I’m a glass half-full guy! I figured it this way—you can’t fix something until it’s broken. If it doesn’t break, well, we can evaluate it and improve the process. My starter wife, Debra (my first and only wife), has a beautiful weeping cherry tree in the center island at our home. I call it Debra’s tree, because she picked it out. She then chose a place for it and told me to plant it. We planted this tree 10 years ago, and it is so majestic when it blooms. A week before Halloween two years ago, we had a strong wind storm and it blew over. Debra was devastated! She loved that tree and looked forward every year to see it in full bloom. You would have thought we lost one of our cats (no such luck).
I went out and surveyed the situation and then called a friend of mine. Being guys, we stood and looked at the tree, we studied the tree, and we both came to the same conclusion: when a tree goes down, it’s done. No need to think about it any longer. Let’s go get the chain saw and start again with a new tree. Moments before we started the chain saw, I said, “What if I get the truck, and we stand it up? We could thin out some of the branches and give it some support until it regains its root system.” Let me explain that this is not a little tree. It’s a big, honking, weeping tree. I got the chain, the level, the truck, and the supports, and we went to work.
First, we trimmed out the branches and gave it better shape and balance. Then, in true southern fashion, we hooked up the chain, and with a lot of horsepower and supports, we stood that tree up again. We even used a level. I was relating this story to the county extension agent a week later, and he stopped me before I got to the chain and truck part of the story and said that would have been a waste of time, because that tree is dead. Au contraire, mon frere! (I love showing off my French). That tree is still alive and blooming all spring long. People are like that; sometimes we fall! Doesn’t mean we’re down—just means we temporarily need to be stood back up and supported. My awesome executive assistant, Michelle, went through a tough time earlier in our friendship. Sometimes, some support and balance are all we need to make people bloom again. Here are some suggestions:
Supporting your Supporters
Be a Friend
Whether it’s a bright, cheerful smile offered to a perfect stranger in passing, or a tender smile toward a close friend or loved one, this is an easy way to deepen your connection. You never know when being a friend will come at just the right time and have the positive effect that person may need.
Don’t just Look at People! Share your Joy with People!
Joy seems to have gone out of style, replaced with skepticism and “If you don’t believe what I believe, you’re wrong.” If you have to find a reason to be joyful, you need to start finding reasons to share it! How do you find the energy to be joyful? Turn off the world and tune into those who are important. Technology steals your time and joy. Those people on Facebook aren’t perfect, and they aren’t your friends. People you can face-to-face with are your friends. Pour your joy into them.
Time isn’t Money. It’s GOLD
In today’s world, there’s a bigger emphasis on running around and getting things done than there is on making time to connect with others. I struggle with this personally. Take a look at your weekly calendar and schedule a date night with your partner, a lunch or activity with a friend, and some quiet time for yourself to simply be still and reflect. You may be surprised at how making time to connect with others shifts the quality of your relationships. You may also feel the shift in how you relate with others as a result of carving out time to be with yourself.
Listen with your Heart, not your Ears
Pay attention to how you listen to others. Perhaps you hear them speak, but you don’t really listen to what they say. While you listen, are you already formulating your response? Do you have a tendency to finish their sentences or to interrupt them with your own experiences? Are you listening to your own internal dialogue and making assumptions or judgments about the other person? When you can listen from your heart rather than your head, you’re able to be present while someone else shares. When you feel heard—really heard—by another, it deepens your level of trust and connection with them.
Relationships require open, compassionate, and conscious communication. Effective communication asks that you show up in the conversation without engaging in melodrama or blaming others or yourself. Instead, employ heartfelt, open dialogue between parties. When you can share how you feel about something while requesting help from that person to meet your needs, it provides both sides with an opportunity to practice mindful communication.
Through doing your own personal development work, you come to know and understand yourself at a deeper level. As this journey unfolds, you inevitably learn more about those who play a role in your life experiences. You can explore where your beliefs and behaviors were first imprinted if you place attention to your emotions as they rise up to the surface in challenging situations. When you can recognize that your old patterns and beliefs no longer support you, you have an opportunity to perceive, and live, life differently. This type of realization allows you to see that others are also doing their best from their level of awareness in this moment and from this perspective. Knowing this makes it easier to let go of grievances.
Be Present and Focused on the Other
When was the last time someone asked you about you? Ask people about their lives, their families, their hobbies, goals, and visions. Then, really listen to what they have to say. Spend time relating with them through body language, facial expressions, and your overall quality of presence. Be there with them in that moment. Refrain from checking your phone, glancing at passersby, and other mindless distractions. How you interact directly with others affects the energy of the relationship. When you give your full attention to the person you’re with, it enhances your connection.
Establish Gos and No-Gos
Everyone has things that work for them and things that don’t. Another profound way to connect with others is to dip below the surface and explore the deeper level conversations that reveal other people’s likes and dislikes. Everyone has things that they need in certain relationships and boundaries that, when crossed, have the potential to compromise friendships, destroy family ties, and disintegrate working relationships. Ask people what’s important to them, and what things would cause them to reconsider being in a relationship with you, and vice versa—explore your boundaries, then tread lightly.
Another profound way to connect with others is to be authentically you. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in any relationship is to masquerade as someone or something other than who you truly are. Practicing authenticity means being vulnerable. Share yourself with those you care about and provide the safety for those you care about to share themselves with you. When life gives you lemons, use it as an opportunity to learn from and connect with others. When life is on the incline and everything is amazing, share that in a way that promotes inspiration and motivation for others.
Remember: down isn’t out! Trim, shape, pull, support, and try. It’s the way we drive change and support those around us for the better.
Happy 18th anniversary, Broomhilda! (This is what I call Michelle when she laughs. When you hear her laugh, you will understand the nickname.) You have enriched my life more than you will ever know. Happy Halloween!