom

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[From the Archives]

At first, you really liked working with this person. Then, bit by bit, he/she began wearing on you. He is always playing with his phone. Her solution to today’s problem is too labor-intensive. His email responses have become terse. She is late for your meeting. You think, maybe I was wrong about him. He is not the person I thought he was. Maybe, she’s the wrong person on the bus.

When a relationship begins to deteriorate at work (or home), you are wise to take steps to turn this around as quickly as possible. You could be in a work situation that has been difficult from the outset. It is still possible for you to make inroads in turning that relationship toward a more healthy or positive one. If not altogether, at least from your side. Consider an adage that has had a long and useful run in our family and work.

Your opinion of someone approximates their opinion of you.Dave Mills

There are exceptions, but I have found this to be wise counsel (from my husband, no less) in both personal and professional relationships. When what was a warm, congenial relationship takes a turn toward the negative, you can actually work, from your side, to restore the relationship. Even to take it to a deeper level. It can get more uncomfortable at first, because you have to start with your own thoughts toward that person. How have they changed?

We send signals to each other – whether we speak or not.

My Mom raised us out of the era of Walt Disney’s Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel except for the conversations that still go on in our heads and color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions.

Let’s say I have an amicable relationship with a colleague, and then something happens. I may not even be aware of it – a misunderstanding, a misconstrued action, an insensitivity unaware. Then a chill develops, or a clear outright dislike. I have a window of opportunity to clear that up. Otherwise, if I don’t act, then a process can begin where I decide that person is a jerk and has woefully misjudged me…and off we go.

Remember: This can go both ways. You may have had a few off days with a colleague, and find yourself just not thinking so well of him, then stop it! It’s possible you can keep them from picking up that signal and prevent the relationship from getting more toxic as they decide you’re not so great either.

If I refuse to think ill of another person and discipline myself to be respectful, deferrent in my demeanor, and tireless in pursuing understanding, I could restore that relationship. If it doesn’t improve right away, my attitude and actions work for my own benefit and can definitely help build trust with my team members. One day…that relationship may also turn. It’s worth the effort.

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Jon Acuff talks about the four ways we invest in our careers – through skills, character, hustle, and relationships. In an interview with LifeReimagined.com, he had this to say about difficult, or neglected, work relationships:

“Even if you have skills, character and hustle, without relationships, it’s the career version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Why?”

“If you don’t have relationships, you eventually don’t have people in your life who can tell you the truth about the decisions you’re making. You don’t have people who can tell you no or question you honestly. What I’ve learned is that leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things.”LifeReimagined.com interview with Jon Acuff

He identifies three types of people in our lives (work or otherwise, really): friends, foes, and advocates. Jon writes in Do Over:

“The best thing to give a foe is distance. We should ignore most foes. The problem of course is that we won’t. If your definition of foe is too loose and is essentially “anyone who kind of bothers me ever,” your job is going to be miserable. If you see people as your adversaries, it’s almost impossible to have a good working relationship with them. The first thing is to understand whether these foes are clueless or calculated. A clueless foe is that person whose behavior encourages you to fail. They are not malicious. They are not trying to make you lose, but with the power of their influence you are. “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn ‘accomplices’ into ‘friends’ and you can be two-thirds more likely to succeed.”Jon Acuff, Do Over

I think what Jon says is true. Because of my own worldview and value system (and married to Dave all these years), I don’t think we can just acknowledge there are foes out there and distance yourself from them. Sometimes, that is virtually impossible and still be effective at work. Because what can happen, if we don’t act to keep our own thinking clear, is that we take on some of that “foe-dom” ourselves. Maybe you aren’t going to be bosom buddies with this person, but your own work and other relationships can suffer if you develop bad habits around this person. Better to work on the relationship.

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“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with. – Jim Collins, Good to Great

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For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8

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 Do Over by Jon Acuff

Fourteen Indispensable Leadership Quotes from Jim Collins – Thom Rainer

How to Deal With Difficult Co-workers – Read keeping in mind that some days you might be the one perceived as difficult.

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Photos: Just a few of the men in Dave’s life who required no special work on his part to love and respect…and there are many more. Grateful.

Sulking and the Idolatry of Relationships

Blog - Sulking - listdosePhoto Credit: ListDose

I learned how to sulk very early in life, the only girl with three brothers. Sulking came too naturally when I didn’t get my way, especially when my brothers wanted something different than what I wanted. That habit of sulking transferred easily into marriage.

Joseph Bonifacio defines the verb sulk:

Blog - Sulk - joseph bonifacioPhoto Credit: Joseph Bonifacio

When Dave and I were first married, if he didn’t at times behave in some way that I felt he should have, I could effectively sink into a long, brooding sulk. Even though the Bible verse about “not letting the sun go down on your anger” was a serious warning against sulking, I could still go three days without talking to him…beyond the absolute essential.

