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Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 19: Developing Relationships

The chapter for day 19 looks at the characteristics you need to develop to create fellowship - in other words, what you need to do to build relationships with people in your small church group.

The first characteristics is honesty with a focus on approaching people who are doing the wrong thing, or what academics would call conflict resolution.  Conflict resolution doesn't come easily to most people.  I think because it is not something that gets taught and it is rarely something that people do.  Even on TV it is usually violence or insults that are passed off as conflict resolution.  In real life, this does not resolve conflict, it creates more.

Working in a bank with long-term clients means you sometimes have to say "no" to them.  Because I felt I was particularly bad at this and usually when I had a conflict with someone I would try to just ignore it (not an option when the powers that be won't approve a loan), I went off and did a conflict resolution course. There were three things I learnt that were key for me:
  1. to resolve a conflict you have to talk to the relevant person about it, 
  2. its much easier to deal with a small conflict than a large one, and 
  3. a small conflict will escalate to a large conflict if you don't deal with it.
A couple of years ago, I saw someone loose hundreds of thousands of dollars because they wouldn't pick up a phone.  The other party told a third party about their problems with this person.  The third party passed on the information.  Rather than try to resolve the conflict, this person tried to avoid it.  As a result the relationship was severed and they are now chasing their money through the courts. If they had of made the phone call the relationship still might not have been saved, but it would at least have removed any doubt that the money was theirs and they would not now be in court.

The second characteristic is humility. Obviously no-one likes people who think they are better than everybody else, and the bible tells us neither does God:
  "In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, 
serve each other in humility, for 'God opposes the proud but favors the humble.' " (1 Peter 5:5)

Rick Warren writes "Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less".  I did a google search to find out what it means to be humble. There are a lot of people with varying views on this, but I finally concluded that being humble is a variation on being honest.  No matter what you do, other people had to help you, even things you might consider to have been done alone by yourself.  Lets say you cooked a really good meal by yourself and without anyone's help, well unless you did all of the following, you had help:
  1. hunted and butchered a wild animal;
  2. collected and planted seeds to grow vegetables and fruits
  3. where necessary, processed the plants, eg ground wheat to make flour
  4. dug up iron ore, processed it to make steel and then produced pots, pans and knives and cutlery
  5. dug up clay and made plates, bowls and cups
  6. grew a forrest of trees and lit fires by rubbing two sticks together in order to cook the food (not to mention tasks 4 and 5) 
  7. made the meal using your own reciepe
And even if you did do all those things, you still needed God's help to make everything available. So with anything we do, we can acknowledge the contribution of others and then we are being humble.

The third characteristic is courtesy. Rick Warren writes "Courtesy is respecting our differences, being considerate of each other's feelings, and being patient with people who irritate us."  He calls people we find difficult "ERG people" for "extra grace required".  When I first read The Purpose Driven Life, I was working with an ERG person.  The leader of the PRL group I was in suggested to for help when dealing with difficult people.  So I did, and while others I know still have issues with this person, he and I now get along well.

This also reminds me of a technique I learnt while working at a consultant firm for when you are criticised.  I think it would also work for any disagreements:
  1. Listen - listen to the criticism eg someone tells you "This report is rubbish"
  2. Acknowlege - acknowledge their view with reflective listening, eg "You think this report is no good"
  3. Explore - ask for more details, eg "What needs to be done to improve it?".  The person might say something like - "Well, it is supposed to include information on X but it has been left out."
  4. Respond - now you know the real problem you can fix it - "We can add that in."
It's tricky at first to not jump straight to "Respond", but it is worth persisting.  I was at a wedding a few years ago, while I was still working at the consultancy firm, and when I told someone on the table I worked there he said my firm had done a project at his work and it was rubbish.  In the past, I would have ended the conversation and just thought "well isn't he a bastard" but instead I said "That's no good, what was wrong?" after a long rant he talking himself around to saying that the team did a good job.  So in the end I didn't even need to "Respond".

The fourth characteristic is confidentiality or "what goes on tour, stays on tour".  Whatever is shared within your small church group, should stay within it.  You should not go and gossip about it to others and should confront anyone who does.  I know when people tell me unsavoury stories about others, which generally seem too over the top to be true anyway, I immediately wonder what that person is telling others about me and make a mental note not to share anything significant with them.  Fortunately, I have found that people like that generally have a reputation for being gossips and everyone is wary of them.

The fifth characteristic is frequency. It takes time to build up relationships, so you should attend the meetings regularly even when you don't feel like it.

1 comment:

  1. Love the fact you quote what stays on tour. Too much Keith Richards? :)