Having the right mind

th-1Marti and I, on date night last night, were out to dinner at a restaurant with tables so close, the two older woman next to us were practically in our laps. I say “older” with caution anymore because most people would say that of me now, though I have not quite yet grasped that this as true.

The lady in my lap was Helen and she turned out to be a well-informed anti-government, doomsaying, Obama-hating right-winger who chastised me for reading the Los Angeles Times. When I found out she was  Christian, I was not surprised. I wanted to steer her away from politics so we might connect in some way over our mutual faith in Jesus Christ, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Personal things about her life, family, kids, would have helped, but I never got a foot in the door.

There were a lot of things I think I would have liked about Helen (her spunk, her intelligence, her strongly opinionated character) had I time to get to know her, but I realized it would take more than a dinner conversation to get around her politics, if ever. Marti, in the meantime, was having a wonderful time connecting with Helen’s friend across the table who reminded her of my mother. I would love to have revisited my mother, but I couldn’t extricate myself from my own conversation. Both of these women are locals (we exchanged numbers) so we may have a chance to get beyond these first impressions, but I must admit, I am not relishing more time with Helen.

Helen is one of those people who has pretty much made up her mind about everything, which makes it hard to talk to her about anything. Any new topic will end up with what Helen thinks about this. Not once did Helen ask me what I thought about anything. She already knew what I thought because I read the Los Angeles Times. End of conversation.

Marti is very good at this. She has a lot of strong opinions as well but she keeps them to herself because she doesn’t want anything to get in the way of getting to know another person. She will feign like she never thought about a certain thing (when I know she has), just to get a chance to hear what someone else thinks. What someone else thinks is more important than what you think if you want to build a real relationship.

There’s an art to this. I’m not that good at it but I’m learning. I just know it starts with listening over waiting to talk, and making someone else more important than me.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

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18 Responses to Having the right mind

  1. Been there… It’s really convicting when you sit back and listen to someone else. Then, afterwards, you start replaying conversations YOU’VE had in your mind and the next time you open your mouth, I can guarantee you’ll choose words just a tad more wisely.

    I love this sentence: “She will feign like she never thought about a certain thing (when I know she has), just to get a chance to hear what someone else thinks”. I have actually started doing that. Not sure where the idea came from, I’m guessing God told me to shut up and listen and ask a couple of questions and let someone talk before you start assuming you know their position on something.

    After all, I know I’ve rattled on before about this or that before realizing that I’m probably totally shutting off the person who is no longer “hearing” a word I said!

    What a great reminder about listening, and not having to always be right or even always sharing your opinion.

  2. Hans says:

    Hello John,

    So true. Best to hold back our ‘opinions’ and allow for common ground to be established.

    As Paul writes (as you know):
    “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22b).
    Peace and grace,

  3. Mark Seguin says:

    I could be wrong, I have been many times and positive i’ll be again in the future, yet w/ that said let me plz agree to disagree w/ this: “There’s an art to this.” I think/believe it’s a skill that can be learned like most can be. I’ll suggest looking into a few books writen by Robert A. Rohm, Ph.D about his DICS method of the secert steps to understanding personality insights.
    PS and it will help to understand jus why Matri’s personality type is easier for her to do this…

  4. Carole in Midland says:

    Oh, John! I am laughing because your description of Helen is a pretty good description of me on some of my more “vocal” days.Interestingly, Mark and I exchanged some emails last night on the topic of differing opinions and our reactions to them. I can be very passionate (a nice word for obnoxious) with my political views, but I’ve learned there is a place and time for everything. Folks are much more likely to hear what one is saying if one salts the conversation with small doses of one’s views as opposed to grabbing them in a headlock and shoving the whole box of Morton’s Salt down their throats. And one needs to be open and ready to taste what others offer as well (you can always politely spit it into a napkin surreptitiously later if you need to). Christ addressed this point of being salt and light, and the beauty of God’s principles is that they apply to all aspects of our lives. We strain to hear a whisper, but cover our ears when somebody shouts in them. We welcome a ray of light in darkness, but are blinded by a 1000 watt spotlight in our face and turn away. I’d bet that you and Helen want many of same things in life – safety, a secure future for your family, and the freedom to express your ideas and beliefs. With some of us (conservatives and liberals), there is a lot of junk to wade through before we find we actually standing on common ground.

    • Mark S. says:

      LOL, Carole over our email exchange… Again i’ll highly suggest some of the best ways to get to or to easily find the “common ground” is understanding their personality type and yours… which is made easy to do by reading a few book(s) by Dr. Robert Rohm… 🙂

  5. John,
    All I can add is the old? adage that states that: “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk!”. I find myself preoccupied with what I want to say vs. listening to what another person is saying. This prevents the formation of a lasting, meaningful conversation and any relationship that might be formed by such a conversation.


  6. I would suggest you are good at listening. I met you once and you listened. You let my wife and I share out of our pain and you offered nothing but a listening ear. You didn’t hit us with Christian catchphrases and pretty answers, you listened. You said, “I’m not sure what I think about that either”.
    I didn’t need an answer, I needed a place to belong. You gave us that when you listened.

  7. Andrew P. says:

    “She will feign like she never thought about a certain thing (when I know she has), just to get a chance to hear what someone else thinks.”

    Somehow, that reminds me of Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), Jesus was asked, ““Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus responded, “What things?” Now, it is rather obvious that Jesus knew all about those things, yet He still wanted to hear from His traveling companions before He expounded to them how prophecies had just been fulfilled.

    I guess Marti is operating in a similar spirit. “Regardless of what I have to say, let’s hear from you, first.”

  8. Lisa in Sunland says:

    And as long as Helen never reads this Catch, you may still have a chance. 😉

    Or even better, wouldn’t it be great if she DID read this Catch and it opened her up to what she’s been doing?

    God may have given us two ears and only one mouth so we would hear twice as much as we speak, but most of us (yes, including me) seem to have FAR more brain cells attached to our mouths. Sigh…

    “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3:5 Or, even better, “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” Proverbs 16:23

  9. Tom says:

    I love this Catch for so many reasons. From date night right down to Philippians 2:3. Thank you John.

  10. CM says:

    This catch intrigued me in that Helen is almost exactly like my mother, and I have spent a good part of my life trying to figure it out. I became concerned when you said she is “one of those people…” Seems you have formed a solid opinion about her as much as she about you. For years this was the dynamic that existed between me and my mother. What I have come to learn is that that most intelligent people, unless they truly are gifted with humility, like to think they’re the smartest people in the room, and want to change how others think when it does not fit their own paradigm. Even the comments here reflect recommendations on certain books to read or personalities to understand. Why? Is it because we really want to understand Helen and how to understand “those people?” By finding an avenue around politics, do we think we will know Helen better or faster? Seems to me we’re not being patient enough let Helen be Helen on her own terms, and in the end we really just want Helen to hear us to the same proportion we hear her. Fair and balanced. But who’s to say she didn’t hear you? I will admit, I used to be that way with my mother. If you dig deeper, you will probably also find some significant life events that propel the passion. My mother has amazing stories, and I would love to know Helen’s story. John you are 100% correct that it will take more than a dinner to get to know her. Neither Helen or my mother will trust you on face value. You will have to earn her trust. Sadly, many people will not have the patience or endurance for this challenge. Are you up to it?

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