How Emotional Intelligence Improves Your Work and Relationships

I’m a little late to the game, but I’ve spent the past couple of days at a conference learning about Emotional Intelligence. Apparently this has been the rage in the business world for the past few years. The church is talking about it now, too, helping pastors and other church workers know themselves better so that they can help others better.


Emotional Intelligence is measured by four things:

  1. Self-Awareness: The ability to recognize and understand my moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others.
  2. Self-Management: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses or moods, to suspend judgment — to think before acting.
  3. Social Awareness: The ability to “read” the emotional realities of others; skill in responding to people based upon their emotional “map.”
  4. Relationship Management: Proficiency in managing conflict, building networks, and energizing appropriate behavior in others.

You can read all about it hereWhen you are more self-aware and more aware of the feelings and emotions with others all of your relationships will improve. It will even help the way you perform in your work, whatever your work may be.

There are specific ways you can sharpen your Emotional Intelligence. Each of the four categories can be enhanced by doing a few specific things:

  • Sharpening Self-Awareness: When you feel something, make yourself more aware of it by naming the emotion you’re feeling. Write down the “what,” “when,” and “why” of the things that trigger unhappy feelings or strong emotions. Note how your emotions impact others. Become aware of whom and what “pushes your buttons” so that you can prevent emotional outbursts.
  • Sharpening Self-Management: Create an emotion vs. reason list. In other words, write down: “When _________ happens, then __________ happens.” Smile and laugh more. Control your self-talk, the things you say to yourself inside your head. Becoming more aware of your self-talk can go a long way toward improving moods and relationships. Avoid “victim” thinking. It’s detrimental to your own emotional well-being and your relationships with others.
  • Sharpening Social Awareness: Try to figure out how accurate you are in deciphering the feelings and emotions of others. Live in the moment by not always rehashing the past or being fearful of the future. Improve your listening skills. Speak honestly, with love.
  • Sharpening Relationship Management: Be transparent and respectfully curious. Practice “invitational” talk; in other words, say to people: “Tell me more about that.” Build trust by greeting others by name whenever you can. Do your best to bring out the best in others.

Try these things and watch your work and relationships improve. Don’t we all want better relationships both at home and at work?

How have you seen emotional intelligence improve your work or relationships?

The Joy of Living Life to the Fullest

Sometimes I feel like I could have written the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. As a pastor I often have the honor and privilege to be with people at the very end of their lives. Sometimes it’s hopeful and peaceful; other times it’s fraught with questions and trouble. Life is a complex web of experiences and emotions. As it nears it’s end, all of that can bubble right up to the surface.

Spider Web

Recently I visited a man in a nursing home who feels hopeless, lost, and filled with questions about life’s choices. Needless to say, it’s an opportunity to bring hope and comfort that only comes in the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus. The Bible teaches that life was never meant to end. It was to go on forever. Jesus has provided a way for that to happen for all who believe in Him. I hope and pray that my friend will trust in that in his final days.

We live in a world where many enter their last days or hours with regrets. These are the top five listed in the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Looking at those, and learning from the ones who have gone through it, we have the opportunity to find joy in living life to the fullest. Here are the five ways we can defy regret and live with joy, passion, and fulfillment:

  1. While you still have your health, work hard to fulfill the dreams of your youth (or even your maturity). Don’t let a day go by without taking at least one small step toward a dream you’ve always had. Have the courage to step out in faith and fulfill the desires of your heart.
  2. Take regular time off of work each day and each week. Be present as you sit across the dinner table from your family. Go out on a date with your spouse. Play baseball with your son. Walk to school with your daughter. Work will always be there and the necessary things will be accomplished.
  3. Be courageous enough to express your feelings when something important is on the line. Holding on to bitterness and resentment can bring on not only emotional difficulties but even physical difficulties. Be true to yourself and get things out in the open. It doesn’t mean that you have to live a life of confrontation. But it does mean that you ought to express your true emotion by using “I” statements like: “I feel hurt that you would….”
  4. Reconnect with friends from the old neighborhood, high school, college, or a previous work place. Recently I had the opportunity to reconnect with an “old” college friend that I hadn’t seen since, well, college. What a wonderful time it was to see where our lives had led, what we are doing today, and how we can move forward supporting and helping one another.
  5. Choose to be happy. That’s right. It’s a choice. Don’t be afraid to joke around at work, to laugh with your friends, to smile when your spouse walks in the door. Making this choice will make a difference that will have immediate results.

Taking a look at life from the perspective of its end will bring about joy and fulfillment for today. When those last hours come you won’t have the regrets that many others have had. You will look back with a smile and know the satisfaction of a life joyfully and well-lived.

