Are We Interesting or Interested?

I was sitting with my mother-in-law one day and we were discussing people in general. She started talking about talents and intelligence, and then she said something that stuck with me. She said “Too many people are trying to impress others, rather than be impressed by others” My mother-in-law doesn’t like to talk about herself. She is a retired teacher. Not just any teacher, an extremely gifted special education teacher. She was recognized for her talents and asked to head the department for the whole state! She made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and their families over her career. But she will rarely talk about her accomplishments. Instead, she’ll spend her time praising what she’s learned from other teachers. When she’s around other people, she’ll brush off her own stories and ask about theirs.

“Too many people are trying to impress others, rather than be impressed by others”.

We as people are so desperate for the attention and approval for other’s that we lose focus on what is important. We think if we can impress others enough, maybe they’ll like us more. I’m not saying don’t ever talk about yourself, your accomplishments, or your dreams. What I am saying is that we have to be careful of where our focus lies. Is our focus to make other people impressed with us? If we are to practice true hospitality, we have to remember that true hospitality happens when our guests leave our home feeling better about themselves, not better about us. If we only seek to impress those around us with the things we’ve acquired, or what we know, we’ll never be effective in loving them or being a blessing to those that we bring into our home.

Proverbs 27:2 Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth–a stranger, not your own lips.

Today’s culture places such a high importance on self, selfies, and self care. While we should certainly be taking care of ourselves, we need to realize that this world doesn’t revolve around us. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably wanting to be a blessing and influence to others. You want to be interested. The following 5 tips helps us understand how we can be more interested in others, instead of interesting for others.

1.) Learn to be a good listener.

A good listener doesn’t listen to respond. They listen to learn. If you want to be a good listener, don’t start thinking about what you’ll say next before the other party has even finished their sentence. Listen to what they’re saying, think about the words and tone they’re using. And remember, not everything requires a comment. Sometimes, listening is your only job.

2.) Reign in the urge to one-up every story you hear.

It could be completely innocent, but resist the urge to tell a similar story after you hear about a situation. Even ones that start off with “that reminds me of…”. It’s ok to do this in moderation (if your motives are pure), but if you do so after everything the other party says, it will seem like you’re trying to one-up them. No one likes someone trying to outdo their every word. Just be aware of the conversation and your own intentions.

3.) Avoid flattery altogether.

Flattery is saying something to someone’s face that you would never say behind their back. If you think their dress is hideous, don’t tell them it’s lovely. If you think they’re dreadfully boring, don’t tell them they’re the most fascinating person you’ve ever met. If you really think that cake tastes appalling, don’t make a big fuss and ask for the recipe. The Bible tells us in Proverbs “Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.”

4.) Ask open ended questions.

Try to avoid questions that have a one word response. Example: Instead of “Did you like growing up in the country” try something like “Tell me what it was like growing up in the country”. This will promote active conversation, feel less like small talk, and tell the other party that you are genuinely interested in their upbringing.

5.) Pay attention and disregard distractions.

When you are in a conversation with someone, try to eliminate distractions. Don’t focus on what’s going on around you, instead focus on the speaker. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t keep looking at your phone. Things you can do to let your speaker know that you are 100% focused and interested in them: make eye contact, lean in to the conversation, avoid crossing your arms, and use engaging facial expressions.

If we can learn to be interested in others, we will not only have a bigger influence in their lives, but also be a blessing and encouragement to them on their journey. I think it’s so important to question our motives, and re-adjust our focus when entering in to a conversation with others.

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Don’t think this means you can’t ever show off something neat you found, share information you have, or post pictures on social media. Some people will read this and second guess every Instagram picture they’ve ever shared. That’s not what I’m talking about. Below I’ve shared a few things I like to ask myself before I share, whether in person or online.
1.) Is it true? If it’s true, then is it yours to share?
2.) Is it educational, encouraging, or edifying?
3.) Will this improve someone’s day or brighten the world around me?

I would love to hear your thoughts about being interested versus interesting! Leave a comment below or email me here!

 

Paige Baldwin

Do Manners Matter? Part 1: Basic Manners

Do manner matter anymore? Does etiquette still have a place in our culture? We don’t hear “please, thank you, and excuse me” as often as we used to. “Yes/No ma’am” is almost non-existent. People no longer give up their chair for the elderly or expecting mothers. Why is it that we are ok with this move away from a polite society? With the age of smartphones and instant entertainment, we no longer know how to behave at a restaurant, concert, or even church. Young adults entering the workforce no longer know how to interview, attend a business meeting, or dress for work.

The problem is, we’ve stopped teaching manners and etiquette thinking that it’s too old fashioned. We’ve sacrificed politeness and social graces for the false sense of progress. Friends, this is not progress, this is regression. A common misconception is that etiquette is all about what fork you use, what glass you drink from first, and which monogram is on the flatware. Those things are still good to know and fun to practice, but etiquette is so much more than knowing when to excuse yourself or how to hold your teacup.

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” (Emily Post)

What are manners and etiquette? Manners are defined as your outward bearing or behavior towards others. Good manners are described as a polite or well-bred social behavior. Etiquette is defined as the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

Why are manners, and etiquette, so important?

  1. When we practice good manners, we open the door for relationships and influence that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.
  2. When we practice social etiquette, we gain the respect of others.
  3. When we practice good manners and social etiquette, we increase our own confidence and self-esteem.

Basic everyday manners are a great place to start, especially with young children. I split these basic manners up into two categories. Things like “please, thank you, you’re welcome, and excuse me” are verbal manners. Things like letting the elderly have the last chair, chewing with your mouth closed, and not burying you nose in your device when someone is talking to you, these are what I classify as behavioral manners. Below is a list of basic manners I believe every one of us should exhibit in our lives.

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1) Saying thank you when we receive a good or service. This includes when a waitress brings your food out at the restaurant. I’ve had someone tell me before “that’s their job, you don’t have to ask or thank them.” Yes, you do. It may be their job, but they are still providing a service for you and that should be appreciated.

2) Responding to thank you with “You’re welcome”. We, as a people group, have gotten ourselves into the horrid habit of responding with “no problem”. Nobody needs to hear about your problems, or lack of, with what you did for them. Graciously accept their thanks with a simple “you’re welcome”. Trust me, it’s way less awkward for all parties. “My pleasure” could also be an appropriate response.

3) Say “excuse me” when you need to pass by someone or in front of someone. Also, if you need to interrupt for an important reason, start with “excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt…”

4) When someone is speaking to you, give 100% of your attention. This means putting your phone down, turning away from the television, or pausing the game to focus on the speaker. We are such a distracted people and it’s sad to think about how much we miss because we’re not paying attention.

5) Learn to graciously accept a compliment. When someone offers you a compliment, accept with a gracious smile and a “thank you”. Nothing is more awkward than complimenting someone and them immediately launching into self degradation, explanation of why they don’t deserve a compliment, or what they could have done differently.

When we use good manners and social etiquette we are placing a higher value on the people we are surrounded by. We are telling them that they are worth our kindness and our behavior will reflect their value.

“Manners are like the shadows of virtues. They are the momentary display of those qualities which our fellow creatures love and respect” (Sydney Smith)