Men's Relational Toolbox

Men's Relational Toolbox

by Gary Smalley, Greg Smalley, Michael Smalley

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Using the right tool for the job makes sense when it comes to building or fixing things around the house. But when it comes to significant relationships, men often grab the tools that make them successful in the workplace—and then wonder why they didn't work. Through humorous anecdotes and practical advice, this engaging book will help men discover the set of


Using the right tool for the job makes sense when it comes to building or fixing things around the house. But when it comes to significant relationships, men often grab the tools that make them successful in the workplace—and then wonder why they didn't work. Through humorous anecdotes and practical advice, this engaging book will help men discover the set of tools they need to build and repair the relationships that are most important to them.

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Tyndale House Publishers
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5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)

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Men's Relational Toolbox

By Gary, Greg, and Michael Smalley

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 Smalley Publishing Group, LLC.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8423-8320-4

Chapter One

It all centers on the toolbox.

After thousands of hours researching relationships and thousands more counseling others about them, we've stumbled onto a truth we believe can help any man build or repair his relationships. The truth is this: We build and repair our relationships much the same way we build and repair anything else-by using the right tools.

That's right. Our ability to effectively build or repair our relationships depends on the quality and number of items in what we call our "relational toolbox." If you want to build or repair a deck around your house, you need a box full of the right kind of tools. The same is true if you want to build or repair a relationship. However, the problem with many of us guys is that we lack the right relational tools for the job. That doesn't make us the dimmest lights in the harbor. It makes us different.

For every relational tool we guys might lack, we possess a different internal tool-usually a factual and practical tool that makes us independent and skilled at providing and protecting, the two things most of us are best at.

Throughout the first half of this book we'll be discussing the internal tools that make us good providers and protectors. Then we'll take a look at those much-needed relational tools and take you on the ultimate shopping trip-the one that will equip you with the tools that will make you a better relationship builder and repairer.

But before we do that, let's take a look at the other toolbox-the one sitting on the shelf in your garage.


Robert is a teacher, a guy whose most dangerous work tool is a pencil. He spends his hours instructing students about the wily ways of the English language. But like most guys, Robert has a toolbox on the garage shelf at home.

One day Robert's wife took the car on a carefree trip to the supermarket with their three toddlers buckled in the backseat. Unfortunately, she forgot to close the garage door when she left. When she and Robert met up at home at the end of the day, Robert announced that something tragic had happened.

His toolbox had been stolen.

To hear Robert's wife talk about his reaction, you'd have thought the house had burned down.

Robert stood in the garage, pacing in small circles, a vacant look in his eyes. "My tools," he said over and over. "Someone took my tools." Robert's wife felt bad about the incident, but she was still able-with very little effort-to put the matter out of her mind long enough to help the kids safely into the house, unload the groceries, and start dinner.

"She told me I could get new tools," Robert explained later. "Can you believe that? New tools? As if that would somehow replace the tools I'd lost."

Robert eventually became excited at the prospect of getting new tools, but he wasn't thinking about that in the minutes after he found out about the burglary. Standing there staring at the empty garage shelf where his toolbox once sat, he thought, What if I need to fix something? What if something's loose or something squeaks or something falls off?

We believe Robert speaks for most of us guys when he said to us, "Guys, I felt naked."

We men often feel this same sense of inadequacy when we try to build or fix important relationships. We often don't have the necessary relational tools, and that leaves us feeling as helpless as Robert felt without his toolbox.

We may not be builders or mechanics or carpenters, but we feel secure knowing our toolbox is out there in the garage. It's reassuring, giving a sense of completeness. And we believe you can have that same feeling once you get to the second half of this book and stock your internal toolbox with the right relational tools. If you checked inside the toolbox belonging to the average guy, you'd probably find some basic tools, including the following:

Hammer-used to pound or deliver repeated blows, especially when driving nails into wood

Wrench-usually operated by hand, used for tightening bolts and nuts

Screwdriver-used for turning screws with slotted heads

Pliers-used for holding and gripping small articles or bending and cutting wire

Tape measure-used for measuring

Saw-used for cutting solid materials to prescribed lengths or shapes

Lots of guys we know never build things and rarely even repair them. But almost every guy has a toolbox with at least these tools. Most of us aren't sure when we actually acquired our toolboxes, but we have them all the same. It's almost as though we woke up one morning and there in the garage was a toolbox with the basic tools that go along with being a man.

Why is this?

Because there are some things most guys are good at, and one of them is using tools to build and repair things. Our guess is that whether you are an accountant or a truck driver, a doctor or a delivery guy, you have a toolbox stocked with tools that you know how to use to accomplish some basic tasks.

Here's a list of the things most guys can do with the basic tools in their toolboxes:

* Hang a picture

* Install basic shelving

* Tighten and loosen things (like door hinges)

* Install a screen door

* Replace a faucet

* Change furnace filters

* Install a new light fixture

* Fix a broken toy

* Repair a leak

* Measure the size of a room or window

* Trim or cut a piece of wood

* Grip or hold something steady as it is being repaired

Now granted, you might be the kind of man who has traded in his toolbox for a tool chest, the man who has enough tools to allow you to assemble a 747 in your garage. But even if you can't tell the difference between a ratchet and a crescent wrench, you can usually handle the tasks listed above.

Certainly some guys don't own toolboxes-though we'd venture to say that they are for the most part, very young or very old guys. And we're equally certain some women have toolboxes like the one described above. But for the purposes of this book, we'll generalize a bit and say this: Toolboxes are primarily a guy thing.

There's a reason for this: Men and women are different.

This is probably not earth-shattering information to most people. In fact, you are probably nodding in agreement as you read this, not dropping the book in astonishment.

Sadly, when most people talk about the differences between men and women, it's usually in negative terms. We see women as having an "inborn relationship manual," while we see men as stumbling about looking for ways to get along in their relationships.

Or, as Greg said, we men-bash.

We aren't going to do that in this book. Instead, we will take a look at what we're trying to build. This book is a manual for building relationships, mostly relationships with women-girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters, coworkers, bosses, committee members. Of course, guys need relational tools to relate with other men, but generally guys are already equipped with the tools necessary to do that. The relational tools that work between guys will not always work when a man tries to relate to a woman. In fact, that kind of relationship usually requires a different set of tools altogether.

With that in mind, let's look at our internal makeup and at what types of tools we guys have in our internal toolbox.

That's right-our internal toolbox.


Men are born with an internal toolbox. Internal tools are as important to us men as our toolbox out in the garage.

They are so important that if we woke up one day and didn't have these tools, we'd be lost, just as lost as Robert was when he discovered his toolbox had been stolen.

Just like a man who once lost his tool pouch. The story played out this way.

A female friend of ours had an appointment at the local middle school. She was waiting at the office counter when a man dressed in a suit and tie rushed in. He was breathless, and sweat was dripping off his forehead. In his hand was something large and cumbersome-about the size of a grocery bag. At first our friend couldn't quite make out what it was.

"Here you go," he said as he held it up.

His tone was similar to the one a man uses when he's bagged a five-point buck. But our friend could see that this man wasn't carrying a deer. He held in his hands a large tool pouch overflowing with wrenches, drills, pliers, and other assorted tools. Our friend noted that none of the tools looked even close to new. "The contents were worn out and dirty, like leftover clutter from a garage sale," she said later.

We know what most of you guys are thinking. Tools? Like leftover clutter from a garage sale? Hardly!

The businessman held up the tool pouch for the women behind the counter to see. "I found this in front of your school. It was just lying there on the sidewalk," he said incredulously, shaking his head.

The women in the school office glanced from the man to the tool pouch and back again, their faces utterly blank. They were probably thinking what our friend was thinking-that whoever left the pouch had obviously done so on purpose. Maybe it had gotten too heavy to carry another few blocks down the road to the Goodwill truck.

Finally, one of the women stepped forward. "Okay. What should we do with it?" she asked.

Now the blank stare belonged to the man. "These are tools!" he said.

His tone suggested that losing tools might be only slightly less tragic than losing a child, but definitely worse than, say, losing a wedding ring or a thousand dollars cash.

The woman at the counter was not seeing that.

"Well," the other woman said as she peered into the tool pouch, her nose slightly wrinkled, "okay."

Now the man huffed, "Look, I'm late for the biggest appointment of my life, lady. But I had to stop. Somewhere there's a guy missing these tools." He said the word missing with a level of emotion usually reserved for weddings and funerals. "I couldn't drive another foot without stopping," he said and motioned back to where his car was parked. "I ran all the way up here."

The woman used her toe to point to a spot on the floor. "Put them there, I guess," she said. "Maybe someone will claim them."

"Maybe someone will-" the man stopped himself. "Never mind. I'm late for work."

He turned and ran out of the school, hair disheveled, coat tails flapping in the wind. But he had a heroic look on his face, as if he'd done a deed that made him worthy of calling himself a man.

After he left, the woman behind the counter turned to her office coworker and said, "Is it just me, or was that man a little over-the-top about tools?"

The fact is, most of us guys are a little over-the-top about the tools in our toolboxes. It's the same way when it comes to our internal tools.

The good news is we excel at something. In fact, in some settings we're downright amazing. That's because our internal toolbox contains certain tools that make us naturals in those settings.

Let's take a look at some of the internal tools you probably already have.

Excerpted from Men's Relational Toolbox by Gary, Greg, and Michael Smalley Copyright ©2003 by Smalley Publishing Group, LLC.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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