Below is a piece I wrote for Authenticity Book House and their Devotional for Writers series. Enjoy!
What if we wrapped our writing process in the blanket of worship? This question swirls around in my mind each time I sit down to write.
Below is a piece I wrote for Authenticity Book House and their Devotionals for Writers series. Enjoy!
Be true. I preach this to myself daily. Whether I grab coffee with a friend, get to know a co-worker, or write a book, I must stay true. I write raw and honest stories for those held captive to the lies and fears of the dark ruler of this world.
I am a soldier for Christ; therefore, I resolve to wear my imperfections as his armor protects me. When I embrace vulnerability, I write true so others might find freedom.
I ask myself—do I write to impress others, or do I write to love others well?
Write true to Christ, to his fight for the lost, to grace, to truth.
Let me challenge you—mirror the surrender of Christ to the Father and devote every book, paragraph, and comma to your Creator.
It requires humility, courage, and boldness.
A humble stance.
Do not think so highly of yourself and so lowly of others. Write with the humility of Christ, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Phil. 2:5–8).
In all his divinity, Christ took on the form of a servant. The President of Reflections Ministries, Dr. Boa, defines humility as “the strength and understanding of one’s great dignity and identity in Christ.”
What does a posture of humility look like in your writing? Do you write out of fear and control? Or do you write out of confidence in your identity in Christ? Remember who you are.
A commitment to courage.
Courage stands tall and peers into fear’s eyes, piercing the depth of its dark soul. Put on the courage of Moses as he freed his people from slavery and stood up to Pharaoh (Ex. 9:1).
What are you afraid to write? Take courage. Write the vulnerable story that leaves you shaking in the knees. What if it frees a reader from a fatal lie? Write for the flourishing of others. Usher in the abundant life Christ promises.
A bold spirit.
Do not give way to a spirit of timidity, but speak with boldness (2 Tim. 1:7). Put on the boldness of Paul who fought for the world to know the saving power of his Holy God. He fought to the point of imprisonment and even to his death (Acts 16:16–40, 23:23–35, 28:16).
Who do you need to be bold for? What has the Lord revealed to you that needs to be shared with others? Don’t succumb to timidity.
We write true to fight for others, out of a devotion to Christ. We take our pens, and we put to death the lies, fears, and sins that hold us captive. We fight for those who know not the comfort of the Father’s love. We challenge and strengthen the exhausted believers. We write for the hopeless. We write for those entangled in sin.
Below is a brief post written for Authenticity Book House and their Devotional for Writers series. Enjoy!
A couple months ago I walked through a dry spell. I dragged my feet like a crippled zombie.
I worked 40+ hours during the week and plus some on the weekends. I slapped on my makeup and exhausted myself over trying to put together a cute outfit. The only place I saw my friends was during an hour in church on Sunday mornings and a couple hours at home group.
Busyness leaves my writing life and spiritual life as fertile as cracked soil of the Atacama Desert. I run dry on inspiration when I get caught up in my to-do list. But when I slow down, drop after drop of inspiration waters my mind.
After February ended with all the conferences, projects, and work deadlines, I resolved to water my soul and created some time of sacred silence.
I turned off my TV to read and spend time in the Word. I signed up for art classes, refused to check my inbox on weekends, and planted the herbs I’ve been wanting to try.
I had lost sight of the value of rest and community. The introvert, perfectionist, task-oriented side of me didn’t realize how much the weariness impacted me as a writer and follower of Christ.
Throughout the Gospel of Luke, we find references of Christ walking away from the crowds to be alone in prayer. Christ took note of the people around him, listening not to just their words, but the condition of their hearts. He dove deep into the well of people’s lives.
Christ accomplished much in his three-year ministry, not because he focused on the task at hand, but because he focused on His Father and the people.
Take note of the world around you. Don’t passively walk through the crowds; soak in the people you meet. Get to know your waiter. Talk with your co-workers. Take out the headphones and rest in the outdoors. Turn off Netflix and open the fresh pages of a book.