It is well within your power to make that happen.

What suggestion do you have to live a life without regrets?

How Humans of New York Is Teaching Freedom from Weakness, Fear, and Need

Humans of New York is the brainchild of Brandon Stanton, a photographer who moved to New York City and began taking pictures of people, interviewing them, and posting it all on social media. Humans of New York is a revealing slice of the human condition. In the daily posts you can see the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. It’s a way to understand people, sympathize with them, and even question them. As a pastor, I can tell you that Humans of New York is not only fodder for sermons, it also helps me in the important work of understanding our culture and the way people live and think.

Recently the focus has moved from the streets of New York to prisons and prisoners. As the prisoners are interviewed it becomes clear that people don’t often set out to be criminals. They are often imprisoned before they even get to jail. Many find themselves captive to weakness, fear, and various kinds of need. Just listen to their words:

Humans of New York Prisoner

“I tried to make some money the honest way as a kid. I tried shoveling snow. I tried a newspaper route. I stuck with it for awhile, but one day I was collecting money on my route and these older kids robbed me. There were three of them. They were 16 or 17. I fought hard. I told them: ‘I worked hard for this money.’ But they held me down and took it anyway. It was $27. And that made me feel so powerless. And I remembered that I knew someone with a knife. And I thought: ‘I’m going to steal that knife and deal with this firmly.’ I found those boys at an arcade. Nobody got killed. But I hurt them. I wouldn’t say that I felt proud after stabbing them, but I felt like they got what they deserved. I felt vindicated. Even today, I have trouble sympathizing with them. It’s funny how that works. When someone wrongs us, we want the maximum amount of punishment. But when we do wrong, we want the maximum amount of understanding and forgiveness.”

Humans of New York Prisoner 2

“I was working at a nightclub in Honduras, making $4 a night, and some guy tells me that I can make $6,000 in twelve days just by working on a boat. There weren’t any jobs in Honduras. We didn’t have government benefits like you have here. It’s really tough to say ‘no’ when there are no other options for money. So I agreed. They put me on a small fishing boat. We transported cocaine from Colombia to Honduras. My job was to maintain the vessel and help load the cargo. I’ve never done drugs in my life. On our fourth trip, we were stopped in international waters by the US coastguard. We had 986 kilograms of cocaine. That was ten years ago.”

Humans of New York Prisoner 3

“My mom was a single mom and there were nine of us. All of the kids worked in the fields. I started when I was twelve. We picked cucumbers, apples, corn, strawberries, all of it. None of us went to school. Nobody cared– if you move around a lot, the system loses track of you. Whenever the harvest was done, we’d go somewhere else. We always signed a contract. The farmers would give us a place to live and a little bit of money, and we worked in their fields. But there was never any money left when we finished. One day when I was eighteen, a friend of mine asked me to hide some marijuana in our trailer. He gave me a little money. I gave it to my mom. And that’s how it all began.”

There’s no question about it: these people features on Humans of New York have committed crimes and deserve the punishment that comes as a result. They show us where weakness, fear, and great need can lead. It’s a warning for all of us just how easy it can be to slip into the wrong places, become part of the wrong crowd, and fall to our own evil desires. But the other side of the story is that in some sense, they are victims of weakness, fear, and need.

The old saying is, “There but by the grace of God go I.” And it truly is God’s grace that keeps many of us from failing and falling, from making mistakes that could destroy us, from leading us down a path that puts us in either a literal or figurative prison.

More than that, these Humans of New York stories give me the desire to do things that will prevent these tragedies from happening in more lives. Here are some ideas I have:

  • Encourage kids to remain connected to church. Youth pastors are willing and able to pour their hearts and lives into young people.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter, and show that you care.
  • Donate (new!) items to those who really need them.
  • If you’re a business owner, give under-qualified people training that will help them qualify for well-paying jobs.
  • Show love to someone who really needs it.

I’m not saying any of these things would have prevented the above Humans of New Yor stories. But maybe, just maybe, they would prevent one person from living behind bars, making poor choices, or leading an unloved life.

What suggestions do you have?

How’s a Dad to Feel When His Daughter Goes Wedding Dress Shopping?

When our daughter got engaged in December, I had no idea what I was going to face in the coming days and weeks. Who knew that one of the first things to be done following an engagement is to go shopping for a wedding dress? Apparently it takes months for the wedding dress to be delivered once it is ordered. Then it needs to be altered, which takes even longer.

