Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Making Things Better

"Because I want things to work out the way they do when Bach is in charge. Or Paganini. Or Jane Austen. Or even Yeats. Because I'm desperate for a nice, tidy ending, maybe with a pleasant rhyme or two, or that wonderful last burst of symphonic harmony that makes me want to shout "yes!" But it's not happening that way" (Clements, 2006, p. 153).

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that made whatever you were struggling with feel worse instead of better? I had that experience this week, and it hurt. A lot. Although it was thoroughly unpleasant, as I have reflected on it for the last several days, there are a few salient points that I intend to try to make rules of thumb in my own future interactions with others:

1) ASK for more information about the situation, about what the person has tried so far, and about how the person is feeling (even if you think you already know), then REALLY listen for as long as it takes.

2) ACKNOWLEDGE that the situation is hard/complex.

3) AFFIRM (validate) that the situation hurts/feels bad. (Don't try to talk the person out of their feelings. Instead, give the person permission to feel.)

4) ENCOURAGE by reminding the person of the unique qualities you see in them that indicate to you they have the capacity to manage the situation.

5) EXPAND the person's vision by helping them to see the answers within themselves, asking them to think about next steps, and pointing out that they do not have to endure it alone because you, others, and Christ will help.

6) AVOID giving "answers." If you cannot contain yourself, then at least offer them as questions instead of statements.

7) REMEMBER that the nice things the person does for others may very well be an indication of the things that most help them feel loved, served, and encouraged.

Note to audience: Feel free to print this on cardstock, laminate it, and whip it out when you need a handy reference for what to do with me (or your two-year-old) the next time either one of us are upset about something! ;-) For those of you who prefer more authoritative sources than self-appointed psychologists like me, read Gary & Joy Lundberg's excellent book, "I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better." When I first read it, I thought, "Duh." However, applying the principles is not as easy as it might first appear, and they really do work on people ages 1 to 101.

Note to self: Remember not to choose to take offense when you are having a conversation with a well-intentioned person who is obviously a bit behind on their blog reading and didn't get this handy-dandy reference card printed!

Brainteaser: Can you turn those E words in #4 and #5 into A words! (I love alliteration!)


Clements, Andrew. (2006). Things hoped for. NY: Philomel Books.


jenn said...

Oh, Cherice, so sorry someone made you feel worse. It doesn't help even when you know that they mean well. Hope someone stumbles along your way to really LISTEN to you. Maybe someone just might read your blog! And I think you hit the nail on the head in #7) "REMEMBER that the nice things the person does for others may very well be an indication of the things that most help them feel loved, served, and encouraged." You've shown that you feel loved/served/encouraged when others are able to listen to you in the same way you listen to THEM. Listening is a lot more than just hearing, that's for sure. I think I really will print this out and give to married couples I counsel with (if that's OK?) Here's your alliteration: for encourage--aid or assist?(doesn't work too well) and for "expand"--amplify?

Cherice said...


THANKS for the sympathy (and the tips on alliteration!) :-)

Hope you are doing well!