As writers, how can we love ourselves and people well? Take note of the moments around us. Check out these three suggestions below.
- Schedule a time of silence. Turn off the computer and TV. Put the phone on “Do not disturb” mode. Use this time to read a book, soak in the words of the Bible, and kneel in prayer.
- Keep a notebook on you. Take note of what you see, what people say, how they inspire you, challenge you and make you think. Whether you go on a walk, drive to work, or grab some food on lunch break, notice the moments around you. What do you see?
- Ask questions. Get to know the people around you. What’s the story of your desk mate at work? How well have you gotten to know the parents of the kids your children go to school with? What’s your barista’s name?
As you take note of the world around you, you become present in the moment. This is a challenge to be intentional, to engage others, to take care of yourself.
This frees you to flourish, not just as a writer, but as a follower of Christ. Taking note of the people around you and the moments that pass by spills into your writing life, allowing inspiration and stories to bloom.
Below you will find a personal article I wrote up from my time with Children's Relief International in Mozambique this past June. I struggle to tell my stories in person. But when I get to sit down, grind through words for hours, erase, delete, and rewrite, then it starts to pour out. I hope you all enjoy this one.
Let me introduce you to our sister in Christ, Ines Guereiro (in the picture above). I met her while documenting our Green Door Project, who builds homes for families in need.
As a widow, Ines and her sixteen-year-old granddaughter spend most days cooking, walking miles to fill jugs with water, and hand-washing clothes.
“After losing my four children, I was looking for hope and protection.” -Ines
With the loss of her family came the burden of loneliness. She ached for shelter, safe and security. A few years ago, a missionary came and shared how she could find eternal shelter. That day Ines accepted Christ.
She now attends Dondo Baptist Church. Here it was mentioned that there was a program called Green Door that built homes for people like her. Because of many generous donors this past spring, CRI was able to put Ina on the list to have a house built this summer.
"It brings me great joy to not have to replace my grass roof anymore." -Ines A Green Door home means families don't worry about termites. The chance of catching malaria decreases drastically. They don’t have to sleep standing up during the heavy rains. Green Door doesn't offer just a home; it offers comfort, safety, and hope. Families can work, provide for others, and receive an education without the stress of managing a mud home.
As the work crew began building, Ines waited with excitement and thanksgiving. The morning we flew out, she woke up for her Green Door home dedication, where Manuel taught Ines how to use keys for the first time.
The mornings I spent talking with Ines, getting to pray with her and hear her story filled me with so much thankfulness for my job. I am honored to get to be a part of her life, share her story, and learn from her. I cannot wait for you all to meet her one day when we get to Heaven.
Below is a short excerpt I recently wrote for Children's Relief International during my time in Mozambique this past month. This Well Dedication rattled the depths of my heart with the strength of an earthquake. I pray this brief piece does so for you too.
“I don’t think I would sleep if I didn’t drill wells for these people. Clean water is not for privileged people like me—it is for everyone.” -Ercylio Greva
After experiencing his first four months of marriage without clean water, the Lord poured a desire into Ercylio’s heart to bring clean water to God’s children. Outside Dondo, Mozambique, you will find the small district of Mount Siluvo with one of our church plants. The women of this area travel three kilometers each morning juggling 20-liter jugs for fresh water.
For eight years the church at Mount Siluvo prayed for clean water. Year after year passed. Yet their faith did not crack in the dry and weary silence. Neither doubt nor fear contaminated the Living Water they trusted. And after those eight years, by the power of our God and Ercylio’s vision, the community of Mount Siluvo sipped fresh water from their own well.
The church gathered outside to dance around the well, while singing praises to their Provider. The pastor, João Mubata and his wife pumped the well for the first time, as crystal clear water poured out. Children splashed fresh water on their faces. As families from all over Mount Siluvo visit the well, the church can now not only offer clean water, but share the good news about Jesus too.
Ercylio and his team have mapped out land surrounding Dondo, Mozambique to bring hope and rest to more families through clean water. Now we are ready to drill more wells.
Let us join Ercylio and let clean water revive the lives of God’s children.
