When emotions rise, rational thinking often plummets.

To help you recall and apply the basic principles of relational wisdom when emotions threaten to override your judgment, we have summarized the key principles of RW as simple acrostics. Here is a brief overview of these acrostics, along with some testimonies of how others have put them into action in order to get “upstream of conflict.”

FINAL_main_points_margin3To be remember that relationships are always three dimensional …

Practice the SOG Plan

  • Self-aware: How am I feeling and acting?
  • Other-aware: How are others feeling? How am I affecting them?
  • God-aware: What is God up to?

“Thank you for developing the SOG Plan. My husband has returned to school so we’ve moved in with his parents to make ends meet. My father-in-law is a teddy bear and so easy to live with. My mother-in-law is not so easy. She means well but just can’t keep from making “little suggestions” about our marriage, parenting, spending … you name it, she’ll try to control it. There’s days I just want to scream I feel so trapped.

“SOG has been a life saver. So simple and yet so powerful. It’s helped me to stay ahead of my emotions and head lots of hurtful words off before they leave my mouth. It’s also reminded me to put myself in her shoes and realize that she really is trying to help, clumsy as she is. Also to be more thankful for the many sacrifices she is making to help us through this tight time.

“Most of all, SOG gets my eyes back on the Lord so I remember that he has a purpose for bringing us here, something way more important than simply saving money, and probably more to do with smoothing off sharp edges on my character…”

FINAL_main_points_margin3 To become more God-aware and God-engaging …

Follow a Trustworthy GPS (God Positioning System)

  • Glorify God (Trust him absolutely)
  • Pursue God (Seek him earnestly)
  • Serve God (Do what pleases him)

My boss is a difficult man to work for. He rarely gives clear instructions, seldom offers encouragement or praise, and criticizes me in front of other people. After a couple of years of this kind of treatment, I developed a very negative attitude toward him and began acting just like the rest of the people who work for him. I gossiped about him behind his back, did just enough work to keep my job, and laughed when others secretly made fun of him.

Then I heard about the GPS principle. Boy was I convicted. I realized I had been looking to my co-workers and my own sinful heart for guidance in this situation instead of seeking direction from God. In effect I was saying, “The Bible is nice for Sunday school lessons, but when it comes to real life problems, it has nothing to offer.” How dishonoring that attitude is to God … and what a terrible witness it was to my co-workers.

So I asked God to forgive me for relying on worldly guidance, and then I opened my Bible to find his direction. By doing a search using the words like “suffering” and “employment,” I soon came across Luke 6:27-36, Romans 12:17-21, Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22-24, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, and Titus 2:9-14. I’d never realized that God has so much to say about how I should treat a difficult employer.

It took a while to change the bad habits I’d developed at work, but by God’s grace I’m steadily gaining ground. My boss hasn’t changed (I’m still praying for him) but some of my fellow workers have noticed how I’ve changed. When they ask me why, I’m giving credit to God for his guidance and grace. I never thought a bad boss would create opportunities for witnessing!

FINAL_main_points_margin3To become more self-aware and self-engaging …

READ Yourself Accurately

  • Recognize your emotions
  • Evaluate their source
  • Anticipate the consequences of following them
  • Direct them on a constructive course

“My teenage daughter knows exactly how to push my buttons. Even when I come to her with valid concerns, she rolls her eyes or uses a tone of voice that triggers my anger and throws me completely off course.

“READ is helping me to counter her tactics. Before I approach her, I think about the emotions she will try to trigger. I confess the pride, expectations, and desire to control that cause those emotions. I visualize how far off track we’ll go if I give into them. And then I think of how to do a “180” to go in the opposite direction, to be patient, gentle, and in control of my emotions (not her!).

“What a difference in those conversations! It’s almost funny to see the puzzled look on her face when her old tricks don’t work. She can still throw me off when she surprises me, but if I can handle planned conversations better and better I hope to soon be able to handle her ambushes too.”

FINAL_main_points_margin3To become more other-aware and other-engaging …

SERVE Every Person You Meet

  • Smile (Home, office, church, store, telephone)
  • Explore and Empathize (Show interest and compassion)
  • Reconcile (Be a peacemaker)
  • Value (Express appreciation and admiration)
  • Encourage (Give courage, inspire, put wind under their wings)

“Your RW material made me wonder if I was really called to be a pastor. After reading your Cinderella Man blog post, I realized I’d never learned how to read and empathize with people the way a Christ-like shepherd should. I was always wrapped up in my teaching and agenda and missing clues about their struggles and needs.

“But the SERVE concept has given me hope that I can change. It’s so simple even a pastor can apply it!

“Every Sunday I pray it through before I head to church, asking God to help me SERVE every person I meet. What a difference a little deliberate focus can bring. Several people have commented that something has changed in me. I just smile and say, “That’s what the gospel should do to all of us.” Once I’m living this out consistently, I look forward to teaching my whole congregation how to serve one another better.”

When you need to negotiate an agreement …

Practice the PAUSE principle

  • Prepare (pray, get the facts, seek godly counsel, develop options)
  • Affirm relationships (show genuine concern and respect for others)
  • Understand interests (identify others’ concerns, desires, needs, limitations, or fears)
  • Search for creative solutions (prayerful brainstorming)
  • Evaluate options objectively and reasonably (evaluate, don’t argue)

I share an office with two other agents. The three of us are in the process of hiring a replacement receptionist. Since there was potential for tension and disagreement, I consciously worked the PAUSE concepts into the discussion. As we started, I made a nostalgic comment about how much I had enjoyed working with both of them over the last three years. This gave us an opportunity to share a few memories that affirmed our relationship. As we went on, I sought to understand my partners’ concerns about each candidate. This approach reduced almost all of the tension we would have normally had in this kind of meeting and enabled us to comfortably agree on the person we would hire.

By practicing these skills in the ordinary interactions of life, you can steadily improve your ability to know and follow God, to read and discipline yourself, and to understand and serve other people.

– Ken Sande

Next Recommended Section: RW in the Movies

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