Sunday, January 18, 2015

How Do You Build Character?

"Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education." ― Martin Luther King Jr.

During the two years I taught a course in Human Relations for students of Central Wyoming College it struck me that one of the biggest challenges that young people have is in building the proper character to become successful professionals, parents, and friends.  Almost every student I encountered was committed to their academic success and acquiring knowledge that would help them succeed as a student and professional.  However, many were surprised that the content of the course was so introspective, relating to how they behave.

Most people do not go through their daily lives thinking about what drives their behavior, or how they developed their character.  But this is a useful habit to get into.  Considering how your behavior shapes the way other people react to you unlocks many doors.

  • How did you develop your character?  
  • Your work ethic?  
  • Your passion?  
  • Your commitments to others?  
  • Who and what influenced you?  

The first person that comes to my mind is my dad, and quickly I begin to remember others (teachers, friends, co-workers, role models), who have helped me develop into the person I am today.

Your character evolves everyday, and you can choose to improve or deteriorate the behaviors that help you relate to others.  Remember those who have helped you build your character, and think of an additional role model that will help you become ever greater tomorrow.

It Is A Fine Line Indeed

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ― Martin Luther King Jr.

I can't help but think of my favorite quote from This Is Spinal Tap when I read MLK Jr.'s words above.

      David St. Hubbins:  It's such a fine line between stupid, and uh...
      Nigel Tufnel:  Clever.
      David St. Hubbins:  Yeah, and clever.

I am pretty sure that Rob Reiner was not thinking of MLK, Jr. when he wrote this script, but you never know!

Pick Up The Phone

"People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other."
 ― Martin Luther King Jr.

How do we get to know each other.  We talk to one another.  Very good.  Now let's take this one step
further.  How do we talk with each other?  Yes, we say stuff, but what else?  Yeeeesssss, we listen to others.  That is the key message here.

Before we can begin to communicate our own views, we need to begin understanding others.  This is not some sort of chicken-before-the-egg riddle.  We need to listen with our eyes, our ears, and our minds.  There is a lot of listening we can do before we even have a conversation with someone.  We can think about what we expect the perspective of others to be.  We can empathize with that perspective, and then we can test our understanding by actually having a conversation.

Now that digital communication is so prevalent, it is harder and harder to have a real conversation with others.  Actually, it is technically easier because we have more channels and greater access to other people, but our minds hijack us into believing the most convenient way to communicate is the most effective way to communicate.  We know in our hearts that it is much more effective to have a conversation in person or over the phone than in email or social media, but we have a hard time getting ourselves to do it!

Take the time this week to commit yourself to getting to know someone important to you, your work, or your family.  Go beyond a simple email greeting or Facebook message.  Pick up the phone and start a conversation.  Chances are you will learn something important that would have remained a mystery if you only communicated online.

Challenging Communication

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
― Martin Luther King Jr

This quote keeps me motivated to work everyday.  Since 2010, I have committed my life to helping people communicate more effectively with others, mostly in a business context.  Usually, the most difficult situations for  people to communicate effectively are the times when they are stressed, challenged, or faced with perceptions of others that conflict with their own.

  • Angry hotel guests screaming at front desk staff
  • Receiving negative feedback from your boss
  • Giving any kind of feedback to those you work with
  • Negotiating with co-workers who have different priorities
Martin Luther King, Jr. is an inspirational role model for even our everyday communication.  When we face times of challenge and controversy, it is so easy to lash out in defense, or to turn our backs in denial.  Silence and violence are not the only two reactions to challenge and controversy.  The next time you FEEL your emotions become charged in a conversation, think of MLK Jr.'s words, and rise to the occasion.  Find the higher road to opportunity and success.  Chances are that what seem like opposing ideas actually have common purpose.