Did you know the Gospel writer Luke was essentially a journalist? It blew my mind when I learned this. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the book of the Acts of the Apostles by shadowing the disciples, documenting their work, and interviewing them to get their eyewitness accounts of the life of Christ. His journalistic efforts and accounts in his Gospel and in Acts have changed countless lives over the centuries. I know they have certainly changed mine. But not only that they have inspired me on my journey as a journalist and storyteller.
I want to tell you about this journey and how God burdened me to do something similar to Luke – to be an agent for change by documenting the work of God around the world.
Let me step back a few years. By the end of college, I knew without a doubt that the Lord called me to pursue photojournalism for missions. With this conviction, I enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary in the Media Arts and Worship program. While I worked on my Masters, I sharpened my skills as a visual storyteller and developed a strong biblical and theological foundation.
A few months after graduation, I met Children’s Relief International, through a good friend who interned with them. I immediately fell in love with their vision, to take the light of Christ to the poor of our time. Their determination to accomplish this invigorated me, as well as their strong conviction that the poor deserve to have their stories told with excellence and with dignity. Our hearts for the Gospel and for the poor were aligned perfectly.
After a few weeks of prayer and consulting friends and mentors, I picked up the phone and made the call. I accepted the job. Now, I serve as their Photojournalist & Missionary for CRI.
What does this look like?
Before I explain my role, let me throw this bit of information in. One of my favorite things about Children’s Relief is that we work with national/local church leaders. In other words, we don’t just go in as foreigners to start our own programs, but we partner with national leaders and churches overseas to help them reach their community with the Gospel. This is where I come in – throughout the year I will travel to our different projects around the world to meet with our international staff. I get to sit down, listen, and document the stories of the Lord’s work – just like Luke.
To do this I need your help.
I can’t do this on my own and I don’t want to. One thing I love about support raising is the community that rallies around you. So I want to invite you to join my financial support team. By partnering with me, we will create a ripple effect as we accomplish God’s work – like dropping a pebble in a pond. Like Luke, if we faithfully share our stories of God at work in the lives of the poor, than we too, in our own small way, can change dozens and dozens of lives for eternity. With photojournalism, we won’t just document stories, but we will document stories to change lives. All this to say- I am stoked and I would be honored to have you partner with me.
What can you do next?
1. To join my support team, click here.
2. To join my prayer team and receive a newsletter every two months, sign up here.
3. Have a question? Ask away. Email me at Ashley@childrensrelief.org
It was a Sunday--the day before our long treks through the villages surrounding Bahar Dar. After church, we spent the afternoon playing tag and sipping on bottles of Coca Cola and Marinda. Thanks to the Italians occupying Ethiopia in years past, we munched on margarita pizza before we stepped onto the boat. After a couple hours, we glided across Lake Tana to visit a monastery on one of it’s islands.
As the coast faded in the background, we looked over the left side of the boat to see bobbing heads in the distance. Hippos spouted water, as if they were blowing their noses. The roaring engine silenced and we all pointed and stared at the hippos. As minutes passed by, the bobbing heads appeared to be approaching the boat. Knowing a hippo could easily chomp a body in half left the pizza digesting in our stomachs unsettled.
Nathan, Erin’s seven-year-old son, looked up to her. With a nervous shake in his voice, he said “Mommy, mommy, I am scared.” As the hippos inched closer, he scooched over to Erin.
Erin looked down at Nathan, rubbed the back of his life jacket, and said, “You don’t have to worry about the hippos.”
The engine rattled the boat, as we continued towards the island. The hippo family faded in the background.
I relate to Nathan’s fear of the hippos. Each morning I gradually wake up, as I hit the snooze button every nine minutes. Fear cripples me, leaving me wanting to escape into the comfort buried in the sheets and blankets of my warm bed. Fear attacks my thoughts, like a hippo chomping away at it’s next meal. My mind turns to fog as if blood rushed from my body.
Am I as good of a writer as they thought?
Did I take good enough photographs?
Am I a good enough daughter?
Can I really raise the financial support I need?
