individual differences, different individuals

I was talking today with a young man charged with helping other people help other people. (I realize that description captures many of my conversations, but the vagueness is necessary.) We talked about a stylistic conflict that was happening, a couple people with different ways of approaching the process of helping. One likes one method, the other a different method. One gets passionate about things, the other is pretty flexible. No one is wrong, but resolution is pretty important.

So I kicked him out of my office for 4 minutes so I could think.

And then I typed up this list:

  • Occupation
  • Age (and generation)
  • Spiritual maturity
  • Spiritual knowledge
  • Learning style
  • Personality style
  • Number of children
  • Age of children
  • Amount of teaching experience
  • Sense of being right.

When he came back in, I handed him the list and asked him how much he cares about the people that he is working with. He cares a lot. And I told him to run through the categories for each person involved. And then I told him to run through the two helping methods and find out how well they line up with the two people.

From what I know of everyone involved, this young man will discover that the differences between the two approaches will correlate pretty closely with the other differences between the two people.

How often do we chose methodologies that match who we are and then assume that they will apply to everyone? I hate being told, “You’ll love this book, you’ll love this movie, you’ll love this person.” For me that merely reveals how little the recommender knows about me and how much they know about themselves.

Spend time reflecting on the people you are working with, that you are trying to help, that you are trying to recruit. Figure out how they may be different (and not worse) than you. Look at the things they love as ways to understand how they think and feel. Look at the progams that they choose to use as ways to understand how they process reality.

And then you can begin to think about how to teach and lead and encourage them.


By the way, I think you will love this post from my friend Chris about figuring out what is important for you to do. And even if you don’t love it, it could still change your life. He wrote it yesterday and I’ve used it three times already.

My core functions?

  • coaching people in being disciples
  • creating media that tells stories of redemption and reconciliation
  • caring for broken places in people

or at least that’s how it looks tonight.

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