Tag Archives: attitude

Post from the Past: Good Conversation

Yesterday, I talked a little about making strangers feel comfortable. Sometimes, just talking a little can really help someone open up and feel at ease. If you are in a large group of people (at church especially), search out the person who looks the least comfortable or the most lonely, and strike up a good conversation with them.

What is a good conversation? Well, first of all, you want to pick a topic that the other person will be interested in. If crowds make you nervous too, say so! (I wouldn’t mention the fact that they look nervous, and that’s why you came to chat.) If you can find anything else in common with this person, talk about it. Think of your surroundings. Maybe you are at church or a seminar. What brought you there? What brought the other person there? If you don’t already know, ask. You probably already have something in common, as attested to by the mere fact that you are sharing the same space on the same day. If you just can’t think of anything, compliment jewelry or children – anything to get started. Talking about the weather is even acceptable, as long as you don’t leave it at that!

Try not to come across as superior. Maintain a humble attitude. Talk about your weaknesses (if you can do so without whining or complaining). Whatever you do, don’t one-up them! There are two ways to do that, by the way. You can either make your life look extremely better than theirs, or extremely worse. If you are truly concerned about the comfort level of the other person, you will steer clear of both extremes.

It’s difficult not to talk about our own children, cars, etc, especially if we are proud of them (or frustrated with them). But only mention your situation if it can help establish empathy for the other person. For instance, when people mention that their children aren’t doing well in school because they have a short attention span, I’ll say that my kid has a short attention span too. Sometimes I’ll add an illustration. I haven’t one-upped them; I’ve just established that I understand where they’re coming from. The last thing I would do is tell them that that’s one of the many reasons I homeschool, and then proceed to explain how well my kid is doing with his schoolwork. (I might, however, ask them if they have considered homeschooling. If they show an interest, I would of course answer any questions they might have. If they don’t show an interest, I wouldn’t push the benefits of homeschooling. Some people just aren’t in a position to homeschool, and others haven’t opened their minds to the idea. Just be friendly and humble.)

If you can be funny, go for it! Laughter is a great ice breaker. But more than finding the right responses, it’s important to just listen, as long as they feel like talking. If you can see that talking makes them even more uncomfortable, leave them alone, and find  someone else to chat with.

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Post from the Past: Ego Booster

Teaching the homeschool choir has been challenging for me, especially learning how to handle the high school girls. One day, attitudes were running wild – one group of girls acting superior to the rest, and another group whispering and glancing snidely toward the first group. I finally had to stop the class and give a little lecture before I felt we could go any further.

During the odd years that I attended Christian school, I must have had the idea that everybody loved me because I was so quick to show off how much I knew. Think about it – that’s the way parents act when they brag about their kids to others or when they look at homework to see how good it is. In high school, I hadn’t realized yet that the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Looking back on it, I actually think everyone despised me. It took me a really long time to start thinking about the world in terms of others instead of myself.

So, I decided to be painfully honest with my choir girls. I told them how I cringe when I think about those days. I told them how I don’t want anything in my life that reminds me of that era. My husband picked out a nice pair of shoes at a shoe store the other day, and I liked them, but I didn’t buy them. Can you guess why? They were in the same style that I would have worn 17 years ago, and I didn’t want to remind myself of my teenage years every time I put them on. I am ashamed of myself for having flaunted my knowledge.

So after I embarrassed myself in front of my class, explaining why they would hate me today if I were their age now, we had a little talk about always striving to make others feel good and comfortable. It isn’t about who’s the smartest, most well-raised homeschooler in the building. If you have been homeschooled, you probably have the self-esteem to handle boosting someone else’s ego (sometimes at the expense of your own). Go out of your way to make the other person feel valued, like his opinion counts for something, instead of always assuming that everyone is interested in what you have to say or how much you know. Homeschoolers get used to needing to prove that they are better than public-schoolers, and we take this attitude into life with us. Not only is this attitude going to make friend-finding difficult for you, it could totally impede your ability to be a successful witness.

Here’s a tip if you are heading off to college: on the first day of class, get to each class early and find a seat. Make eye contact with people as they come through the door and smile. Look for people who look scared, and make an effort to make them feel more comfortable. I once moved my bag closer to myself (freeing up more space at my table in the process) after seeing a woman come through the classroom door, looking for an unintimidating place to sit. She took the gesture as intended, and sat with me for the entire semester. We are still friends on Facebook to this day, even though I haven’t seen her since that semester seven years ago.

