One of the persons closest to us is our spouse, and sometimes, they are the ones we sometimes take for granted. To combat this tendency, we should be mindful to encourage them and build them up at every opportunity. My friend, Bob Burg, in his new book, Adversaries into Allies, shares a story that includes a wonderful example of how we can encourage our spouses and build them up. Here it is:
As human beings, we have the ability, and the choice, to lift people up or to put them down. And we don’t even have to speak to them directly in order to do either. The person I try most to emulate is my Dad. He’s always had the most amazing gift for making people feel good about themselves and, while I’ve tried to emulate that trait, I’ve never been able to do it to the degree he has (though, he’d tell me different).
Dad’s ability isn’t only finding the good in everyone, but also verbalizing it. He’s mastered building people both directly and to others. While many people gossip, Dad finds and speaks the good. When he must correct, it’s always with tact and kindness.
Many people relate to others the bad spoken of them, creating conflict. Dad always relates the good someone said about them, bringing people closer together.
Have you ever heard husbands, when speaking to others, make unkind remarks about their wives? It’s one of those macho things, right? Sure, they’re “only kidding,” but words matter. Examples, good and bad, are set, especially for children.
Growing up, I always remember how Dad spoke so glowingly of Mom, as did she about him (they still do!). My parents began poor and built a successful business. Although Dad was the one in the public eye and Mom more comfortable behind the scenes, Dad always made sure everyone knew who he considered to be the true driving force behind the business.
My favorite “Dad story” took place when I was 12. We were having carpet installed in our home. The crew boss was one of those stereotypical beer-guzzlin’, hard-livin’ guys, who would have probably belonged to Ralph Kramden’s Raccoon Lodge from the old Honeymooner’s TV show (nothing wrong with that – just painting a picture).
For lunch, my folks bought pizza for the crew. Dad went to talk with the boss about the job. I was around the corner listening.
The boss said, “This is an expensive job. Women will really spend your money, won’t they?”
Dad responded, “Well, I’ll tell you, when they were right there with you before you had any money, it’s a pleasure to do anything for them you possibly can.”
This wasn’t the answer he expected. The boss was looking for negative talk about wives which, to him, was normal. And, Dad, with his natural “street way” that never fully left him, probably seemed like someone with whom the crew boss could bond.
He tried again, “But, gee, they’ll really play off that and spend all they can, won’t they?”
Dad replied, as I knew he would, “Hey, when they’re the reason you’re successful, you want them to do the things they enjoy. There’s no greater pleasure.” Strike two.
The crew boss tried one more time, sort of stumbling, “And…uhhh, they’ll take that as far as they can, huh?” Dad responded, “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’d do anything to make her happy.”
I was trying not to laugh. I knew he wanted Dad to give in just a little bit and say, “Yeah, I guess that’s true.” But I knew that wouldn’t happen…not in a million years!
Please understand; my Dad was never condescending. He was simply himself; a person who loved and respected his wife so much that there is no way he would give in and participate in that type of talk.
Finally, the boss gave up. Maybe he learned something about respecting one’s spouse. Maybe not. But it taught a young boy a lot about the power of respect and edification.
Mom and Dad, at the time I’m writing this, have been married 56 years. They still hold hands, and are more in love than ever. In fact, they adore one another. Would there be any doubt?
Perhaps this story has touched your heart as it has mine. If so, let’s be mindful this holiday season to encourage each other and build each other up, especially our spouses!