Ashlyn & Me

So less than a month after the engagement, off went my wife with our daughter and her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law. I may be an unusual dad, but I was feeling just a little left out. I wanted to go along. I wanted to feel a part of it all. I have never minded shopping, and this seemed to be one of the most important shopping days of my daughter’s entire life.

But “left out” wasn’t the only emotion I was feeling. My emotions were all over the map. So I decided to have a little fun with it and ask my Facebook friends just how I was supposed to feel while my (only) daughter was shopping for a wedding dress. Answers were predictable, poignant, even funny. People posted things like:

  • Lucky if he doesn’t have to go along.
  • Happy, and proud, and excited. Also a little left out of the fun, she’s all grown up, is this really happening? Shall I go on?
  • Happy, excited on the surface, a little wistful below, and profoundly glad that God has brought two beautiful people together.
  • If it’s anything like how the old babysitter feels, then I wish I was there to hug you.
  • I’m going to go with sadly elated.
  • Broke.
  • Old.
  • Very poooooor!
  • Happy but sad at the same time.

Yep. I pretty much felt all of those things. For some reason I kept having flashbacks of the moment she was born. I was wondering how this all happened so fast. I was incredibly happy for her. I was melancholy for me.

Time has a way of passing and stealing away moments that you wish would last forever. But time doesn’t stop. It keeps going and keeps on giving gifts that come into the present.

That’s why my wife, Tammy, and I always made a point of enjoying each and every stage through which our kids went. And that includes this present stage. It means that we will have a wonderful new member of the family and a whole new phase of life that will produce all new moments and memories.

In the mean time, we went to the bridal store last Saturday. I got to see Ashlyn try on her dress. I pulled out the credit card and paid for it. And I recognized that the little baby who made me shed tears of joy when she was born, is at the phase and stage of life that will probably make me shed more tears over time gone by, over moments that have passed, over memories about to be made, over my little girl becoming a married woman…always mine, but also now belonging to another whom we love like a son.

So, how’s a dad to feel when his daughter goes wedding dress shopping? The whole gamut of emotions.

But mostly blessed.

How would, or will, or did you feel?

How to Raise a Son

This past weekend we watched our only son, Ben, graduate from college. College graduation is a milestone not only for a student, but also for the parents of that student. It marks years of care, nurture, counsel, advice, time, and effort. When our daughter graduated from college I wrote a post entitled, “How to Raise a Daughter.” Here’s the corresponding post.

Father and Son

I’m not presumptuous enough to say that I have all the answers, or that I could prescribe the perfect way to raise a son. But these are some of the things that worked well for my wife, Tammy, and me, and could work well for you, too.

  1. Express your love as frequently and in as many ways as you can. It’s OK for a dad to say, “I love you” to his son. Hugs and literal “pats on the back” from both mom and dad express love and care in tangible ways. In a world that tends to beat people down, boys need to know that they are loved. Unconditionally. In as many ways as possible. And demonstrate what love really looks like by loving your spouse.
  2. Encourage creativity. When Ben was young we provided him with as many creative materials as we could put in his hands. Sometimes, as a young child, he would spend hours simply using boxes and paper bags to create things that still boggle my mind. Creativity is useful all the way throughout life, from school through a career. Encourage it.
  3. Teach, support, and reward good study habits. That means helping in any way possible, and if you don’t know it or understand it, find someone who does. Lots of people are willing to help kids discover, study, and learn.
  4. Provide opportunities in sports, the arts, and music. Over the years, Ben played organized baseball, performed in plays and musicals (including Shakespeare), took piano and guitar lessons, sang in choirs, and organized bands of his own. Let a boy choose which direction he’d like to go…and if he wants to do it all, let him (within reason).
  5. Be involved. While Ben was playing baseball, I coached. In fact, I was a coach for his baseball teams every year but one. He knew that I cared enough about him to be there as often as I could. And we made it a point to attend just about all of his performances and concerts.
  6. Teach him respect for girls. It starts at home when dad shows respect for mom. But it also comes through conversations encouraging a boy to be a “gentleman”…to hold the door open, to compliment others, and to draw proper boundaries.
  7. Help him to appreciate the value of hard work and money. This can be done through the responsible use of “allowance,” taking on part time jobs, even the value of studying hard to work toward a desired outcome. When boys learn at an early age to value these things, later on in life they don’t expect things to be handed to them on a “silver platter.”
  8. Balance firm discipline with age-appropriate latitude. Boys need boundaries. They will test those boundaries. Those boundaries should remain firm. When those boundaries are crossed there must be consequences. On the other hand, with age comes more freedom and responsibility. As he grows older, let out an appropriate amount of slack.
  9. Communicate with him. Communication was important from the time Ben was little. But it became even more important as he moved into high school and college. Tammy and I made it a point to always be ready to listen, to discuss, to give appropriate advice, and then let Ben make decisions based on what he had heard and learned. I think if you’d ask Ben, he’d probably tell you that he especially appreciated close communication as he moved nine hours away from home and went to college. He knew he always had someone to talk to…and to listen.
  10. Take him to church, bring him up in the church, make church a regular part of every week. When he is a child take him to church and Sunday School every Sunday. When he is in high school make church attendance an expectation, not an option. When he is in college, personally help him find a church home that is suitable to him. This includes praying for him all along the way. Bar none, this is the most important of these ten items.