Fear after fear gnaws away at my energy. I drown in exhaustion. And then I remember…
I don’t have to worry about the hippos.
In the jaws of a hippo, even the meatiest human being snaps like a twig. But in a fight between a boat and a hippo, the boat wins out.
I can stare and point at the giant fear swimming out in the distance. It probably has the ability to destroy me and kill any and all of my hopes. But when I take a look around me, I realize that this fear can’t touch me. Because of who’s boat I am in, my mind settles.
Week 19: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Principle: Be sympathetic with another’s ideas and desires.
What does sympathy look like?
Sympathy. It’s that shocking utterance, “I understand,” after a heated complaint. It’s the “I am so sorry,” when a client let’s out their frustration. It’s silence, when you want to react to an irritated client.
“I don’t blame you.”
That’s all it takes. Sympathy isn’t about proving that you are right. Sympathy looks like silent, active listening when someone’s cheek turn rosy with fluster because their ideas are not valued.
Emotions simmer. Conversations boil. Clients complain. Misconstrued comments get entangled in arguments.
And the answer is: sympathy.
As I have mentioned many times before, to do our jobs as photographers we have to connect. How do we do this? In the middle of conflict, we sympathize.
What if in your next conflict, you sat there. You listened. You apologized. You uttered the words, “I don’t blame you.”
Here are a few ways to show sympathy to your clients.
1. If you did something wrong, apologize immediately. Be specific about why you are apologizing.
2. Control your temper. It’s better to say nothing at times.
3. Return kindness when you are insulted.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Principle: Try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view
“Honestly”. That is the key.
What I have appreciated most as we journey through this book is the underlying foundation that we need to have a heart check. These principles are not about manipulating our ways to the top. These principles require us to take a back seat and put the client first.
When Carnegie says to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view, he is reiterating the idea that to do good business, we cannot be about ourselves. We are here to serve, to love, and to give to our clients. These principles give us practical tips on how to go about this.
Honestly. It is not manipulative; it is genuine. It is not selfish; it is selfless.
This is a challenge to live above reproach. This is a challenge to stop pursuing our ideas, and pursue our client’s ideas. This is a challenge to not be focused on taking a good photograph, but on serving your client best. It is a challenge to put people before pictures.
Below I have listed a few ways to apply this principle in our business relationships.
1. Do not condemn them.
2. Try to put yourself in their place. Try to understand them, their vision, and why they want to do things the way that they do.
3. Observe. You’ve got to listen in order to ask good questions.
4. Show them that you consider their ideas and feelings just as important as your own.
5. Ask yourself, “Why should they want to do it?” Let this drive your thinking and your conversation.
How to Win Friends and Influence People: Week 17
Principle: In order to get cooperation, you must let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
To set yourself a part from other photographers, it all depends on your mindset. When your mind is focusing on serving your client, you make you and your work distinct from others. Personally, I believe this even makes us considerably better photographers, business partners and people as a whole. With that in mind, when we become servants, we sacrifice some pride and we have to become flexible. We have to learn to work with people and we have to adapt in order to serve them best. This means that we need to be willing to let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
Dale Carnegie talks about how to facilitate a productive, efficient, and creative environment, we must be willing to let the other person feel the idea is his or hers. There are a three ways that I have taken note of in order to accomplish this:
1. Ask questions to faciliate where the thoughts are directed. It is not about convincing them to do what you think they need to do. Our mindset needs to be focused on seeking to understand.
2. Once you start the questions, you can insert some suggestions. Do this to try and gage what it is they are looking for.
3. Finally, ask for their ideas and let them create with you. You are not the sole creator in this project. You are collaborating with your client.
These three steps are key to maintaining a creative environment when meeting with potential clients and looking into new assignments. The basis of this is having an attitude which seeks to understand and serve. When we are focused on serving rather than making a name for ourselves, the atmosphere of the discussions change.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
Principle: Let the other person do a great deal of talking
When we meet with potential clients, we often forget they know more about their business and problems than we do. Dale Carnegie argues that in order for us to serve them well we must: let the other person do a great deal of talking.