Those early years of marriage are way in our past, and my sulking these days rarely goes for long, minutes usually, rarely a few hours. Still, it has to be so punishing for him. It certainly is for me.

Today I read the most fascinating description of sulking by Alain de Botton, author of On Love: A Novel and The Course of Love: A Novel

Blog - Sulking - Alain de Botton - fanpopPhoto Credit: Fanpop

At the heart of a sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one. We should add: it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk; it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.”Alain de Botton

Blog - Sulking - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

Sulking pays homage to a beautiful, dangerous ideal that can be traced back to our earliest childhoods: the promise of wordless understanding. In the womb, we never had to explain. Our every requirement was catered to. The right sort of comfort simply happened. Some of this idyll continued in our first years. We didn’t have to make our every  requirement known: large, kind people guessed for us. They saw past our tears, our inarticulacy, our confusions: they found the explanations for discomforts which we lacked the ability to verbalize. That may be why, in relationships, even the most eloquent among us may instinctively prefer not to spell things out when our partners are at risk of failing to read us properly. Only wordless and accurate mind reading can feel like a true sign that our partner is someone to be trusted: only when we don’t have to explain can we feel certain that we are genuinely understood.Alain de Botton

Sheesh.

We can make it hard on those we love the most.

In the same article, on Brain Pickings, where I read Alain de Botton’s words above, there was also the following quote:

““Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.”Martin Heidegger

It reminded me of the passage preached by our pastor this morning. Psalm 115. The psalmist was glorifying God in worship and warning against the sin and human vanity of idolatry – of fashioning a thing or relationship into something for our own pleasure. He further warned that what we fashion for ourselves can cause us to stumble in the worshiping of what was never intended for worship.

Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them.Psalm 115:8
Sulking is a sign that I have assigned omniscience (an “all-knowing”) to my husband (for instance). He is supposed to know what is important to me and how to respond accordingly. The selfishness I may silently stew about in him is actually reflecting the very same selfishness in my own heart. Idolatry is when “I” or my interests take center stage, and sulking is a vehicle for that self-centered universe. Ugh!
It’s something that has come to mind today, thanks to the “coincidence” of a sermon at Movement Church, an article I read this afternoon, and my very own bumping into the idolatrous nature of my heart… This kind of convergence had a great impact on me today and helped me bounce back from a slow-burn that could have ruined a sweet evening with my best friend. Humility on both our parts helped restore the joy and peace in our relationship…sooner than later. Sulking no more.
So…what are your thoughts about idolatries in relationships? Is sulking a struggle of yours, or would your partner say it’s a burden of his/hers?

A senior couple enjoying a cup of tea together

Open Letter to Our Young Adult Sons and to Their Moms

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When we were first becoming serious, my husband Dave answered his aunt’s question about a girlfriend and that’s how his mom found out we were dating. He would have told her, but she didn’t ask…not because she wasn’t interested…but maybe because that is the pattern we develop as moms of adult sons…

This past weekend I had the great joy of being with a large gathering of extended family. My place in that gathering was the aunt who has lived far away all their lives (at least, the young adults, for sure). I am only in town a few days, and maybe, we get one visit. It’s Q & A with Aunt Debbie – catching up, fairly non-threatening (I’m hoping), and it’s only for a few minutes with each one…so minimal and limited discomfort.

As I checked in with each of these young adult nephews, their moms were in the background in conversations of their own. When the question I asked (usually related to work/future) drew a response of new information to their moms, a maternal radar flipped on, and in the middle of their own conversations, these precious moms zeroed in on their sons. “What? When did you decide that?” When this happened with more than one nephew, it led to a sort of fascinating “aha!” moment – “No, it’s not just your mom who does that. All us moms do that sort of thing. We are just interested in our sons’ lives.”

Days later, this dance between moms and our adult sons has stayed on my mind. I’m still figuring out the steps myself, but thanks to other moms wiser and more experienced, I have grown in this area. So…if I had your sweet face in front of me right now, cherished sons and devoted moms, this is what I would say to you:

Young men…you are a marvel. Especially to your moms.* We believe we know you better than you know yourself. Forgive us for that… it comes from loving you across every day of your life…including the days you weren’t even easy to like. The closeness we have felt to you over the years isn’t an easy thing to let go. Somehow we missed the cues as you grew up that you were actually learning what we taught you – to manage your life, to make strong relationships, to become independent, to go after your dreams. We spoke into those things as you grew…and now you’re grown. Forgive us when we nudge our way into your life…we don’t really want to control as much as we want to be a part. You’re doing fine…and even when you’re not, we know from our own experience, that helping you too much isn’t helping. You know that yourself, in your heart. It may be why you hold us at arm’s length…when we press in.

