Communication

Healing, Smiles and A

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So glad Kirstin Springmeyer and Manale Elewah were able to connect in Houston yesterday to talk about the healing power of art. Kirstin was one of my first "kids" to go into ordained ministry from my first call. She's now working on the healing power of art.

Last time I was with Dr. Elewah was in Cairo. She took me to see her work at a children's cancer hospital and we cartooned, sang, and played all day. She took me to visit one very sick child who wasn't able to join us. The boy was staring blankly at the wall. I told him I bet I could make him smile. I did everything I could think of, and no... no smile. Then I pulled out my final trick in the bag and yes, he rolled his eyes and finally smiled.

There are many medicines that don't cost a thing. Art and smiles are maybe two of the best.

Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy

 Can we learn to feel other’s pain?

Can we learn to feel other’s pain?

The word compassion comes from the Latin “with” and “suffering.”

The Greek equivalent, “empathy” is “in” plus “pain.”

It means “I hurt when you hurt.”

How do we raise a child, a family, a society of true compassion and empathy? Joan Halifax has some marvelous thought on nurturing compassion in a oft-times cold and polarized world.

Great talk for Cross+Gen conversations.

https://www.ted.com/talks/joan_halifax

Alone Together

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Technology or
Talk-knowlegy

As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other? 

Here are some great thoughts for a Cross+Gen discussion from Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk, and two books “Alone Together” and “Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.”

Her thinking about Robotics and Digital Artificial Intelligence would especially make a marvelous conversation starter between the ages.

10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation (Celeste Headle)

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We're not listening to each other. 

1/3 of teens send 110+ texts a day… but would much rather text than talk to a human being.

Conversational competence is the single most important skill we can teach our children and achieve ourselves today. And yet, we seem to have more and more time for tech and less and less time for talk. Without it, how can we achieve true understanding? Without the time, attention and energy, how can we hone interpersonal conversation skills?

Teaching how to talk and how to listen, Celeste Hedlee shares these 10 basic rules to be Engaged, inspired, perfectly understood.

1. Don't multitask - be present in that moment
2. Don't pontificate - don't state opinion without any feedback - enter every conversation as if you have something to learn
3.  Use open-ended questions - who, what, when, where, why, how
4. Go with the flow - let thoughts and stories come and go
5. If you don't know, say that you don't know
6. Don't equate your experience with theirs - it I not about you
7. Try not to repeat yourself - don't just keep making the same point
8. Stay out of the weeds - people don't care about the details of your life - they care about you
9. Listen - perhaps the #1 most skill - when I'm talking I'm the center of attention and I'm in control - We talk at 225 words per minute but can listen at 500 words per minute
10. Be brief - My sister said, "A good conversation is like a mini-skirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover thee subject."

This Ted Talk would make a great Cross+Gen conversation.

Vince Lombardi said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

So, how might something like FAITH5 help us get good at this, every week in a Cross+Gen community and every night in every home?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1vskiVDwl4

The Neurology of Theater (the play's the thing)

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Over my years in ministry and education, I have found using theater is both attentive and retentive. And, whether you're Nathan the Prophet telling David off ("you are the man!") or Shakesphere's Hamlet ("the play's the thing whereby I'll catch the conscience of the king") or George Bernard Shaw ("If you're going to tell the truth, you'd better make them laugh or they'll kill you"), embedding a message in drama is rather brilliant neurology.

We are bombarded with billions of bits of info per second. Most of our senses have gate-keepers to keep information out. (except the sense of smell). There's just too much information! The brain uses these filters in order to focus on what's important.

But when you bombard the senses with theater - the eyes (the visual cortex processes 7 billion bits per second), the ears (they process up tp 10,000 bps), the tingling skin (when the empathetic nervous system gets involved in the story), and what story and music do to engage significantly more of the brain (the logical centers of the brain, the sense of humor or drama), you have a tool for attention and retention. Engagement and involvement.

And you get beyond the gate-keepers to encounter the audience (ie, listeners) an spectators (ie, viewers) in more than just a show.