Whether we are jumping in on a conference call, meeting up at the office, or getting together for coffee, we all need to discover our clients needs. Research beforehand is crucial, but that does not answer all our questions. That does not give us all the information we need to know. Rather it is only the first step to learning how we can serve our clients.
When we start having the conversations with our clients, we need let the other person do the talking. Below are a few tips to guide these conversations.
1. Ask questions.
2. Don’t interrupt.
3. Listen patiently.
4. Be sincere.
5. Be open-minded.
6. Encourage them to express their ideas fully.
7. Only share achievements when asked.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
“Get the other person saying, ‘Yes, yes’ immediately.”
When meeting with clients, sometimes conversations can go south. Someone might misunderstand you, or he or she might decide they do not want your work. Situations like this put your character under a microscope. It becomes evident who you are about and what your work is for. If you are all about yourself, it is going to start bleeding in these moments.
Reality check: if your client becomes hesitant about a certain factor of your business or is questioning your product, you are given an opportunity to let the sincerity of heart turn things around. Dale Carnegie discusses these types of situations and his response is to immediately do this: Get the other person saying, “Yes, yes” immediately.
There are a few ways to go about this, which Dale Carnegie alludes to:
1. Emphasize that you both want the same thing rather than focusing on your differences. You want to bring your conversation back to common ground. Talk about the vision that first brought you to the table.
2. Ask a gentle question, instead of telling them they are wrong. If your product does not measure up to their expectations, ask questions. Don’t get defensive. This is key. First, this gives you the opportunity to maintain the relationship. Second, this allows you to learn and improve. It does not pay to argue.
3. Focus on communicating what you want to do for them. Remind them of how your work and your expertise will benefit their vision and goal. Sometimes we can get so bogged down in the small details of one hiccup in the road, that we lose sight of our common ground.
4. Focus on talking about your clients’ needs before your own needs. Remember you are here for your client. You do your job best when you understand their need.
How you handle this situation shines light on the integrity of your work and of your character. In moments like these, you can really impress a person where they are saying, “yes, yes,” as they are being understood, or you can get the phone hung up on you.
“When we are like little children, with the openness the child has up until the age for school, then we retain our ability to be creators, our willingness to be open and to believe.” –Madeleine L’Engle
Hands on her hips. Hair pulled back. Eyes staring straight into the camera. Bold ruby shirt hanging off her shoulders. She dominated the boys on the soccer field. She believed without boundaries. Nothing held her back. When drops of anxiety rolled down her face, she wiped her forehead and dried off her hand on her t-shirt and moved to the goal with determination.
Boldness and courage radiate from this small girl. She lived in a village far down the road outside Liberia, Costa Rica. Thickness, humidity, and dark clouds atmosphere surrounded the village. The nationals we worked with warned us. They mentioned the slithering whispers flowing outside the witch doctor’s home. They told us about the homes vibrating with screams and loud yelling. They shared about the silent homes where the sick man would rest.
Yet in the midst of an eerie silent village, this small girl laughed loud, played hard, and stood with courage. When adults trembled near certain homes, she ran around the neighborhood, calling friends without a care. Someone might credit her boldness to naivety. But I would argue we have so much to learn from children like her.
We teach caution and fear. Children teach trust and courage. Fear does not choke her belief in the impossible and unseen. Children live their first years of life looking up to us, maybe we should kneed down and look up to them. Let us dare to face the goal with the boldness and courage of a child.
Wow, what an absolutely incredible night. The fireworks didn't come until the sun went down, but the night was plenty vibrant and joyful while we set up for the big proposal. Sam contacted me just a few days before the proposal, asking if I was available. Now backstory, I remember when these two started dating in high school five years ago. When he told me he was about to pop the question, I was ecstatic! The day had finally come and I was so humbled to get to be invited in to capture the moments.
Sam picked out the sweetest location: the top of the parking garage, where they watched the fireworks every year. This place was full of memories, and now he was about to top it off with one of the greatest memories yet: the proposal. I met up with their friends about an hour before Sam and Abby arrived to help set up and get a few shots before they arrived. When Sam texted us that they were on the way, we hurried real quick, moved all the cars, and piled into to the truck!
