The one skill that can heal all relationships

by | January 14, 2013

Yes, I’m fully aware of the irony of writing this. I hope my daughter will someday appreciate that I did.

Our kids love to play on our iPhones. Every day Queen Karina and I discover pictures they take of themselves, voice memos they’ve recorded, notes they’ve typed in our Notes app.

We recently discovered this note on Karina’s phone, written by our seven-year-old daughter, Libby:

“Lifemanifestos.com That’s my dads Website. My dad is a leadership writer I don’t really like it because I don’t see him Every day. I don’t want him to be That Way.”

I was shocked; from my perspective, I spend tons of time with my kids, as much, if not more than any father. But apparently Libby has a much different perspective.

I might have been tempted to laugh it off as a typical child’s perception and go on with my life had I not recently watched a fascinating video on the “Power of Outrospection” by philosopher Roman Krznaric.

The 20th Century, says Krznaric, was the age of introspection, where we were encouraged by the self-help industry to discover who we are and what we should do with our lives by looking inward.

But, he argues, this has not delivered the good life. He urges us to shift to the age of outrospection, meaning the idea of discovering who we are and what we should do with our lives by stepping outside of ourselves and discovering the lives of other people.

The most important skill to develop in the age of outrospection, he explains, is empathy, which he defines as

“the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.”

Our understanding of the Golden Rule has been limited through overuse. The Platinum Rule, first initiated by Dr. Tony Alessandra, gives a more expansive meaning: “Treat others how they want to be treated.”

To discover how others want to be treated requires us to step outside ourselves — to see beyond our own feelings, perceptions, preferences, and prejudices.

Frederick Buechner explained,

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces.”

An excellent book, which has helped Karina and I immensely to love and serve each other better, is The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman. The book was written primarily for couples, but I’ve found that it applies to any relationship.

The five love languages, or how different people prefer to be loved, are

  1. Words of affirmation.
  2. Acts of service.
  3. Receiving gifts.
  4. Quality time.
  5. Physical touch.

(Can you guess Libby’s love language from her note?)

Do you know the love language of your spouse and children? The people you work with and see every day? Do you know what they crave in the depths of their heart and how to make them feel loved and important?

The more we see others the better we love them. And as we do so, we forget our own troubles and find ultimate love and fulfillment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a daughter to play with.

Recommended Reading & Media:

  1. “The Power of Outrospection” (video)
  2. Please Understand Me by David Keirsey
  3. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman
  4. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  5. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink (has a great chapter on empathy)
  6. The Platinum Rule: Discover the Four Basic Personalities & How They Can Lead You to Success by Dr. Tony Alessandra
  7. Avatar (movie, consider how the Na ‘vi phrase “I see you” relates to this article)

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