George Constanza: “Every decision in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat, it’s all been wrong.”
Jerry Seinfeld: “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
Do you ever feel this way? Be honest.
I sure used to. Until I learned how to say the opposite of what I wanted to say, until I learned how to articulate someone else’s point of view, until I could define and confirm their true intentions, I was an ineffective communicator and leader. The skill is called tactical empathy and if you want to build a high trust team or community, then you must master it.
People want to know …
- Do you see what I see? and
- Do you feel what I feel?
And if you can get them to say, …
- “That’s right.” or
- “That’s not it. This is it.”
… then they will be open to hearing what you have to say. You’ll be in dialog. They’ll feel respected, appreciated, safe, calm and collaborative . If you make a mistake, they’ll forgive you.
Are you on board? Where do you start? Do two things:
- Be unexpectedly generous. Surprise people, especially people who are not nice to you. Send a kind note. Make eye contact and smile at them. Take cookies to their house. Think of something generous and just do it. If it feels awkward and unnatural, then good. You’re on to something. Do the opposite of what you “normally” would do.
- Spend time alone with God. Make a habit of being alone with God. Why? We see from Jesus’ example that time alone with God empowers us to carry out God’s generous purpose for our life. If he needed time alone with his heavenly father, we need it too.
It empowered him. He is our example.
Example 1: He withdrew into the wilderness in Luke 4 filled with God’s spirit and emerged empowered to perform miracles.
Example 2: He entered the Garden of Gethsemane filled with grief and sorrow, asking God for a way other than his own death to achieve his purpose. After spending time alone with God, he came out of the garden empowered to endure the worst atrocity in history.
It will empower you too. Spending time alone with God empowers us to live generously.
Here’s why this works. When you challenge yourself to be unexpectedly generous and you spend time with God, then more of your mind is occupied by those thoughts. Consequently, you become more generous and your heart becomes more like God’s heart. Your spirit becomes more controlled by God’s spirit and less by human nature, i.e. our natural state.
In other words, God’s spirit is opposite our human nature. “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” Well said Jerry. In my experience, we must learn how to do the unexpected and use Jesus as our role model.
“And rising very early in the morning, white it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. … Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Mark 1:15 and Luke 5:16)
“To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace. … Those who obey their human nature cannot please God. … From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God’s will and not by human desires.” (Romans 8:6-8 and 1 Peter 4:2)