Minutes passed by, they finally pulled up. I learned later, that Abby had already started crying in the car before they got out. She saw the balloons and the set up and knew what was about to happen-- the day she had been anxiously waiting for. They walked over and well...next thing you know, there is plenty of crying, hugging, and she said yes! It was one of the sweetest proposal's I have seen. And of course I am tearing up behind the camera. Once she said yes, her friends burst out of the unrecognized truck in the parking lot. The air filled with squeals as they all jumped on top of her and hugged her.
The proposal ended with an intimate group of their closest friends, champagne toasts, cheesecake and all things pink. So excited for Sam and Abby and their big day coming soon! As a photographer, it is an honor to be trusted to capture some of the most incredible memories to be made in someone's life. It was a special honor to get to capture this sweet couple's proposal. No Fourth of July fireworks could radiate quite as much as this couple! Here are a few snapshots. Enjoy!
Dale Carnegie: Week 13
How to do Friendly Business
“Begin in a friendly way.”
Brides. Couples. Families. Editorial Work. Documentary work. All types of photograph require one skill: connecting with people. No matter what type of photography we are doing, connecting with others is crucial. This is the reason why I love walking through this book with all of you. It takes us through some fundamental and crucial elements in managing business relationships.
The past few weeks we have discussed various principles that revolve around conflict in business relationships. Now we will take a positive approach. Dale Carnegie introduces the principle: Begin in a friendly way.
With all different types of personalities, backgrounds, and querks, we can easily find points of disagreement with one another. The key to creating a good connection with others is to begin in a friendly manner. Below are three tips to developing relationships with clients and co-workers in a friendly manner.
1. Be a sincere friend. Relationships come before business. Friendliness is contagious. So when you are meeting with a client in the beginning, take note of some principles from our earlier discussions: smile, commit their name to memory, ask questions, find something you admire about them and complement them on it.
2. No bull-dozing or forcing your opinions on others. You can state your opinion without forcing it upon someone. This depends on timing and style. Sometimes an opinion needs to be said after a foundation of trust is well established. This might take a few interactions to solidify. Also when you state your opinion you want to recall the last two weeks principles: don't immediately tell another they are wrong and be quick to admit when you are wrong.
3. Show gratitude. To establish a positive atmosphere and relationship of trust, the other person needs to feel respected and appreciated. I'm sure we can all relate in the sense that it's incredibly difficult to give our best to someone who doesn't appreciate the time you are giving.
These are the top 3 tips I would give on creating a warm and friendly environment with clients. My challenge for you is to jot these three ideas down, write out how you can specifically apply them for your next meeting. Do you have any other tips or suggestions to add to this list? Share below!
Proving I am right has never solved an argument for me. But admitting I am wrong certainly has. It can be a shot to my pride, but when I can muster up the strength to admit I am wrong, the situation always seems to move more smoothly. Less blood is spilled and the anger doesn’t explode. We can save ourselves a lot of energy by simply utter the phrase, “You’re right, I messed up on this one. I am sorry.”
Dale Carnegie reminds us of this in this week’s principle: If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
While admitting we are wrong might not fix every problem. There are many benefits to admitting this. These past few weeks we have discussed how to keep disagreements from turning into arguments, the importance of not accusing someone else of being wrong, and now this week we are learning the importance of admitting we are wrong. These are all key principals to keep in mind when we are in meetings planning out our next assignment whether it’s a wedding or going overseas for humanitarian work. We all bring in different perspectives and experience with plenty to learn from one another.
Below are listed 4 benefits that will unfold when we admit our mistakes. So when you get yourself caught butting heads with a client and you come to a point where you need to admit a mistake you made, there is actually something good that comes from it.
1. It displays your character and integrity.
I always admire those who can admit they are wrong. It says so much about their character. It takes a great bit of strength to let go of your pride and accept that you are human and imperfect. Maybe you misunderstood a client, wrote down the wrong time for a photo shoot, or did not photograph a certain part of the event. When you take responsibility for what you missed, you are showing your sense of integrity.
