Happy belated Mother's Day and Happy Father's Day! I'm sorry I haven't e-mailed my newsletters for a while.
Whenever I skip my newsletters, I feel guilty -- even when I tell myself, "But there are valid reasons!" In the last three months, I've tried to spend time with our son, his wife and their two young children. Also, in addition to our regular activities, James and I have attended five weddings (of nieces and nephew), four birthday parties and have had to replace two leaking water heaters. With so much to do, how can I get a newsletter out?
Raising a child is similar to publishing a newsletter, although much more complicated. In both cases, we can focus on the product (e.g. what my child can accomplish) and/or the process (e.g. how is my child growing through mistakes and failures?). But there is a bigger picture. Instead, you should ask yourself, "Why am I doing what I am doing? What is my end goal? What can I do differently?"
It's when I started to ask myself questions that things were able to change. Did you notice anything different about this newsletter (comparing to the old)?
Asking questions is great, but don't you need to be heard, understood, and accepted when you have a problem? This feature article, Ten Ways to Block Loving Connections, reminds us to actively listen before jumping in with solutions.
To make a long story short, I realized what I was missing in my newsletter process. I was writing without deadlines to take the urgency out of it. Even though it was important, I never set deadlines or scheduled time to just sit down and write. With so many people around me and with so many things going on, I've decided I need to set time to write regularly so that I can build a positive habit. I need deadlines, structure, accountability and support.
The end result? Welcome to the new beginning of [PABC] Newsletter! With some external support, I am committed to publishing two times each month, Lord willing. Please pray for me and my team!
Relationship Tips - Dinner Bell
In the last few months, we have had six people living in our house. Even though we have separate sleeping quarters, we share the great room (living room, family room, and kitchen) and have family dinner two or three times a week. I asked myself, "How can I make life easier and fun for three generations, two couples, and two young kids at dinner time?" Ring the dinner bell!
Dinner Bell is something I implemented a long time ago. At that time, I found myself often frustrated when dinner was finished cooking but nobody came to eat when I called them. When they did not answer, I raised my voice. That added tension at the table. When I realized what the problem was, I thought of ringing one of my souvenir bells to signal "dinner is ready" instead of yelling it out. I presented the problem and worked with my family to come up with a workable solution.
- Specific: Instead of yelling angrily, "You don't care! You never eat dinner with me," express your feelings and specify the behavior that you don't want. For example: "I am tired after working a long day. I feel disappointed and hurt when you ignore my call for dinner."
- Measurable: "When I ring the bell, come sit down within two minutes, 90% of the time."
- Achievable: "How about 75% of the time?"
- Realistic: "If two minutes is too rushed, how about five minutes?"
- Time-limited: "Let's try this for the next 3-months and re-evaluate afterwards."
Ten Ways to Block Loving Connections
In the old days, if I said, "I'm so angry today," my husband often replied, "If I were you, I would not be angry" before I could even finish explaining my problem. That would make me incredibly angry -- at him!
Are you frustrated with negative interaction with someone you love?
The Bible says "... Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). Next time, listen to their complaints and gather clues as to what they might be looking for. When a teenager (or wife) yells, "You don't care!" and stomps out of the room, it could actually mean they feel as though no one understands their pain.
When people come to us with a problem, it's easy to lapse into behaviors that -- although usually well-intentioned -- serve to block us from hearing the other person's experience. Here is a list of your reactions that may block the connection you so wish to have with that person:
1. Counsel. Seek not to advise solutions (until asked) but listen and reflect back on the person's experience. More often than not, people (even children) can figure out some solutions to try if they feel understood and accepted.
2. Defend. Whether the problem concerns you personally or not, when you explain, justify or rationalize, you invalidate the other's experience. You can create a time to offer your wisdom and experience, but for now, just listen.
3. Shut down. This happens in parenting when we say things like, "Stop crying. It's not that bad." Children (and adults too!) are more likely to stop crying when they feel they've been heard.
4. One-up. It takes courage to tell others about our problems. When someone opens up, don't jump in saying, "Oh, that's nothing!" "Listen to what happened to me!" gives the message, "Your experience doesn't count."
5. Reassure. Believe it or not, it's OK -- even healthy -- for people to feel their feelings. When we try to console ("It's not your fault; you did the best you could"), we take people out of their feelings.
6. Pity. Sympathy and pity ("Oh, you poor thing!") are very different from empathy, which is simply a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.
7. Commiserate. When someone is telling you a problem, they want to be heard, understood, and believed. Sharing stories of your own similar experiences is not showing empathy; it turns the focus away from the person with the problem.
8. Correct. Every conversation is a chance to find out how that person feels, thinks and needs. Disciplining children out of love involves three components: Teaching, Coaching, and Correcting. Don't jump to correction. First listen. After the other person feels fully understood, then see about correcting any misunderstandings or inaccurate impressions.
9. Enlighten. Don't attempt to educate unless your opinion is asked. If this is one of your habits, people might not want to talk to you.
10. Interrogate. Too many questions distract from the feelings at hand. Asking question after question in a rapid fire fashion will surely get your teenager to not tell you anything. Remember, family is not a police station, you are not an investigator. Family is not a court, you are not a judge.
To build relationships, try listening to people so that they feel safe to talk with you. If you sense that your talking is not getting you anywhere, turn back to listening. You could ask yourself this question: "Do I want to be right or do I want to have a relationship with this person?" and decide what to do. It's always your decision!
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications