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THE PEOPLE FACTOR
HOW BUILDING GREAT RELATIONSHIPS AND ENDING BAD ONES UNLOCKS YOUR GOD-GIVEN PURPOSE
By VAN MOODY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Vanable H. Moody, II
All rights reserved.
You've Got to Be You
THE LAW OF BEING REAL
DID YOU SEE ANY OF THE MOVIES IN THE Batman trilogy starring Christian Bale? What about Inception? How about The Avengers or Iron Man? In these films, the main characters wear masks or pretend to be people they are not. Similarly, in the classic film Roman Holiday, Gregory Peck's character, Joe, hides the fact that he is a newspaper reporter who stands to gain five thousand dollars for securing an interview with Audrey Hepburn's character and simply pretends to be her friend. At the same time, Hepburn's character is a princess masquerading as an ordinary girl.
While secret identities and elaborate disguises offer good entertainment, a person who pretends to be anyone other than him- or herself will not be able to enjoy genuine, authentic relationships. To build and maintain deep, substantive relationships, people must know themselves, be honest about themselves, and share their true selves with others. They need to be real; they have to be who they really are, with no pretense and no spin. Of course, they also have to be free from the dark web of keeping serious secrets, but I have reserved that important topic for another chapter. In this chapter, I simply want to focus on how and why we must be genuine, honest individuals, and to explain the importance of looking for those same qualities in others.
When people in a movie hide their identities, the plot inevitably unfolds to the point where circumstances force them to reveal themselves or where they are found out. By the end of the film, the mysteries of identity have been solved and the story concludes neatly. But real life is not so scripted. In the real world, people do not usually wear costumes or disguises, but many do find subtle ways to make themselves seem better than they really are. I suspect we have all done that at times—some of us more than others—but anytime it happens it sets us up for personal and relational failure. To enjoy success in our lives and in our dealings with others, we need to thoroughly know our true selves and allow the right people to know us completely as well.
SEE THROUGH THE WORDS
Most people are quick to speak and slow to hear. They have no clue how weighty their words can be and no idea how seriously others may take what they say. Perhaps you know exactly what I mean. Maybe a boss said you were due for a raise, but then never completed the paperwork so you could actually get it. Maybe someone said the powerful words I love you, then proceeded to treat you disrespectfully or to demonstrate all kinds of selfish, unloving behavior. Or maybe you have encountered simple, common situations such as hearing a teenager say, "Yeah, I'll clean up my room," only to see that room still a mess a week later.
You probably have all kinds of personal experience with people who say one thing and do something else. It is a widespread problem. We often build relationships with people who do this because we do not understand that they really do not know themselves and therefore do not realize the incongruities between their words and actions.
A young man named Jason who grew up around the car business now runs a marketing business for auto parts companies. Several years ago, through a family member, Jason became acquainted with Steve, the semiretired owner of an organization with manufacturing and sales operations all over the world, but with very little marketing support. Jason saw great potential in the company and recognized that Steve had a number of ideas that could benefit his current customers and give him access to an entirely new consumer base, if only a savvy marketer like Jason could communicate them clearly. Jason had the ability and experience to serve Steve and the company well, and he was eager to do so.
Despite being warned by someone with personal experience, "That guy will work you harder than anyone else ever has; he will eat your lunch," Jason thought the relationship would provide him with good experience, so he moved ahead with it. Because he had been informed they had a small marketing budget and could not pay him a fair market rate, Jason reduced his fees and made very little money for his efforts on their behalf. Working with Steve became so stressful that Jason's church friends and basketball buddies, who normally did not comment on his business endeavors, noticed that he was under unusual pressure.
During the professional relationship, Steve took unreasonably long amounts of time to respond to important e-mails and declared himself "not available" while on the golf course or at his lake house when Jason needed information to complete his projects on time. But Steve regularly contacted Jason during Jason's few short vacations. Steve and his wife even invited Jason and his girlfriend to spend a nice, relaxing day with them at the lake, but as soon as the young couple arrived, Steve cornered Jason and spent the next three hours talking about marketing ideas.
Even though Steve did not treat Jason well, the older man repeatedly patted him on the back, told him how much potential he had, and told him what a great job he was doing. He even went so far as to say, "Aren't you glad you're working for me? I know it doesn't pay a lot, but nobody will treat you better than I do!" The chasm between Steve's words and his disrespectful actions puzzled Jason at first because Steve's verbal affirmation was so convincing. Finally, Jason's perceptive girlfriend figured out the problem and explained that Steve honestly believed he respected Jason, and that Steve truly could not see how his behavior was inconsistent with his comments. Assessing the situation correctly, she said, "It's easy. The guy is deceived. He doesn't really know himself. He's probably not even aware of the differences between what he says and what he does."
