Creating Other People

June 25, 2010 | Comments Off


I’ve been reading a great book called SuperCoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life by Michael Neil. The book is full of  helpful hints for successful living. I especially liked his chapter on “Listening” in relation to my interest in challenging people. He says,

We’ll nearly always hear what we’re listening for. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy within all our relationships. This works because our relationships with other people happen almost entirely in our heads. Remember that when you think about people, you aren’t actually thinking about the “real” them – you’re thinking about a representation of them I your mind, like an icon on a computer. You’re actually re-creating them in your mind; and you’re deleting, distorting, and generalizing some of their characteristics as you do so.  At some point we decide what people are really like, and from that moment on, we maintain them in our minds as a fixed persona. We listen for the person we expect to hear and filter out anything that doesn’t fit with the character we’ve created for that individual.

This is SO true! I remember one singles group my husband and I were invited to serve. The church had deemed the members of the group “the losers.” Seriously! Most of the members were late 20s, early 30s, and not the “cool kids.” They were discounted in the minds of the pastoral staff, so ministry was also discounted. It wasn’t given resources or support and the members were often mocked and belittled behind their backs. True to the expectations, the “leadership” of the group was a motley crew. They weren’t skilled and ran a pretty sorry excuse for a singles ministry.

When Bob and I joined as advisors, we expressed our belief that these people could indeed lead an exciting group that would attract new members. We based that on previous experience and managed to convince them they could do it. Really. They weren’t sure, but reluctantly agreed to give us a try. We conducted some leadership training, reformatted the Sunday morning and social experiences, and taught them how to revitalize all aspects of the group. We encouraged them as individuals and became friends with them. We held weekly prayer meetings for both the ministry and the leaders.

Little by little they grew. They looked different. They sounded different. They led the group differently. The group grew, and the leaders grew as people. They gained self-confidence. They brought a new vitality to the ministry. All because we saw them differently, we encouraged them differently, and we brought out their best qualities.

Unfortunately, the staff didn’t (couldn’t) see the changes in these leaders because of their own preconceptions. They continued to see and hear what they expected to see and hear. Before long the ministry was disbanded by senior staff and new “cool kids” were brought in to lead a new group. It was sad and harmed these newly budding leaders tremendously. I don’t think any of them ever went on to lead another ministry. Each of them could have. If others had seen beneath the surface.

Take a look at your leadership and the people in your group or ministry. What do you see? What would happen if you saw differently?

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