2. It displays your humility.
Taking responsibility for your mistakes takes courage. You have to look at yourself and admit that you are human. And to tell someone who was depending on you to get a certain assignment done that you messed up displays humility. It is a characteristic of someone you would want to work with.
3. It stirs a sense of understanding and respect in the other person.
When others see you own up to your mistakes, it makes it easier for another person to be understanding and show you respect. By admitting you are wrong, you are allowing the conversation to be less about proving one or the other wrong and more about understanding each other.
4. You are reminded that you are human and you have more compassion for others.
Admitting you are wrong can help make you look good, can impact the other person, but it also changes how you see yourself too. Messing up on an assignment is always a good reality check. You are reminded that you are human and therefore you will have more compassion on the person who messes up. It develops a sense of understanding in yourself when you see someone make a mistake like you did.
Show Respect for Others’ Opinions. Never say ‘You’re Wrong.’
I can recall one argument I had a few months ago. It lasted hours. I felt misunderstood. I refused to ask questions because I wanted the other person to know they were wrong. Finally enough time passed where we worked it out. Exhausted by the argument we decided to understand each other rather than explain ourselves. The foggy skyline of the argument evaporated and everything began to make sense. And in the end, we knew each other better.
This principle applies to meetings with clients as well as our everyday relationships with our spouses, our coworkers, our friends and family. What I have listed below are five steps to take instead of the “You’re Wrong” route. If you are meeting with a bride, a couple, or an organization, these five steps can help steer your meetings and consultations in a healthy and fruitful direction that will benefit both sides. When we take the “You’re Wrong” direction, the conversation tends to become more focused on defending one another rather than serving and trying to understand the other.
When you meet with your client or you have a conference call, these steps will navigate the conversation where everyone seems to have a different opinion. The client might have a different idea than you and they can be someone you learn from. Or your client very well could be wrong, but in order to build a healthy and beneficial relationship with them you don’t want to start accusing them. These steps will help guide you as you learn to communicate and work with those you do not see eye to eye with.
1. Don’t go into the conversation close-minded.
2. What’s your attitude like? Check yourself. Make sure you are going into this with an understanding heart. Accept that you can be wrong.
3. As they are speaking, try to see it from their perspective.
4. Ask questions.
5. Observe. Try to find the deeper issue. For example, when people are angry, that is only the surface of a deeper issue, like pain.
This week’s principle me of the phrase my kindergarten teacher would say, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
When the boys on the playground told me and my friends we were stupid or silly, my teacher crouched down, pointed her finger in the boys’ faces and said, “Would you want someone to call you stupid?” Then the boys would mutter “No,” as they ran off giggling. This idea underlies the principle for this week: the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
The steps listed rely on the foundational idea to treat others the way we want to be treated. Respond to others with respect. Listen. Value what they have to say. When I think about how I want to be treated, it puts into perspective how I need to respond to the others.
While reading and annotating this week’s chapter, I pictured a photographer sitting down with a potential client. The client could be a bride, a few leaders in an organization, a couple, a real estate agent, or whoever. The client approaches us with this idea of how the project should unfold. And as photographers, we bring a different perspective.
While the organization casts a vision of what type of story they want in the photograph, the photograph casts a vision on how to execute this. We both want the same thing, but we may have different ways we go about this. The steps listed below I believe are great guidelines to consider when a disagreement starts to bubble to the surface and how to keep it from boiling into an argument.
1. Welcome Disagreement.
2. Distrust your first instinctive impression. Don’t get defensive.
3. Control your temper.
4. Listen first.
5. Look for areas of agreement.
6. Be honest and look for areas where you can admit your error.
7. Promise to think over your opponent’s ideas and study them.
8. Thank them for their interest. If they disagree with you it is because they are interested in the same things you are.
9. Postpone action to think.
I would love to hear how you all handle disagreements! Any other thoughts or suggestions?