I have known many people in positions similar to Jason's. They build relationships with others based on the words those people speak instead of the actions they take. At first, they are confused because most people tend to believe what others say, especially when their words are encouraging or empowering. But sometimes people's actions do not support their statements. People often try to rationalize this kind of behavior with comments such as, "Well, he just expresses his love differently than I do. He says he loves me, and I believe him" or "The boss says I'm next in line for a promotion. I don't understand why she keeps giving her nephew all the opportunities that lead to the next level and introducing him to the decision-makers in our company. But she assures me I'll move up in the organization as soon as a good position becomes available."
We must realize that discrepancies between words and actions are serious warning signs. Most of the time, people whose words and actions are not consistent do not know themselves well and therefore are not good candidates for relationships. Having the integrity to back up what we say with what we do is vital, and we must find people who will do this with us. Setting this same high standard for ourselves is equally important.
It Starts with You
You will find a lot in this book about how to deal with other people. The truth is, all the positive traits I encourage you to look for when considering a relationship are traits you would be wise to cultivate in yourself. Likewise, the characteristics I urge you to avoid in others are qualities that would also be detrimental to you. I cannot overemphasize the simple, obvious fact that you are a critical component of every relationship in which you are involved. You play a vital role in the success and failure of each interaction in your life. The healthier, stronger, and more mature you are as an individual, the likelier you are to seek friends and associates who are also healthy, strong, and mature, and to develop relationships with those same qualities.
You have an important role to play and a responsibility to give the very best of yourself to every relationship in your life—with your family and friends, with your work associates, with individuals in your community, and with people in social or religious settings. If you want to discover your best self so you can share it with others, start by being transparent, being real, about who you are.
If you are going to be real, you must demand honesty from yourself and avoid self-deception. The easiest person in the world to deceive is yourself. Think about it: You can so easily tell yourself you are smarter, more attractive, more creative, more loyal, more honest, or more anything than you actually are. And whatever you tell yourself, you believe.
Believing your own personal public relations campaign is easy, but it will not lead to truth, transparency, and integrity. One of the best ways to really get to know yourself is to focus on your behavior rather than your words. People of integrity do what they say they will do; the substance of their hearts is expressed through their actions. Ask yourself the questions below and answer them honestly. (You will have a chance to do this at the end of this chapter if you prefer not to stop now.) This will help you see how you are doing on your journey to becoming a truthful, transparent person and let you know where you may need to improve.
When I say I will show up for an appointment at a specific time, do I show up on time?
If I have signed a credit card application agreeing to pay my creditors each month, do I pay them when payments are due?
If I have committed to marriage vows, am I keeping them?
Do I honor my commitments to family members (including my children) rather than repeatedly letting them down, expecting them to "cut me some slack" because, after all, we're family?
Do I tell the truth in casual conversation rather than being content with little "white" lies?
Do I demand honesty from myself on my job, even if twisting the truth a little will make me appear smarter or put me in a better position for promotion?
Do I tell myself the truth about who I really am?
Am I honest about my weaknesses and flaws?
Do I exaggerate my own abilities?
Do I tell half-truths?
Do I flatter people to gain their approval?
Do I minimize or give damaging reports of others to make myself look good?
These questions can all be answered with one word: yes or no. Once you have answered them, I recommend that you consider them a little more. Examine your responses and ask yourself why you answered yes or no. Think of specific examples and identify the reasons you responded as you did. The more thorough and honest you are willing to be about yourself, the more effectively you can make the adjustments needed for personal growth and improvement. An honest assessment of yourself will help you get to know yourself better than ever before. The better you know yourself, the better your relationships will be.
Invite Others into the Process
Ophthalmologists will tell you that everyone has blind spots. That's right, having one blind spot in each eye is normal. If you are a living human being, you have visual blind spots. The same is true mentally and emotionally; there are certain things you cannot see about yourself. Your blind spots may be something like pride and jealousy that only reveal themselves in certain situations: a tendency to exaggerate your accomplishments or a habit of "polishing" the truth when doing so benefits you. These are thoughts, attitudes, or actions you probably are not aware of, but other people see them. These blind spots can become barriers or stumbling blocks on your journey to great relationships.