In general, nobody else will care about you except for you, at least until you form a relationship with someone. Be one of the few people on this earth to place the comfort of a stranger above that of yourself, and you will find yourself surrounded by friends.

Self Esteem

Have you ever been around someone who is constantly correcting you, one-upping you, or arguing with you? You get the idea that they really think they’re better than everyone else in the room. I think that sometimes they are just struggling to prove their worth. Attitudes like this can stem from people with low self-esteem as well as people with self-esteem levels that are off the charts. There might be a way to tell the difference, but I haven’t been around enough people of both kinds to come to my own conclusions. Any ideas on how to tell?

Anyway, here’s a method that sometimes works with people who come across that way: total humility. If you are corrected, humble yourself, and without any sarcasm whatsoever, say something like, “I’m sorry, I had no idea. I shouldn’t be saying things like that unless I’m absolutely sure.” Or, “wow, so you really know a lot about that, hmm.” Even if they are wrong, I will usually just say, “oh, really?” instead of arguing. It makes no difference to me if they think I am slightly ignorant about a topic, even if I’m not. However, it may make a great difference to them. If you argue with them, they may obsess about it for the rest of the week!

If they correct you for something that you’re doing wrong, like cooking or pitching a tent, ask for their help: “I just have no idea what I’m doing here. I’m glad you know a lot about this, so now I will know who to ask!” I’m sure it won’t work for everyone, and sometimes, I can imagine that it may even escalate the problem. But if you’re around someone who maybe doesn’t realize that their comments could be making others feel inferior or insecure, this attitude can be a real eye-opener for them. Most people don’t want to make others feel badly; they just want others to think highly of them. I tried this approach several days ago, and before I knew it, the other person was making comments to increase my self-esteem instead!

Good Conversation

Yesterday, I talked a little about making strangers feel comfortable. Sometimes, just talking a little can really help someone open up and feel at ease. If you are in a large group of people (at church especially), search out the person who looks the least comfortable or the most lonely, and strike up a good conversation with them.

What is a good conversation? Well, first of all, you want to pick a topic that the other person will be interested in. If crowds make you nervous too, say so! (I wouldn’t mention the fact that they look nervous, and that’s why you came to chat.) If you can find anything else in common with this person, talk about it. Think of your surroundings. Maybe you are at church or a seminar. What brought you there? What brought the other person there? If you don’t already know, ask. You probably already have something in common, as attested to by the mere fact that you are sharing the same space on the same day. If you just can’t think of anything, compliment jewelry or children – anything to get started. Talking about the weather is even acceptable, as long as you don’t leave it at that!

Try not to come across as superior. Maintain a humble attitude. Talk about your weaknesses (if you can do so without whining or complaining). Whatever you do, don’t one-up them! There are two ways to do that, by the way. You can either make your life look extremely better than theirs, or extremely worse. If you are truly concerned about the comfort level of the other person, you will steer clear of both extremes.

It’s difficult not to talk about our own children, cars, etc, especially if we are proud of them (or frustrated with them). But only mention your situation if it can help establish empathy for the other person. For instance, when people mention that their children aren’t doing well in school because they have a short attention span, I’ll say that my kid has a short attention span too. Sometimes I’ll add an illustration. I haven’t one-upped them; I’ve just established that I understand where they’re coming from. The last thing I would do is tell them that that’s one of the many reasons I homeschool, and then proceed to explain how well my kid is doing with his schoolwork. (I might, however, ask them if they have considered homeschooling. If they show an interest, I would of course answer any questions they might have. If they don’t show an interest, I wouldn’t push the benefits of homeschooling. Some people just aren’t in a position to homeschool, and others haven’t opened their minds to the idea. Just be friendly and humble.)

If you can be funny, go for it! Laughter is a great ice breaker. But more than finding the right responses, it’s important to just listen, as long as they feel like talking. If you can see that talking makes them even more uncomfortable, leave them alone, and find  someone else to chat with.

Ego Booster

Teaching the homeschool choir has been challenging for me, especially learning how to handle the high school girls. One day, attitudes were running wild – one group of girls acting superior to the rest, and another group whispering and glancing snidely toward the first group. I finally had to stop the class and give a little lecture before I felt we could go any further.

During the odd years that I attended Christian school, I must have had the idea that everybody loved me because I was so quick to show off how much I knew. Think about it – that’s the way parents act when they brag about their kids to others or when they look at homework to see how good it is. In high school, I hadn’t realized yet that the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Looking back on it, I actually think everyone despised me. It took me a really long time to start thinking about the world in terms of others instead of myself.

