It started on the first day of our vacation. Some unknown person had made a paper rose to decorate a very no-frills roll of paper. Making paper flowers had been something I enjoyed when I was growing up so it brought back sweet memories. Add that to the fact that vacations are magical times for me and I was enchanted by the hand-made rose.
Carefully saving the original, I sat down to make my own version of a paper rose. It had been a lifetime since I’d made one so my effort was definitely not special. But I put it with the first rose went out with my husband to enjoy the tropical weather.
Later the next day, there was a new one—another perfectly formed paper rose. I tried again and turned out my second paper rose. Better. Now I had a small bouquet of white paper roses.
One evening we came back to the room and found two large aqua-edged paper roses on the bed. This mysterious rose-maker was aware of my interest in the paper roses and had deliberately given me two more. What joy I was having in this relationship with a secret friend. I was oh-so touched and delighted.
I never met the person who cared for our room; the one who blessed me with her thoughtfulness remained unknown. There were several who came and went down the halls, but I never knew which lady was my rose-giver.
However, I had clues about her because of the things she did; because of her behavior.
The EQ Category of Relationship Awareness
In this article, I’ll be talking about Relationship Awareness. This skill is also called Social Awareness or Other Awareness and is one aspect of Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Laura Belsten, founder of the Institute for Social & Emotional Intelligence, defines it as “awareness of others feelings, needs, and concerns.” The behavior skills of Relationship Awareness together with Relationship Management make up the skills which control how well we manage relationships.
Managing Relationships Through Awareness
In this section I’m going to get just a little technical to make sure I’m explaining this important subject really well. Hang with me because clarity on a subject can bring so much impact!
Emotional Intelligence is seen in the wisdom we reveal through our behavior, through our decisions and actions. In this 4-quadrant model of EQ, you can see Relationship Awareness is in the upper right corner.
When a person is high in the EQ skill of Relationship Awareness, they’re usually also high in empathy, situational awareness, and service orientation. I’m quoting Dr. Belsten again when I give these definitions:
- Empathy: Sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns
- Situational Awareness: Being able to “size up” a situation and plan an appropriate response
- Service Orientation: Anticipating, recognizing, and meeting customers’ needs
Let’s look at my paper rose-making friend. Let’s use her behavior as examples of these 3 attributes:
- Because she had the ability to understand and share my feelings (the joy in the flowers), we see she shows empathy.
- Her situational awareness was seen in her understanding my delight in the flowers was prompting me to try to make more.
- Bringing me additional paper roses, especially the large ones with the aqua edging, revealed her service orientation.
All right…you’re probably thinking, “So what?” I mean, what does all that have to do with faith and God and being a good Christian, anyway? After all, it sounds like a bunch of academic blather. (And, yes, I’ve been told I can be too academic.)
Stay with me so I can explain…
Again, and again we see our Father God is relational…
The verses below show Him to be very relational indeed:
- “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT
- “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 NLT
- “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT
He is the perfect example of Relationship Awareness. And we are to be like Him as we see in Ephesians:
“Imitate God in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT
Developing our skills in Relationship Awareness helps us imitate God, imitate Christ.
What does that look like in life or ministry?
Well, my first example of Relationship Awareness in a real, live person in daily life was in the story above—my paper rose-making secret friend. Karen Meyer, is my second example of Relationship Awareness.
Karen is a former teacher and primary school principal. She routinely asked a series of questions whenever she saw a child struggling:
- What did he have for breakfast?
- How much sleep did she get?
- What’s going on in his/her life?
Karen and I share similar concerns that some of our littlest voices are getting lost, left behind, in today’s hurried lifestyle. While I address my concern by offering faith-based courses, coaching, and training on emotional intelligence, Karen has gone on to become the founder of Get Ready 4 Kindergarten.
Because of Karen’s awareness of the needs of children, she’s used her training and expertise to create a learning-based program in subscription boxes for families. Their very relationship-oriented motto is “Be together! Learn Together! Grow Together!” (BTW My grandchildren love Miss Karen’s boxes!)
Alright, those are two examples of Relationship Awareness skills in “real life.” (I’ll save the discussion about all of life being the arena for ministry for another time! J )
Relationship Awareness Skills in Ministry
This last example of Relationship Awareness is straight out of the book “Resilient.”
An Awana missionary told me that she was very challenged by the behavior of a young boy at club. During game time, he was “hands on” all the other kids, starting fights, picking on smaller kids. This behavior kept up throughout the night…every week. Finally, in exasperation she asked him, “Hey Kirk, why are you such a handful?”
Without a pause, Kirk said, “It’s because I’m hungry.”Bell, V., Marchand, C., Markins, M., & Handler, M., (2020). Resilient: Child discipleship and the fearless future of the church. Marceline, MO: Walsworth Publishing
Several things strike me about this story:
- The first breaks my heart—he was hungry! How much of the behavior we classify as “bad” in both children and adults is simply the result of physical issues that might be easily solved. Hunger, lack of sleep, needing glasses, hormone imbalances, etc. Undiscovered, these problems can develop into behavior patterns and habits that can continue even after the physical issues are solved.
- Second, don’t focus on the fact that this child had apparently been hungry and acting out for weeks. Rather, focus on the adult’s decision to ask the child what was going on. This is huge! How often we waste time trying to figure things out, cope with it, or even back off from the relationship. To prayerfully consider and ask questions is an act of concern and respect. It is behavior that is loving. Relationship Awareness is meant to be loving.
- And, third, as a result of Kirk’s statement and the impact of the adult’s Relationship Awareness for Kirk, things changed. Pizza became part of the weekly program; behavior improved and lessons were learned. Now that’s ministry.
To build your EQ skill in Relationship Awareness, you can:
- Humbly ask God to make you aware of the things He
wants you to notice: first, about Him (He’s our #1 relationship!) and then
- Remember, empathy is being aware of the feelings of others and being interested in their concerns.
- As you become more aware, stick to the facts,
stick to observations. One of my previous articles tells how research has shown
we tend to make up stories (click here to
read it). Be careful, don’t assume, listen intently to the Lord’s leading.
- As Christians, situational awareness is being able to prayerfully evaluate a situation and plan an appropriate response.
- As you begin to grow in awareness, pray for the
wisdom He so generously gives to guide you (James 1:5). The pattern you’re
seeing may be a prayer assignment to be kept between you and the Lord. Or the
Holy Spirit may be guiding you to an action.
- Being service oriented is recognizing and meeting the needs of others as the Lord prompts you.
Relationship Awareness involves blessing and loving others well.
If they are a prayer assignment, you may never talk to them. (My paper rose-making friend never spoke directly to me and still was a sweet blessing!)
Or, out of loving concern, you may be called to feed a hungry child, create an educational program that brings families together…even start a new ministry.
It all comes back to the Lord. We want to bless others, love others, be aware of others because we love Jesus and want Him to be glorified abundantly!