How to Make Others Feel Important

This weekend I went to a writer's conference (which you can read more about here), and one thing struck me with every single speaker:  they each had the ability to make everyone they came in contact with feel extremely important.  They were not about themselves, their titles, their accomplishments. At their core you could tell that they desired to touch the lives of each person they met and listen to that person's story.

I came to the conference as a volunteer and was working at the registration table when speaker after speaker came up to me to ask a question.  In almost every case, I did not know that person was a keynote speaker (until later), and they stood in line just like everyone else and treated me kindly. They didn't start out by saying, "Hi! I'm so-and-so/important person/keynote speaker - can you get me some coffee?"  Each of them said hello, shook my hand, made eye contact, and asked how I was.

I realize this is not common with most nationally known speakers, but this weekend I found writers to be of a different breed - these people were extremely humble.  They kept reminding us "we started out right where you are."  And they treated us with respect, too.

Based on my observations this past weekend of over 10 speakers, this is what I noticed set them apart, and how they  made others feel important.  Why is this important to us?  We need to learn from these people how to treat others.  We may be leaders and have a title, but how are we treating the people we come into contact with on a daily basis?  Do we act more important than them? Do we treat them as though they are not valuable?

This is what I saw:

- Eye Contact.  Each speaker made eye contact with the "fan" and did not break that eye  contact when others approached trying to get in the way.  They continued listening intently.  In one case, I was in a conversation where the speaker had to leave, and he touched my arm and said, "I'm so sorry - I want to keep talking with you but I have to go.  I will find you later so we can continue this conversation."  That was so much more effective than "Oops! Gotta run!  It was nice meeting you - bye!"   The difference - the value placed on the listener, as well as the importance of what they were saying.

- Smiles.  A smile can go a long way.  Even before I knew who these people were, they smiled at me!  It really makes a huge difference.  I tend to walk around in my own world, often not making eye contact or smiling at random people around me.  But we never know someone's story.  We never know who they might be or what struggles they have faced. Treat each person with respect by making eye contact and smiling. It might just make their day.

- Intentionally putting away technology.  I saw speakers leave their phones in their bags, close their laptops, and actually interact.  How many times have you been in a conversation with someone when their phone vibrates or rings, and they immediately look down at it to respond - while you are still talking to them.  So rude!  You are basically sending the message that "what you are saying is not as important as what I have to do right now."  It also sends a message that you are more important than the person you are talking to.  Let's learn how to effectively listen again.

You don't have to be great at names or give big hugs or even shake hands, although all of those things are bonuses.  To really make someone feel important, you really just need to take an interest in what they are saying to you without being so distracted.

As leaders in churches, I find that people-skills in this area are greatly lacking.  We are in an era where everyone wants to be important, to be seen, to be busy (because how many texts you get per day apparently equals importance).  I am preaching to the choir here; I do not want to give the impression that I have these skills down-pat, because I don't.  That is why what I noticed this weekend made such a difference to me.

Want to be important?  Treat others importantly.  Want to be famous?  Treat others as though they were famous. Want to have fans?  Treat others as though you are their biggest fan.

Does this remind you of anything?  "The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12)

When Everything is Falling Apart

This has been one of those weeks - rather, months - where everything it seems has been breaking or falling apart around me.  Both of our cars broke down and needed costly repairs.  Then one of our car tires got a HUGE crack in it, causing us to have to replace all 4 tires since they were all old.  Our backyard grass got some kind of disease in it that spread, so we have to kill all the grass and replant.  Yesterday, on our 13 year wedding anniversary, our refrigerator broke and we are living out of ice chests right now.  The repair is again very costly.  Did I mention that one of the windows in the boys' room is broken too? 

This morning I felt the weight of it and shed a few tears.  Why does everything have to be so difficult?  Why does everything cost more money than we have?  Why can't things just be easy for once?

And yet I also realize that these inconveniences are so minor, they are first-world problems, and they are all luxuries. Yet I still feel overwhelmed by the amount of things gone wrong in the same period of time.

Yesterday I started reading through Colossians, and today came upon these verses:

"He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)

This short passage stood out to me and reminded me to keep all things in perspective:
Christ is in charge here.  By Him all things were created - yes, even my car, my refrigerator, my grass, my life.  It was through His power that these things were made.

"All things were created by him and for him."  Did you catch that?  All these things were not only created by him, but they were created for him!  They were created to give Him glory!  How can a material possession bring God glory?  It's all about our attitude towards that possession. 

How can I bring God glory through the things He has given me?  What is my attitude towards these things?  Do they own me?  Have I made them into gods?  Have I let these things replace the joy of the Lord within me?  If so, He is not getting the glory.

And so my prayer this morning changed from "God, please fix these things.  Please give us the money to deal with all of these messes," to instead, "God, how can we bring you glory through these trials?  How can we shift the focus from our possessions back to YOU?"

Then we reach verse 17, which says, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

When little inconveniences have got you down, or when big trials overwhelm you, remember that in him all things hold together.  We can take the pressure off of ourselves to try to hold everything together; He has already got that covered. The things that are falling apart around us - our bodies, our marriages, our health, our relationships, our finances - in Him all things hold together. He sees the big picture, and we can breathe easily knowing that He has our lives in His hands. 

I still don't know how these trials are going to work themselves out. I cannot see the end. But my hope is not in the end; it is not in the resolution of my trials. My hope has to remain in the One who holds all things together.  I have to remember that these things were created by Him and for Him. If He is the creator, He is the one responsible to hold everything together, and I can take a deep breath.

So then, my friends, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  (Matthew 6:25-27)