People are like pinatas. We come in one form and look a certain way, but we carry with us a million ideas, personal history moments, passions, cares, stories. We are more than our appearance, job title, profession, school, stage in life, relationship status and so on. But how do we discover the good stuff beyond titles?
This question is important and it takes time, practice and the willingness to get shot down. People don’t know it, but you and I, we hide in our title or label. We use it as a way to keep people at bay and to govern an image. When we ask questions to get beyond the title or label, you may run into resistance. It’s okay. People are worth fighting for. And you don’t get to the middle of a pinata on the first try!
Here are some practical helps to get to the middle of the human pinata:
1. Love the person. Seriously. Don’t just say it! Do it. Love the person no matter what their label is. You might need help with that. So ask Jesus to increase your love for people. Love is the most important aspect to getting beyond labels.
2. Care about the person’s story. A person is not a frog to dissect as you did in 8th grade biology. A person is soul that is to be handled with care. Only ask questions you care about! Only ask questions if you care! (see practical hint 1)
3. Know their name. A person’s name is the first break into the unknown. So learn it and do your best to remember.
4. Think about a good novel. Every good story is full of what? People, places, things, a thesis, a storyline, a protagonist, an antagonist and more. Questions are a way to get to story. Take a minute, yes, right now, to write down five questions that would lead to knowing a story.
5. Ask questions without question marks. Tell me about growing up. Describe a typical day for you. Tell me about one of your passions. I’d love to hear more about that. I’m very interested in this, tell me more. Each of these questions leads to answers longer than one word and that my friends is key when getting beyond a label.
6. Pay attention when in conversation. Remember things. This may seem mundane, but if you remember and connect dots when listening a person is more likely to share and to trust. Listening is one way of showing you love, care and are interested in the person.
7. Know how you best listen. If you want to get to know someone and you know you’re easily distracted, if possible move to a location where you can best give the person in front of you your greatest attention. If you get distracted by comings and goings, put your back to the door and face the wall. If you are at a party and there are lots of interruptions, sit at table, by each other in the living room or even suggest, “i’d love to get to know more of your story, would you want to get coffee and then set a plan at that moment!”
8. Think about questions you’d like to be asked. What are the things you wish people knew about you, but never ask to find out? Take a minute. What are they? Form questions that you could ask yourself to get to these things. Then when in conversation with someone else ask questions that get to that stuff.
9. Don’t have an agenda outside getting to know the person.
10. Be willing to be known too. You too are a pinata and if the other person is going to trust you to go beyond their label, you must put your label aside too.
People are most of all human. That is the most common thing we share. It is intrinsic to us. It is who we were created to be. And the human experience is full of life and story. It takes time, but every human has a story worth knowing. And every human life has value beyond their prescripted label.
Live beyond labels. Love Human. Seek Story and Find it! You’ll get to the good stuff!!!!