This is not an exclusive list, so what would you add to it?

The Building Block of Building Trust

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trust. It’s because I’ve been witnessing far too much mistrust. Mistrust makes progress so much more difficult. It creates more hurdles than there need be. It erects barriers that are difficult to climb.


As I sit back and watch certain circles of mistrust, I think to myself: “I know both of these people, and they’re both good people. Why don’t they trust one another?” 

What it boils down to is that they really don’t know one another. I can remember being on the ground floor of building a community organizing group in Milwaukee. We hired an extremely well-qualified individual to lead our organization. He and I seemed to have little in common. We liked each other well enough, but I certainly never thought we would become friends.

That’s exactly why he intentionally took the time to sit down with me, one-on-one, and took the time to get to me…and I him. We got to know each other not as “labels,” but as people, individuals with families,with likes and dislikes, with passions and pursuits. As a result, we have become great friends.

The key to trust is getting to know someone else as a person. I love the old quote: “Be nice, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  • Don’t mistrust
  • Don’t dislike
  • Don’t look askance
  • Don’t think you can’t be a friend to someone….

Until you have taken the time to really get to know someone.

Trust makes the world a much better place. It makes progress easier. It makes hurdles disappear. It tears down barriers.

Whom is it that you most mistrust right now? What would happen if you sat down, face to face, and really got to know her or him?

I challenge you to give it a try. You may be greatly surprised at the results.

At the very least, you will develop an empathy for the hard battle someone else is fighting. 

What advice do you have for building trust?

Why What You Do Matters, Even If You Think It Doesn’t

You may sometimes think it doesn’t, but what you do matters. In the days following the Newtown tragedy (that’s not even the word for it, but I can’t think of a better one) everything was amplified. Compassion was amplified. Empathy was amplified. Care was amplified. Love for family was amplified. Joy eas amplified.

Even what you do for a living was amplified.


We were all reminded that life in this world is short. Sometimes far too short.

That’s why this world needs joy. And no matter what you do, you can be a bringer of joy.

I was reminded of this by two things that I observed in tho days following the Newtown “event.”

  1. Our daughter, Ashlyn, was in a show at the Orlando Repertory Theatre called Junior Claus. It was a happy little show about the son of Santa Claus looking for his place in life. Ashlyn played “Pengy” the Penguin, a comedic role that brought belly laughs from the little children in the audience. As I heard those laughs I couldn’t help but think about those poor little kids in Newtown. I hoped that they had the opportunity to have a chance to belly laugh in their short lives. What Ashlyn does matters because being an actor adds art, joy, and thoughtfulness to life.
  2. There is a Disney security guard who makes it part of his job to bring joy into the lives of little children. When he sees a little girl dressed up as a princess, he asks for her autograph. The girls are dumbfounded. At first they can’t believe that someone wants their autograph. But it isn’t long before they play along…and their whole day is made by the simple act of a security guard who realizes that his job matters. What the security guard does matters because he creates an event that a little girl will probably never forget.

If an actor and a security guard do things that make a difference in the lives of people, so will you. Make a decision, a “resolution” if you will, to do things that add joy, life, creativity, art, surprise, and happiness into the lives of those you encounter every day. The opportunities will be there. Open your eyes and you will see them.

Life is too short to think only of yourself. Make life a little more joyful for someone else.

What you do matters, even if you think it doesn’t.

What will you do add some joy into a life today?

Where to Find the Faces of Faithfulness

Who’d have ever thought it would come to this. That’s probably what she was thinking as she sat there in the nursing home room feeding chocolate ice cream to her husband of 57 years. If you drew in your mind a picture of faithfulness, this is what it would look like.

Old Couple

He had been in the military and they had traveled the world. They lived in California, Europe, Pennsylvania, and now Florida. In his working days he was a flight engineer. After that all ended he engineered projects at home. She kept busy following after him and keeping a nice house.

Though they never had any children, they had each other. It was more than enough.