Just be gentle with us…your moms. We don’t really mean to be intrusive. We’re just trying to figure out the balance ourselves. What’s too much? What’s not enough? It keeps us up at night sometimes. Can you believe that? Yes…you probably can. Anyway, we will try not to ask so many questions, and we’ll try not to give unasked advice…but you know we’re going to fail at that. So call occasionally before we have to hunt you down… Be your familiar self at home with us sometimes (we miss that old normal). Share your successes with us, so our hopes can crowd out our fears. Your mama loves you…she just misses you sometimes…even if you’re still living at home. This next stage of your life…this newly grown-up stage is both exhilarating and strange for her…She will figure out her place in it…as you give her grace to do so. Stepping on toes is part of the learning, so thanks for your gentleness and your strong arm of support.Blog - Mothers & Adult Sons - goodnewsnetworkPhoto Credit: Good News Network

Moms of adult sons…I’m one of you. Doesn’t it feel like it’s always our fault…about something or other? Well, for a few minutes, let’s leave off blaming…ourselves, our sons, or anyone else in the equation. Right now, I wish we were having coffee around the same table and talking together about what we’ve discovered of this new life – this new relationship between our grown-up sons and us.Blog - Mothers and Adult Sons - sagaPhoto Credit: Saga

Here’s what I’m learning and what has been helpful counsel from others:

  • Give space and keep space. I don’t understand it, but it does seem like our sons need a bit of breathing room. There is so much change in their own lives, they need to process it themselves. If they choose not to do that with us, we must give them the space to do it with someone else (best friend, Dad, girlfriend/wife). Don’t pull away when that happens (which might be our temptation). Keep space in our lives for these sons of ours. Whether through a card, a text/quick phone call, an occasional invitation for dinner. If you’re like me, you long for those regular family dinners like we see on the TV show Blue Bloods…but a quick burger out can also be a joyful experience…if we let it be.Blog - Mothers of Adult Sons - huffingtonpost - BLue BloodsPhoto Credit: Huffington Post
  • Helping and enabling may look similar but are not. I will be brief here because there is tons online about this. Related to our adult sons, we can help them (as they can, us) without it being a toxic or enabling situation. Do we treat our sons more like neighbors and friends or more like those little boys they once were? We have to examine our own hearts on this one. When it comes to our adult sons, do we love them in ways that free them to love others? Do we invest in them such that they actually are able to get farther down the road in life or the investment tightens their dependence on us? Puzzle this out as I do the same.
  • Communicate in our adult sons’ heart language. This came as a shock to me as our sons grew up, because I thought we communicated fairly well through the years. Unfortunately, I discovered that while they were in our home, it was Mom who too often set the tone and topic of our conversations. Now I am learning (still a beginner here) to follow our sons’ leads on conversations… I may still choose a topic but I don’t push it to its limit with them, as once was the case. Hopefully, this makes sense, and hopefully they have seen me grow in this area. How about you, Moms? Would love to hear (in comments) what your experience is in this language/conversation arena.
  • Keep our sense of humor. As these sons of ours are growing up, we are growing older. They are not us…their choices and life aspirations may surprise us, but they are still works in progress. Our lives are, as well. We have not arrived. When our values or decisions clash, moms tend to either get mad or hurt…neither bode well in our relationships with our sons. We must learn how to take our emotions by the neck and wrestle them to the floor… proactively. Some song lyrics come to mind as I think about this – also these lyrics reflect the advice received from wise moms in my life. “Get over it“, “Let it go“, and tell yourself, “I will survive” and “Tell your heart to beat again.” [Sidebar: I don’t even like the song “Let It Go” from the Disney film Frozen, but it’s advice that I’ve frequently received from mom friends].

So…that’s all I have today. Anything you’re willing to add to the conversation? It’s still somewhat of a forest for me…picking my way through…with you.

And, you sons of ours-  we love you. Not as well, maybe, as we had hoped…but if we all keep at it, we may find even our relationships will get sweeter as life goes on. I’m hoping, anyway. Believing.

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*This open letter may only speak to some, so if this is not helpful or doesn’t address your situation, I don’t mean to offend or presume. Parenting and being parented can be immensely satisfying and, at the same time, greatly complicated. If I can encourage, that is my goal…having the answers has to come from someone wiser than me.

YouTube Video – I Will Survive – scene from the film The Replacements

Parenting Adult Children by Todd Carey

When Helping Hurts – Are You an Enabling Parent? by Allison Bottke

When Is It OK to Be a Helicopter Parent? by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

Relationships Between Mothers and Adult Sons by Susan Adcox

The 6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Adult Child by Linda Bernstein

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You ForeverPhoto Credit: Amazon.com