Lessons From Dale

On a recent visit home, our son was telling us about life lessons he had recently heard on a podcast. On it, the producer reminded the listeners that to be a good conversationalist one has to be willing to learn. One needs to take the posture of listening and thinking to oneself- “What can I learn from this person who is talking?

First edition, 11th printing (February 1937), Courtesy of Wikipedia

First edition, 11th printing (February 1937), Courtesy of Wikipedia

I love this idea. Which of course is nothing new. We should always treat others as if their presence is a gift to us: a gift of time, experience, advice, of being. It is one of the tenants from the still published and still offered courses by Dale Carnegie. HIs signature book was “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It was first published in 1937 and is still in print. I never read the book nor took any of the courses yet have always been intrigued by that title. In some ways it seems so contrived and calculating: to win friends and intentionally influence others. Yet that is what we do or try to do with one another whether we want to think it happens or not.

According to Wikipedia the book was broken down into different sections: things that the book will do for you (presumably if you pay the money for the course and/or books); fundamental techniques for handling people; ways to make people like you; ways to influence people to the way you think; how to be a leader without giving people offense or feeling of resentment; letters that produce miraculous results (removed in later editions of the book) and ways to make your home life happier (again, removed in subsequent re-printings of the book).

Part of his explanation of making people like you is to take a genuine interest in others and listen to what they say. That does seem cold and calculating and not at all organic. However, the rationale that by listening, we may learn something new is a great posture of humble listening: To recognize value in each interaction with one another and that in that interaction, someone may teach us something new.

The thing that I have noticed lately is the lack of one another really listening. (I include myself with this.) There is no longer the art of conversation but rather joint monologues. I think of the “play dates” for two-year-olds. At that age, there is not interactive play- just side by side individual play. Our conversations are like that. One person will speak and another will speak either over top of that person or interrupt or continue on a totally different wavelength and/or topic. Very rarely is there a conversation where the conversational ball gets tossed back and forth with the addition of new and interesting information being shared. It is almost as if everyone has a limited time to get his/her point across about any topic and so conversations become this quick exchange of “my” information.

I do think that the time factor is part of the problem. Our days are jam packed with transactions: running here and there, trying to accomplish whatever we deem important. We don’t get a chance to really speak to the people we know and love in our lives nor much less listen to the peripheral people that we bump shoulders with- the customers in the grocery store, at the gas pump, folks who are walking down the street, and in some cases the people living next door to us.

Just yesterday I was able to truly listen to a stranger and it was only due to the fact that I had some extra time. My friend and I had gone grocery shopping together and as my order was smaller, I was finished sooner than she. In one aisle I encountered a gentleman who was having a little trouble seeing the items on the shelves and so I made a brief comment to help him out. This led to a ten minute discussion where the man told me some of his life story.

The whole time I was with him because I was thinking of my son’s comment about his podcast, I consciously thought, “Be present with him. Really listen and recognize the gift that he has brought to your day.” It was a wonderful discussion. Now in all honesty, I didn’t learn any encyclopedic knowledge but I did get a taste of what I have been thinking and writing about. Plus the chore of going to the store didn’t seem so burdensome. After this encounter I began wondering, What next? Whom will I meet at the next place? I was prepared to keep my eyes and ears opened.

What about you? What are your interactions with people like? Are they strictly transactional? Do you listen? Could you repeat back what you have been told? Do you know the eye color of the person who just spoke to you? I realized that many times I see people with out truly seeing them.

In my encounter at the grocery store, I intentionally wanted to connect and so I saw him and his interesting pale almost amber/brown eyes. Of course, in this day and age we need to be smart. You don’t want to have the reputation of the creepy starer in the neighborhood or being accused of longingly looking at a person when all you are doing is trying to look them in the eye. But I know for myself I need to be more intentional in my listening skills and part of that requires me to zero in on the face of the speaker.

I do not know how much I win friends or influence people and that is really not my intent. I think the beauty of the lessons is to connect with others and build community. When we have an understanding community, we will win friends and influence others for the betterment of society.

No Grudges

"Who?  Me?  Did you want something?"

"Who?  Me?  Did you want something?"

What would our world be without our dogs? Less nuts, that's for sure.  

Our Jack Russells, especially the male can drive us crazy! When he gets fixated on something, he completely ignores us. We know that it is due to our poor dog parenting but we can call his name numerous times demanding that he comes inside.  No response.  Eventually he will turn his head and look at us with a glance, "Oh, were you calling me? Like there are a dozen Marley's from which to choose? 

The thing is, when he finally comes in we are exhausted and enraged.  How dare he not listen to us?  Don't we provide him shelter, food and plenty of toys? He is a dog and we are his masters.

He is infuriating. Of course, by the time he skips upstairs after his non-listening foray (generally this occurs after going outside @ 4am, doing his business and then barking at nothing until I am thoroughly awake from calling him to come in), he is all ready to continue with his normal routine: leap onto our bed, stick his nose under the covers, sidle next to me, place his head in the crook of my arm and sigh.  Acting like nothing was ever the matter.  He isn't at all bothered by the tone of my voice as I yelled at him to come in.  It doesn't bother him that I will kick him out of bed, possibly numerous times.  He doesn't hold it against us.  He will continue to try and snuggle.

Other times after we have yelled at him we have tried the tactic of completely ignoring him.  Doesn't matter, he will still try to engage us with a game of ball or tug of war. He will forage in his toy bucket for just the right chew toy to entice us to play with him.  His leaping, turning and rolling suggests that he is so happy to have someone with whom to play and you should be happy too. 

Guess that is why I love dogs.  They are so forgiving and loving.  They do not hold a grudge.  They continually remind me to enjoy the present: don't get hung up on the past and don't worry about the future. Nothing in life is ever too much to bear that a good chase of a ball won't cure. 

What about you?  Do you have any pets?  Dogs?  Cats? Hamsters?  Fish?  What have you learned from being around those creatures? 

NOTE: On Wednesday, April 12th the Upper Room devotional will be running my devotional entitled, "The Path of Mercy".  As readers, you can go online, Click Here and comment on the devotional.  I was asked to provide a follow up so you can read that there as well. 


Sent By God

Last month I wrote about Lisa Fenn, Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton- the remarkable individuals from the ESPN Carry On story.   On another radio program I heard a more extensive interview with Lisa.  She gave more details regarding her involvement with these young men.

When Lisa arrived at the Cleveland High School to film the boys she first met the wrestling coach.  He shook her hand and pulled her in a little close so he could speak privately to her.  "You've been sent by God", he said.   He had been praying for these boys every day that God would send something/someone to help them.  

Little did Lisa know that when she saw the newspaper photo of the boys that the pull she felt was a God pull.  

How cool is that?  That she was willing to go with her instinct, gut, calling- whatever you might name it- and follow where it led. 

Later, during the filming of the boys at a match, one of them had all their possessions stollen- wallet, phone, books, money, etc.  He was devastated and mad.  How could someone do that to him, when that was all he had?  At that point, Lisa said she made the choice to get involved.  As a journalist, she knew that her role was to just report and observe. One is not to influence the trajectory of a story but she didn't know how she couldn't.   What bravery on her part to get involved, not knowing how it might turn out, not knowing if she completely compromised her journalistic integrity.  But it was the right thing to do.

Got me thinking.  Do I listen to the still small voice of God?  Do I get involved?  Am I willing to be sent by God?

What about you?  Have you ever had an experience where you were placed right where you needed to be in order to help someone else?  Did you weigh the costs before hand or was the pull greater than any risk?