The evening approached quickly as the pink, blues, and purples soaked the sky. We finished our church service with the nationals and began our journey back to the compound for dinner. To pass the time, our team walked down the road to meet our driver. Children raced passed us playing games. Men lifted their tools to head home. The women lifted their jugs of water onto their heads and trekked down the red dirt road.
We scuffled our feet in that red dirt for a few minutes until the driver picked us up. As I glanced over the landscape, I noticed how the rich sky made the dirt roads roar with its deep red foundation. In the field to our left, seeds grew into vegetable gardens as the roots dug down deep into the ground. In the middle of this path, the children played. On the sides of the road, we walked beside men and women who began to their journey home.
This dirt marked every inch of their lives. The red dirt paved the roads, but also gave them grounds to grow food, and even created bricks for their homes. The red dirt did more than just provide for their lives, but it marked my own life as well. This dirt left a stain on my life that could never be washed out. The dirt roads of Lilongwe led me to some of the most honorable men, women, and children. The red dirt gave us a home to start a church, gave us a ground to walk on, mud to make bricks, and a place for the mango tree to take root.
I was born and raised on the Red Dirt Roads of Texas, but the Red Dirt Roads of Lilongwe filled my life with a richness that roared. That night, we said our goodbyes. Like the red dirt soaked my shoes, these people soaked my heart. Today, I remain thankful for the grounds that raised those men and women I so dearly admire.
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He’s wears that Santa Claus belly, dry sense of humor, and warm smile. Every time we get together something about his presence slows my heart beat down. Everything slows down. When I tell my friends, “I get to see Mr. Hendrickson today!” I always have to explain he’s like another dad to me. I have been blessed with two amazing men in my life—my real dad and Mr. Hendrickson.
The original El Fenix downtown is our regular spot. He orders his cup of queso and I typically manage to find a different plate of food every time. This past week I got three tostadas: creamy queso, beans, and that delicious guacamole tostada. And don’t get me started on those chips and salsa—my absolute favorite! It might not be any fancy restaurant, but man, those chips and salsa though….Well now I am getting hungry.
The meal normally lasts a couple hours, not because the waiter takes forever, but because we got lost in conversation. There is something about his presence that refreshes the very core of my being. My guard falls down and crumbles without me even telling it to. He makes me feel okay, a little more sane, and valued.
If we are all being completely honest, the last few months of my life has felt like something along the lines of a tornado/tsunami/hurricane all rolled into one explosion. It came in like a wrecking ball, as Miley Cyrus might proclaim. Ashes to ashes all my plans fell down. I’ve slept in some days and still felt exhausted for the rest of the day to come. People like Mr. Hendrickson blast the sunshine right in the middle of this storm, this wrecking ball destruction and these ashes.
I rambled for hours during that afternoon at El Fenix. The way he listened to me and put up with my crazy-analytical self made me feel important. Dale Carnegie shares this overall principle in this week’s reading: Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
Mr. Hendrickson did this for me. True friendships do this for me. This is what I want to be to the people I work with, the lady who makes my food at lunch, and to the people I love. I want to be this not just for my clients or the organizations I do work for. I want to be this for my family, my friends, and my co-workers.
When I think about the hurricane that stormed in like a wrecking ball, I am humbled. I am kicked in the butt and reminded that everyone’s got his or her storms swirling around and we got to be mindful of that. So when we start that conversation, we smile. We get to know their name. And we make them feel important, not with shallow flattery, but with a touch of Mr. Hendrickson.
This Week’s Exercise:
1. Text, Call, Email. Whether you are meeting with a client this week or taking a friend out to lunch, schedule a time where you can be intentional to lift someone up.
2. See. When you get together, keep your eyes open. Ask yourself, “What is there about him or her that I can honestly admire?”
3. Talk. When you find something about them that you appreciate, let them know. If they are talking about work and how they are worried if their client is happy, comment on their heart for their client. If they reveal to you their dedication to their family, compliment them. And if they comment about their own awkwardness, encourage them to embrace it like Zoey Deschanel does on New Girl.