The Art of Loving Others

Five Ways You Can Make a Difference Today

People. Life is about people. The Christian faith is about loving God and loving others. Life is essentially relational in makeup.

I am just back from overseas. I read a lot on planes. I picked up a book, The Art of People by Dave Kerpen, that looked interesting and easy to read. I can’t read dense with ideas kinds of books on planes. I need lots of short chapters; something practical with a  flowing writing style. Nothing really new. But at this age in life, it is harder to find really new stuff. I just need to be reminded of the really good stuff, which Kerpen does so well (and I recommend his book to you).

Here are five things about people worth reminding and remembering.

ONE: Seek to be interested in others more than being interesting.

Why? Because people are, fundamentally, most focused on their own needs. They are not (first) interested in you telling them all about you! They are interested in talking about their own life, their needs, their problems, their interests. So, be interested in them. If you are, you will always be delightful to have around. Therefore, you need the next approach.

TWO: Become a monster-strong listener.

Are you a good listener? So many people are not good listeners. The dictionaries describe listening as “hearing something with thoughtful attention.” We all have things we want to say to others. Many of us lean toward over-communicating. We just talk too much. We talk too long without taking a pause. We need to learn the art of conversation (dialogue, not monologue). Several practices will make for good listening.

First: Learn how to ask good questions.
Second: Then be quiet and listen.
Third: Pay attention to what is being said.
Fourth: NEVER interrupt.
Fifth: Don’t be thinking about your response or refutation or advice. If you are, you are no longer listening to them.
Sixth: Ask follow-up questions.

THREE: Help people connect with others.

We all want to be connected, but not everyone is as comfortable connecting. So make connections. Make introductions. Help friends meet friends. I love to help others connect with my friends. One of my chief passions is to help my friends get to know my friends.

Especially pay attention to those people who seem to be isolated. They will benefit from your desire to help others be connected.

FOUR: Be helpful, but not overly helpful.

It is great to ask others, is there a way that I can help you in what you are doing? How can I help? Ask that and see what happens. Notice, this is you setting the stage for the other person to invite you in. Too often we butt in with advice—unwanted advice, opinions, suggestions, etc. When you do that, you have just moved into the driver’s seat. Strongly resist that. Let the other person be the driver. You do that by asking them to define the nature and the amount of help they could use from you.

Remember, your resources of time, skill, and energy are limited, so you must monitor how often you can actually be helpful. But when you make the offer, you must be sincere and committed to engage.

FIVE: Encourage others. Validate others. Affirm others.

Kouzes and Posner wrote a best-selling book on leadership called The Leadership Challenge. They identified five fundamental practices and explained each practice with two commitments leaders must make and follow through to completion. The final practice was “Encourage the Heart.” Later, they wrote a follow-up volume called, you guessed it,  Encouraging the Heart.

Everyone needs encouragement. Most people live with a deficit of encouragement. Most of us receive more criticism than affirmation. Lift others up. Build others up. Nurture the esteem of others. Respect them. Value them. Appreciate them. Offer encouraging words.

Note: Do not use flattery. Flattery is fake. Flattery uses excessive praise for wrong motives, usually so that the flatterer will be similarly praised and affirmed. I cringe every time I hear flattery used. Encouragement is not flattery. Encouragement is recognition and affirmation.

Good encouragement is:

  • Immediate: Don’t wait. Do it in the moment when good work is experienced.
  • Specific, not general or generic: The specific has much more power.
  • Focused on the outcomes produced: Don’t focus on just what was done.
  • Appropriate, not excessive: Not everything is amazing or awesome. Actually, few things are. Use appropriate words.
  • Genuine and sincere: This means it is usually spontaneous and not rehearsed.
  • Affective and cognitive: This means it has emotion and thought as it is delivered.

These five people practices will make a big difference. Keep alert for how you can put them into practice every day. Pray for God to open your eyes and move your heart to be an encourager.

Learning the art of loving others along with you,
Pastor Brian

Brian Rice