Hello everyone and welcome to episode 14, Relationship Skills – Level 4. This episode is the last of our series on the 4 levels of relationship skills. But before we dive into this topic, I want to share some listener responses to our podcast that have been coming in since we started at the end of November 2018.

December 19.
Hi John, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the last two podcasts specific to joy. It made so much sense to me.     ~ C.M. – Wisconsin

December 24.
Hello John, Your message is timely for me this season. And I very much appreciate your appreciation of the women in your life! Thank you.   ~ M.J.B. – Wisconsin, the only state in the union with “sin” in its name.

December 25.
Just wanted to let you know that I have listened to the first five installments of your podcast and was impressed with the professionalism of its production.  I particularly liked #5 The Gift of Joy Part 1.  Haven’t listened to Part 2 yet.  ~ E.L. – Iowa

December 28
Dear John, The days of December have whisked by with preparations and then carrying out about 7 major events in my home, work at the orphanage, and one on one visits.  Because of that I have missed 4-7, but am taking a day off today to rest and regroup (tomorrow is the last outreach for us in Dec.)  I will have the great joy of listening to all of
them today. Thank you for your faithfulness.  I feel like you are my Pastor.    ~ D.W.

I have more responses that I’ll share next week. I would love to hear from more of you about what you find helpful and meaningful from the podcast. Not for my benefit, but more as an encouragement to the community of listeners to the podcast that is slowly developing.

Okay. Back to the topic of today’s show. It was just last week a listener ran into my wife Janet and was talking to her about this series on relationship skills. She commented something along the lines of, “I’m not sure which of the relationship skill levels is most characteristic of me.” Maybe you’re wondering the same thing. It’s a useful question to consider, because it will help us know how far we have to go to get to the top level of relationship skills, which is the focus of today’s episode.

Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to determine the level of our relational development:

1. In thinking about relationship difficulties you have, does the thought ever occur to you that the source of those difficulties might be YOU? Do you notice you lack some basic relational skills? Are you even aware that relationships are a problem for you? If you answered “No” to any of these questions you are at level 1, the Unconsciously unskilled (U.U.) level of relationship skills.

If you answered YES to any of these questions, congratulations, because you are making progress! You are at level 2 of your relational development, Consciously unskilled (C.U.) You know you are making mistakes in your relationships, but you don’t know what to do about it.

2. If your lack of relational skill does not concern you, and you accept the fact that this is just the way you are, this is where you will remain. Consciously unskilled in your relationships. Your relational difficulties may be so troublesome, that you resign yourself into thinking that things will probably never change. So why even try.

On the other hand, if you want to change and want to get better at relationships, no matter how overwhelming some of them might be, you are well positioned to move up to level 3, Consciously skilled (C.S.)

You are at the Consciously skilled (C.S.) level when you start to see progress in how you relate to others. You’re not perfect by any means, and the progress may be slight, but in some areas you see real growth in how you relate that is different from how you may have related to people in the past. You may be less critical and more willing to extend grace. You may let other talk more than you when you’re with friends. You may ask people to clarify more often what they mean, rather than your natural tendency to make assumptions. You may have always been a good listener, and you want to continue to nurture this skill. If any of this is true for you, you are at level 3, Consciously skilled (C.S.).

As good as it is to be at level 3, there’s an even higher level of relationship skills. Level 4- Unconsciously skilled (U.S.) This is where you are skilled at relating with people and you’re not even aware of it. It’s woven into the fabric of your character. It’s who you are. You may not have always been this way, but over time relating well with people has become second nature to you. You’re kind without thinking about it. You give people the benefit of the doubt as a matter of course. You see your own pride and selfishness rearing it’s ugly head from time to time, and you take action to squelch it. You discern the motives of people without being judgmental. Compassion for others comes naturally for you. You are Unconsciously skilled (U.S.)

The $64,000  question is this, How do I become Unconsciously skilled in my relationships?

It starts with what I mentioned in episode 13 about level 3 of relationship skill development. I said that to become skilled in our relationships is to listen to 3 different sources of relational wisdom – Listen to our self. Listen to others. Listen to God.

When we pour our energies and focus into listening to these sources of relational wisdom, especially listening to God, when we do this well, and do it often, over time, like any other skill we practice, in time our relational skills will improve to the point they’re embedded in the DNA of our character. But it takes time and a desire to want to improve our relational skills. We have to want to. This “want to” is what I mentioned in episode 10, Two Features of Every Good Relationship.

Listening to self, for example, is for the purpose of creating a feedback loop to alert us to mistakes we make in our relationships. From this, we can take steps to correct them. For example, do you ever wonder if you talk too much when you’re with friends? I do. I can usually tell later when I replay a conversation in my mind and realize later I didn’t learn what was happening in the lives of my friends. I took up all the air time so they couldn’t talk. I’ll try harder next time to let others have the floor. The more we practice self-editing, we can over time become more unconsciously skilled in our relationships.

Listening to others, particularly writers and speakers, and putting into practice what they teach, is a great source of wisdom. Here’s just one example, I find myself applying some of the things I learned in Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for the Work You Love. It is a great book on the importance of skills, and the relative un-importance of passion. He talks about developing a “craftsman mindset where you focus relentlessly on what value you’re offering the world. This stands in stark contrast to the much more common passion mindset which lets you focus on what value the world is offering you.”

Newport’s focus ion the book is developing career skills that are valued in the marketplace, but the principles he discusses apply just as much to our relationship skills I hadn’t thought about this until just now, so one could say I was unconsciously skilled in learning from the wisdom and experience of others.

As helpful as it is to listen to ourselves, and to listen to the wisdom of others, the most fulfilling and exciting means to become unconsciously skilled in our relationships is to frequently listen to God.

I’ll close with a story of how a couple of my friends were unconsciously skilled in caring for me. Hopefully it will encourage you that you too can become unconsciously skilled in your relationships.

I call it my Balloon story. I write about it extensively in a memoir I wrote in 2016, THEM – The Richer Life Found in Caring for Others. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes, as well as a link to the Cal Newport book I referenced, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

[story was shared on the podcast]

Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence

The more we monitor ourselves, learn from the wisdom of others, and listen to God, the more unconsciously skilled we’ll become in our relationships.

Here’s a way you can respond to today’s show:

Start with devoting just the next 5 days to applying one or more of the the principles we’ve been talking about the past few episodes. Be directed in how to do so by listening to yourself, to others, or to God himself.

Coming up next week

I’ll be reading more listeners responses to our podcast so far, and I’d love to hear from you about how the podcast is helping you. By sharing this will hopefully encourage others in transforming their relationships into the best they can be. You can leave your thoughts in the comment box in the show notes, or you can send an email to me, john {at} caring for others, {dot} org.  You can also private message me in Facebook.

In addition to sharing listener comments next week, we’ll also look at some concrete practical things we can do to deepen our relationship with others.

Quote of the Week

We were together. I forgot the rest. ~ Walt Whitman


Well that’s it for today’s show. It’s always good to know you’re listening in. I hope you find the podcast helpful. If you haven’t already done so, hit the “subscribe” button in whatever podcast player you use. That way you’ll know when each new weekly episode goes live.

That’s all for now; have a great rest of your week, and we’ll connect again next time.

Resources mentioned in today’s show

So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for the Work You Love, by Cal Newport

THEM – The Richer Life Found in Caring for Others by John Certalic


Prior Episodes of You Were Made for This:

Episode 013, Relationship Skills – Level 3

Episode 012 Relationship Skills – Level 2

Episode 011, Relationship Skills – Level 1

Episode 010 Two Features of Every Good Relationships