If you want to take the next step in getting to know yourself accurately, ask a few honest, trustworthy friends for their opinions about you. Friends who are willing to do this can help you see your blind spots, and the right people will do so with candor, but also with love and grace. Be prepared for straightforward answers, but if you are willing to hear the truth, this exercise may yield some lessons that will help you be a better friend, coworker, leader, or family member. Asking an honest, compassionate friend these questions will help you get started and may even lead to more questions that will also give you great insights into who you are.
What do you think are my best qualities?
What do you think are my greatest weaknesses?
Do you believe I consistently tell the truth?
How well do you think I know myself?
What do you think is the biggest deception I have about myself?
Do you feel you can depend on me in an emergency or a crisis?
In what ways have I earned your respect?
Do you trust me?
What one thing do you think I could do to improve my life and my ability to relate to others?
Do you think I treat other people with honor and respect?
Do I have a good record of keeping my word and doing what I say I will do?
Do you believe I am open to constructive criticism and to making personal adjustments when others speak the truth lovingly to me?
Some of the answers your trusted friend gives may surprise you; some may even sting. You may not agree with him or her, but remember: you chose the person who answered the questions because you trusted and respected that person and you wanted honest responses. Be willing to think and pray about what you learn from this exercise and be willing to make the changes needed in order to become a better person in general and a better participant in all your relationships.
Keeping it real
Once you have had the courage to take an honest look at yourself and to ask someone you trust to help you identify your blind spots, you have what you need to begin a powerful journey of making significant adjustments that will serve you and your relationships well. Only you can know the specific changes needed in your life, but let me suggest several general ways to be a real, transparent person. These are also important qualities to look for in every person with whom you consider having a relationship.
Be straightforward and sincere.
Have you ever walked through a crowd and heard two people making small talk? Maybe the conversation goes something like this:
"It is so good to see you! How are you doing?"
"Good to see you too. I'm doing great. How are you?"
"Oh, I couldn't be better! You know, that outfit looks great on you."
"What? This old thing? I just pulled it out of the closet in a hurry this morning."
"Well, you look great. Hey, I've got to go, but I hope to see you again soon."
"Me too! Take care!"
Interactions such as these take place all the time—in hallways of office buildings, in break rooms, in neighborhoods, at ball games, at churches—in all kinds of places where people encounter others. Of course, such conversations are fine as long as they are honest. The problem comes when people really are not glad to see each other and say in their minds, Oh no. I really didn't want to run into him today, while saying with their mouths, "Nice to see you!" Interactions become insincere when one person says, "That looks great on you" while thinking, She must have gained forty pounds since last time I saw her and that dress makes everything worse!
Even in situations that call for the most casual conversation, we need to learn to be straightforward and sincere, yet loving and kind. Sometimes, we can do so with only slight tweaks in our language, for example:
If you do not think someone looks good in a particular outfit, but you really like one part of it, you can simply say, "What a beautiful scarf," or "I like that tie!" or "What a pretty color!"
If you are not glad to see someone, you can still smile and say, "What brings you here today?"
If you are not doing well, instead of answering, "Fine," when someone asks how you are and you really do not want to discuss your situation, you can say, "I'm really enjoying being out and about on this beautiful day" or "I am so glad the weather is finally getting milder!"
I cannot overestimate the importance of being straightforward and sincere. Being able to say what you mean and mean what you say is a vital component of a successful life and healthy relationships. If you have ever encountered people who are insincere, you may agree that lack of straightforward honesty is often the first indication that they might not be trustworthy or are not who they say they are.
According to folk etymology, the Latin words from which we get the English word sincere are sine cera, meaning "without wax." Apparently, this term comes from an age-old practice common in the production of fine porcelain. Real porcelain pieces can crack during the production process, and dishonest vendors filled the cracks with wax to make them appear as though they did not have flaws in them. Honest vendors, in contrast, displayed signs saying Sine Cera to indicate that they sold pure porcelain pieces, not deceptive ones.
A sincere, secure person does not try to cover personal "cracks" or flaws. He or she will respect you enough to be honest and transparent with you and to expect you to do likewise. On the other hand, insincere people try to make themselves appear better than they really are, often because they are afraid of being rejected.
Excerpted from THE PEOPLE FACTOR by VAN MOODY. Copyright © 2014 Vanable H. Moody, II. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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