The Nail

The Nail

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This is a test.

Watch the following two minute video clip and decide which person you sympathize with the most. (If a video screen does not appear below, click here). As you watch it, put aside our all-too-common stereotypes and realize that this exchange could take place just as easily with the genders reversed.

Debrief:

If you’re a “let’s fix this problem as fast as possible” person (whether male or female), you probably sympathized with the man in this clip … and think that the woman needs to get past her emotions and just pull the nail out of her head.

If you’re a “I’d like someone to understand how I’m feeling” person (whether male or female), you probably sympathized with the woman … and think the man needs to learn how to stop fixing everything and develop some empathy.

If either of these descriptions fits you, you almost missed a valuable learning opportunity.

Yes, it’s easy to identify with a person who is like you, and to see the flaws in those who are unlike you. But if that’s all you ever do, you’ll only ingrain your inclination to be a “fixer” or a “feeler,” and develop a more critical spirit toward those who are different.

Watch and Grow

Instead of perpetuating your narrow inclinations, use this clip to improve your other-awareness, which is your ability to understand and empathize with the experiences, emotions and needs of others.

Watch the clip again and pretend that the problem is not as ridiculously obvious as a nail in the head. Imagine instead that the woman has an extremely difficult and painful relationship with her mother, or sister or boss. Imagine also that she may be contributing to her problems through her own critical attitude, sharp tongue or insensitivity.

Now, if you’re a fixer, imagine how helpful the man would be if he said, “Listen, all you need to do is stop being so critical (or sharp-tongued or insensitive) yourself.”

How do you think that is going to sound to her ears? It may be partly true, but unless he first listens to her and shows that he has some understanding of what she is experiencing, his words will sound simplistic, callous and even judgmental.

If you’re a feeler, imagine how the man is processing this conversation. He’s being deluged with waves of intense and unpleasant emotions. That is not fun. He sees some ways to begin alleviating some of the woman’s pain, and he wants to help her as quickly as he can, largely because he cares for her and hates to see her suffer.

The point is, there may be some legitimacy in each person’s perspective, as well as some blind spots.

Each of them – and you and me in similar situations – would benefit by taking a deep breath, praying for patience and grace, and asking ourselves questions like these:

  • “How is she (or he) feeling right now?”
  • “What is he (or she) trying to tell me?”
  • “How can I show that I understand and care?”
  • “How can I best serve him (or her) in the next ten minutes?”
  • “What would she (or he) most appreciate from me right now?”

It’s not rocket science. It’s relationship.

It’s caring enough to slow down, see life through other people’s eyes, and look out for their interests as well as your own (Phil. 2:3-4).

– Ken Sande

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2013 Ken Sande

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3 Responses to "The Nail"
  1. This post was so helpful to me. This video has been making the rounds and someone was sharing it with my husband at church this past week. It was good for a mutually sympathetic laugh. However, your post gave me pause to apply this lesson a woman at our church who might be described as “high maintenance.” This past weekend she was sitting right outside the door looking particularly distraught and stressed. To my greeting and inquiry, she replied, “I just can’t talk about it!” followed by a 15 min lament of the events from the past week, including an occasion where someone hurt her feelings with their words. This pattern is such a common occurrence with this person, I’ve grown somewhat hardened and even unsympathetic, even to the point of avoiding her on Sunday mornings. You have caused me to re-frame my perception and see the need she has for empathy and why she is resistant to any suggestions towards solving her many problems. Clearly, I need to reach her emotional needs before we can even begin to address potential solutions.

    • Excellent application, Dianne. It won’t be easy, and she may not respond as you wish. But if you don’t at least attempt this kind of approach, you’ll probably never reach her. Thanks for loving her enough to step into a position that is not comfortable but could serve her greatly.

  2. So helpful! I spent years missing the meaning of this in my relational life. It is classic male/female difference. Dr. Seuss had a story that illustrates this point.
    “Said Conrad Cornelious O’Donnel O’Dell My very young friend who is learning to spell the A is for ape the b is for bear the c is for camel the h is for hare the m is for mouse and the r is for rat. I know all of the twenty six letters like that through to z is for zebra I know them all well” said Conrad Cornelius O’Donnell O’Dell so now I know everything anyone knows from beginning to end from the start to the close because z is as far as the alphabet goes. Well he almost fell flat on his face on the floor when i picked up the chalk and do one letter more a letter he never had heard of before and I said “you can stop if you want with the Z because most people stop with the Z but not me. In the places I go there are things that I see that I never could spell if I stopped with the Z. I’m telling you this cuz you’re one of my friends my alphabet starts where your alphabet ends.”
    I used to only see what I am but now I see who others are. I used to only appreciate my kind, but now I appreciate who others are as well. When I started appreciating others’ perspectives and gifts, I became a much richer and fuller person. I have often thought that Corinthians 12 ff are pointing to this reality. I do not need the Lord to be who I am, I need the Lord for who I am not. The same applies to others in the Body of Christ!

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