Now the worried look in her eye, and a few tears, reveal her concern. She still lives in their home, but he needs care that she can no longer give. So she visits every weekday when a caregiver gives her a ride. She wonders what the future holds. What would she ever do without him.

Faithfulness, thou art that married couple. 

There must have been ups and downs, happiness and hardship, joyful days and fun-filled dates. Faithfulness was woven through it all and bound them together like a loving knot. Love may not feel like it once did 57 years ago. It need not and must not. Now it’s deeper, fuller, more sincere, and wants only what’s best for the other.

Faithfulness is as rare and as unique as they are. It looks like an aged couple who care about nothing but the two of them. Together. It transcends any kind of space or time. It fills to the full the depths of an empty heart.

Faithfulness. Pity the soul that never finds it. Envy the one that does.

It is a gift beyond gifts.

Where have you recognized the gift of faithfulness?

10 Things That Scare Me

Our family never really “celebrated” Halloween. We just never thought it was a totally “appropriate” holiday for Christians. We certainly don’t judge those who have fun at this time of year by dressing up, trick or treating, and the like. It simply wasn’t a priority for us. The darker side of life is scary enough without adding to it.

However, at the risk of being a bit too transparent, here are some things about life that truly scare me:

  1. Living far enough away from my future grandchildren that I wouldn’t get to see them grow up.
  2. Seeing people that I really love, respect, and care for live life without faith in Jesus.
  3. A National Debt that will have a very real, very negative impact on my children and grandchildren.
  4. Another terrorist attack on our American shores.
  5. Serious illness in someone I love.
  6. Never having the opportunity to travel to places of which I dream.
  7. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
  8. Living life without fulfilling certain hopes and dreams.
  9. Random acts of violence or accidents.
  10. Disappointing people who believe in me.

That’s why I lean on this psalm:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

And on these words of Jesus:

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid (Mark 6:50).

What brings you comfort at times of fear?

How to Live Large

My grandmother was one of the largest personalities I ever knew. She was the matriarch of the family, the queen of The Lutheran Home (where she spent the last years of her life), and the jewelry diva of the city of Milwaukee.

On Saturday we lay her to rest. But her presence is larger than life and will last in the legacy that she left.

Grandma Eggebrecht lived large. There was nothing timid, shy, or fearless about her. She filled a room with a personality that wouldn’t quit. Wherever she was there was laughter, conversation, drama. But there was never more than two seconds of silence. Grandma had to fill that space with words.

She lost her husband, my grandfather, more than thirty years ago. Until then she didn’t know how to drive. She took lessons. Learned to drive. And tooled around in her sedan for most of the rest of her life. She had more friends than anyone I know. She loved cards, and manhattans, and polkaing at weddings. She was always the life of the party.

My cousin, Suzy, captured her so well:

Auf Wiedersehen, Grandma Eggebrecht. I’m so glad we got to say goodbye to you last night. I’ll always remember someone who laughed a lot, loved to dance and always seemed to sing the loudest in church; who always had Donettes when we slept over, Bugles at her parties & bags of mixed nuts for us under the Christmas tree; who taped quarters to the insides of our birthday cards and who I watched roll a quarter off her nose in a bar the first time she ever played a game of quarters; who once gave me a firm scolding for telling someone to shut up but everyone once in a while let some questionable language of her own slip out; who learned to drive at age 60 and then would sometimes drive car loads of little old ladies past our house so they could see where we lived (those poor ladies held hostage :)). Now you and Grandpa are polkaing thru eternity…

She is living large right now, because throughout her entire life she leaned large on the One who gave her new life in the waters of Baptism. That’s why you could always hear her singing in church louder than anyone else, see her reading her Portals of Prayer every morning, and unashamedly speaking of her faith…even literally laughing in the face of death.

Grandma’s life was so large that it lives on in the lives of her great-grandchildren. In them you can see her dramatic personality, her amazing ability to imitate people, her love of fashion, her gift of gab, her sense of humor, and her passion for food. Though she was very poor for a major portion of her life, she never seemed to complain about lacking anything. Instead she lived large until her last day.

I learned from my Grandma how to “live large.” Here’s how:

  • Laugh
  • Smile
  • Pray
  • Sing from the bottom of your throat
  • Talk to anyone who will listen
  • Never be afraid to dress “loudly” or wear gaudy jewelry
  • Brag about your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (in moderation) to anyone who will listen
  • Read your Bible
  • Enjoy dinner and a drink
  • Dance the night away at weddings
  • Enjoy the privilege of age

Never regret living large. Life here is short. But with saving faith it leads to living a much larger life in the age that is to come. With that in mind, how can we help but live large?

Whom do you know that provides a great example of living large?