So, I decided to be painfully honest with my choir girls. I told them how I cringe when I think about those days. I told them how I don’t want anything in my life that reminds me of that era. My husband picked out a nice pair of shoes at a shoe store the other day, and I liked them, but I didn’t buy them. Can you guess why? They were in the same style that I would have worn 17 years ago, and I didn’t want to remind myself of my teenage years every time I put them on. I am ashamed of myself for having flaunted my knowledge.

So after I embarrassed myself in front of my class, explaining why they would hate me today if I were their age now, we had a little talk about always striving to make others feel good and comfortable. It isn’t about who’s the smartest, most well-raised homeschooler in the building. If you have been homeschooled, you probably have the self-esteem to handle boosting someone else’s ego (sometimes at the expense of your own). Go out of your way to make the other person feel valued, like his opinion counts for something, instead of always assuming that everyone is interested in what you have to say or how much you know. Homeschoolers get used to needing to prove that they are better than public-schoolers, and we take this attitude into life with us. Not only is this attitude going to make friend-finding difficult for you, it could totally impede your ability to be a successful witness.

Here’s a tip if you are heading off to college: on the first day of class, get to each class early and find a seat. Make eye contact with people as they come through the door and smile. Look for people who look scared, and make an effort to make them feel more comfortable. I once moved my bag closer to myself (freeing up more space at my table in the process) after seeing a woman come through the classroom door, looking for an unintimidating place to sit. She took the gesture as intended, and sat with me for the entire semester. We are still friends on Facebook to this day, even though I haven’t seen her since that semester seven years ago.

In general, nobody else will care about you except for you, at least until you form a relationship with someone. Be one of the few people on this earth to place the comfort of a stranger above that of yourself, and you will find yourself surrounded by friends.

How do others see you?

When your family, friends, or even a stranger looks at you, what do they see? When you speak, what do they hear? What do we communicate by our actions and attitudes?

What about Christianity in general? Some people have had real experiences with hateful or condescending Christians. When I walk away from an encounter, I want to leave the person thinking, “Oh, so that’s what Christianity is supposed to be like!” I want the world to see that being a Christian is a desirable thing. I want people to realize that my relationship with God is what makes me strive to be happy, productive, and graceful in all situations. Now, it’s easy to be happy when things are going well. However, if you want to leave a lasting impression, try being graceful when things aren’t going your way. Those you are dealing with will be stricken by your reactions, especially if their job has them in a situation where people are upset with them quite often. The next time you get cheated at the store, on a bill, etc, react with grace and compassion for the person who has to “deal” with you. That person’s soul is far more important than any amount of time or money you may have lost.

Challenge: Look for opportunities to surprise others by your graceful reactions. Maybe your toddler will break a dish today or you will feel cheated by your insurance company. React in a way that portrays Christ.

Keith Green

“My eyes are dry; my faith is old. My heart is hard; my prayers are cold.

And I know how I ought to be: alive to You, and dead to me.”

This old song by Keith Green has been running through my mind a lot lately. I had been singing it on and off for days (the parts I could remember), and my 6-year-old finally asked if I knew any more of it. So on Friday, I dug out my seemingly ancient Keith Green CDs and began listening again. I love his music: he was, in my estimation, the Christian version of Billy Joel. He was very straightforward – very blatant in his statement of faith. The words that he chose to illustrate the Christian walk are almost stark: listening to his lyrics gives you the impression that you are being faced with the Truth, with no excuses between you and it to soften the blow.

I know that a lot of Christian artists have written tons of music expounding on the deep things of God, but here’s the kicker: as I was listening the other day, I realized that I had been thinking all these years that Keith Green was a new convert when he wrote these songs. I asked myself why I would have been under that impression all this time; some of the lyrics are pretty deep. How could a person just saved have written so many experience-laden songs about the Christian walk? As I began searching my mind for the answer, I suddenly realized the difference between Mr. Green and most Christian celebrities: he was so humble in his walk with the Lord. His music exudes a meek attitude: the fact that he was so undeserving. It feels like he was a new Christian because (in my mind, at least) he had not had time to develop that attitude of self-righteousness that so many “mature” Christians emit. I think that, above all, I love his honesty about his imperfect walk with the Lord, and his willingness to share his shortcomings with the world in an effort to challenge Christians into a genuine relationship with God.

Challenge: Can we live what we believe? But can we do it without an attitude of self-righteousness? Let’s make every moment count for the Kingdom today – but let’s not feel too proud of ourselves. We must remember in the process that our own righteousness is like filthy rags.