You get to the heart of the matter... because great theater gets to the matter of the heart.

(Photo: RICH Learning 2018 Cast and Crew following our final show at the Carolina Theater in Allendale, SC)

 

Raising A Teen Who Talks Every Night?

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Imagine

No... Act

He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.

MA L A C H I 4 : 6

Imagine raising a daughter who wouldn’t think of going to bed without talking to you about her highs and lows every night, even though she’s 16.

Imagine raising a son who won’t turn out the lights without asking you about your day, praying for your highs and lows, and blessing you.

Imagine growing up in a home where everyone feels loved, valued and heard every night; a family that seeks God’s wisdom, will and Word at the center of their lives; an intimate community where every night is an experience of caring, sharing, comfort and peace. Does this sound like an impossible dream?

It isn’t.

Does it sound like an improbable dream?

Maybe.

One thing is for sure: This dream is not going to magically materialize without intention, commitment and a workable plan on your part to make it happen. Having a close and caring family is a beautiful dream, but a dream without a plan isn’t worth a nickel. However, a dream with a workable plan may be worth a million bucks.

Three Reflections

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Three

Reflections

We've invested the last month on the psychology, sociology and neurology of sharing highs and lows. Let's wrap up with three reflections:

Reflection 1

Think of your highest high and lowest low in the last five years.

• Where was God in the high?

• Where was God in the low?

• What wisdom have you gained from these two experiences?

Reflection 2

Put on your psychologist’s hat for a moment. What happens to a person when he or she:

• Shares a significant high with a trusted friend?

• Shares a significant low with a trusted friend?

• Falls asleep every night of his or her life knowing that he or she is loved, heard and valued?

Reflection 3

Put on your sociologist’s hat for a moment. What happens to a family when they:

• Reflect on the significant highs of the day every night?

• Reflect on the significant lows of the day every night?

• Share highs and lows, caring conversations, faith talk and reflection at the end of the day (as opposed to mornings, after school, in the car or around the dinner table)?

FAITH5 for Absent Parents

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What if you frequently have to go out of town on business? What if you are sitting on a military base half a world away? What if you are sitting in a jail or prison cell? All the more reason to connect with your kids! Your kids need you now more than ever in order to feel loved, secure and safe.

Just because you're gone doesn't mean you have to be absent.

Do everything in your power to check in regularly with your kids, ask about their highs and lows, share your own concerns, pray for them, ask for their prayers, and offer your blessing. Don’t let physical distance create emotional distance. Leverage the technology available to Skype or FaceTime or phone them. So much of communication happens without words. The smile, the eyes, the face muscles, the visual clues say more than mere words ever could. 

Let your loved ones know that even though you are away, you care too much about them to let a single day go by without building a memory they will treasure and take with them the rest of their lives. They will remember that their daddy or mommy always had time for them. You can’t buy that kind of message for a child. It will mean more to him or her than you will ever know.

Two Rules and Three Tools for Nightly Home Huddles (Photographs and Emotographs)

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Two Rules
We only had two rules for sharing highs and lows when our children were young. First, no interruptions. When someone was sharing, no one else was allowed to speak, except to ask clarifying questions. Second, no judgment. The first time you judge your children’s highs or lows may be the last time they risk being honest with you about what is really going on in their lives.

Three Tools
With the hindsight of a nostalgic empty-nester and the insight of a lot more reading in neurology since my children were babies, I now know of three tools I wish I had used in the Melheim home while they were young. These are:

1. A timer: Brevity is the way to go for highs and lows, so set a time limit for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for Step 3: Talk.

2. Journaling: Writing before speaking is brilliant neurology. It connects thought to muscles, motions to emotions, and eyes to fingers. It begins the process of moving a person’s short-term memory from scratch pad (hippocampus) to hard drive (neo cortex). Writing connects the brain to the body to the environment, thus engaging the whole mind. It wires and fires and connects the new to what you already knew, setting the pieces in place for insight, problem-solving and innovation. If you want to grow reflective children into wise and thankful adults, start journaling.

