Practice Putting People First


The holiday season begins this week. Millions of Americans will be hitting the highways and catching flights. All over the world, people are making plans to travel between now and the New Year. We will travel to see special friends. We travel to spend much missed time with family. As the song laments, “From Atlantic to Pacific . . . the traffic is terrific. Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.” When we get to where we are going, we will spend time with each other. We may sit around and talk, we might go to a movie or watch a sporting event. We will eat a meal or tow together, and at some point exchange gifts.

During these times together, we find easy conversations about the weather, about the food (the quantity and quality), football, entertainment, shopping, and other trivial topics. I want to challenge you. I challenge you to take the challenge I am taking on for myself. This is an area I want to (I need to) improve in. I challenge you and me to focus on the other person.

Let’s turn our time together into, well time together. Let’s set aside the small talk and seek to get to know each other better, to seek to really hear each other. Let’s learn to speak to the person and not just the situation or their appearance. Let’s practice putting people first.

How? How can I focus on the other person? How can I practice putting others first? I am learning that this begins with learning to ask good questions and listening to their answers. Really listen, don’t interrupt with “I know” or “let me tell you about what happened to me.” Don’t ask so you can tell your story. Ask because you are investing in the other person. Interject only the responses that communicate your true interest. Communicate to them that you want to understand and know them as a person.

Listening, truly listening, takes effort. You have to commit to understand and to really hear the other person, not just their words, but the person behind the words.

Putting People First

The following lists are Statements & Greetings along with Questions that are suggestions to help us practice putting our focus on others.

Statements & Greetings:

  • I am so glad we are together.
  • It is great to see you.
  • I am glad we get to spend time together.
  • I appreciate you.
  • I love you.

Questions to Help Us Learn about Each Other:

  • What new or interesting things are going on at work (school)?
  • How are you doing? (I know we ask this a lot, but ask it with a sincerity to know.)
  • Tell me about what you are involved in at church? (Or if not religious, insert club or organization name – Kiwanis, Rotary, Soroptimist, etc).
  • What good book(s) have you read lately, What did you find interesting about them? Why did you like them?

Give this a try. Let me know how you do.

– Scott

The idea for this blog germinated from a book I recently read. One that I am beginning to see results from when I remember to apply what I learned. I am still learning and I will have to continue to practice as I put what I learn into practice. The book is “The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships,” 2nd Ed., Michael P. Nichols, PhD., (Guilford Press:New York), 2009.

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