3. Photographs and “emotographs”: As long as you are journaling words, why not consider adding a journal of images? Take at least one photo every day and add it to the mix.

Mental and emotional snapshots recorded in the form of simple sentences about your highs, lows and prayers serve as great mementos. Add a photo each day along with your writing and your journal will become the kind of scrapbook I call an emotograph—a rich, simple, memory- jogging tool that ensures that the day and its lessons will never be forgotten.

The 20-percent Marriage Insurance Policy

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Sharing highs and lows isn’t healthy just for kids—journaling highs and lows followed by sharing thoughts out loud is also great for marriages. According to Richard Wiseman in 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, “Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost their chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such ‘expressive writing’ results in partners using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.”

Setting aside 5 to 15 minutes each night for these communication practices might not merely hold a family together; it might also teach children—and adults—how to hold a marriage together.

Copy of Life Moves Pretty Fast (Take Time Tonight)

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Here's the link to "Life Moves Pretty Fast." Show it to parents, then invite them to start a nightly check in with FAITH5 (share, read, talk, pray, bless).

Home Huddle: How to Start

If all you had time for each night was five minutes of sharing highs and lows, you would be miles ahead of most families—psychologically, sociologically, neurologically and theologically. But this is just the start of the art. In the chapters that follow, we’ll get to the good stuff. In the meantime, let’s look at how this first step of FAITH5 might look in your nightly routine.

Calling the Huddle
Whoever is going to bed first in your home is empowered to call the nightly home huddle. This could be, “Highs and lows!” or “Huddle up!” or “FAITH5 in five minutes!” After a little exercise to get oxygen, glucose and BDNF coursing through your children’s veins, invite each person to look back on the day. What was one high (a good thing) that happened during the last 24 hours? What was one low (one thing they didn’t consider so great)?

Go around the room. Take turns. Ask everyone to be on watch throughout the day for the highest high and the lowest low. Consider recording your highs and lows in a journal for later reflection. Think of this as a little gift to your family and yourself. Be honest. Be real. Don’t interrupt. Expect everyone to contribute.

Rotating Rooms

Some people have a dedicated space where the sharing of highs and lows always takes place. Others allow the first person going to bed to convene the meeting and call the space. “My room! Five minutes!”

When our children were young, our pillow fight always ended on our waterbed. We followed with highs and lows on the waves. When they hit grade school, the home huddle rotated between Kathryn’s and Joseph’s rooms. For some magical unseen reason, it shifted back to Mom and Dad’s bedroom when they hit high school. Most nights found them lying comfortably on our bed—often with Kathryn Elizabeth’s feet sticking in my face for a foot rub. Even on nights when we were angry with one another and not all that elated to be related, the act of returning to that ritual and comforting space was often all it took to bring us back “home” in our home.

TOMORROW: Two Rules and Three Tools for Highs and Lows

Neurologically, less is more

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According to brain and spirituality researchers Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman in Words Can Change Your Brain, the listener’s brain can only recall about 10 seconds of content. Beyond that, nothing is going to register. As Newberg and Waldman write:

"If you talk for several minutes, the other person’s brain will only recall a fraction of what you’ve said, and it might not be the part you want to convey. The solution? Brevity followed by intense listening to make sure the other person has grasped the key points of what you said. If they have, great! You can say another sentence. If not, why move on? If the other person hasn’t understood you, what good will it do?"

Here’s the other good news if you have a child or teen (or spouse) who doesn't talk much: The person who shares highs and lows in a couple sentences in 10 to 20 seconds may not only be more efficient in communicating - but they may be significantly more effective in getting messages across! Any one-way communication beyond a half-minute increases the likelihood that the message a person is trying to get across will not be registered and remembered by anyone.

You can keep pouring water in a full glass all you want, but it’s only going to hold so much. Everything else will just be a waste of water. Likewise, after 10 seconds, you can keep talking all you want, but if there is no give and take—no true conversation—everything else is just a waste of time, energy and breath.

Don't worry if highs and lows are done in a couple sentences or syllables. Worry if they aren't done at all.