Hello everyone, I’m back!  To start season 8 of this podcast we’re going to talk about three relationship tools we can use to become better listeners this fall to deepen our relationships.

But before we get into today’s episode, here’s what this podcast is all about. 

 Welcome to You Were Made for This

If you find yourself wanting more from your relationships, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll discover practical principles and relationship tools you can use to experience the life-giving relationships you were made for.

I’m your host, John Certalic, award-winning author and relationship coach, here to help you find more joy in the relationships God designed for you.

To access all past and future episodes, go to the bottom of this page to the yellow “Subscribe” button, then enter your name and email address in the fields above it. The episodes are organized chronologically and are also searchable by topics, categories, and keywords.

We're back from the off-season

It’s been 6 months since Season 7 of You Were Made for This ended with episode 200. You might be wondering what I was doing during this time. If you’re on my email list you got an email every Wednesday during this off-season about all matter of things relationships related that was on my mind at the time. And many weeks the email had links to blog posts on our website. If you missed those, I’ll have a link to them at the bottom of the show notes. I’ll also post a link to get on my email list list if you are not already on it.

There’s a lot more I could share about the past off-season, but I want to get rolling today with this first episode, number 201, of season 8. Plus I want to announce a few changes at the end of today’s show that you’ll want to know about.

However, if you really are interested in knowing more about what I was up to while away from the podcast mic, I’d be happy to tell you all about it over dinner at your house. Wednesdays work best for me. And I know this always comes up, but the only food allergy I have is to coconut. Just so you know.

Okay, to kick off season 8 here near the beginning of September in 2023 we are going to take a look at 3 relationship tools to remember this September that will help you find more joy in the relationships God designed for you.

September is a perfect time to observe

I’ll start with this. September is a perfect time to observe.

With the activities of summer in the rearview mirror for most of us, September is the time of year we return to the routines and rhythms of life. Vacations are finished for now, the kids are back in school, and the pace of life dials down a notch. September gives us space to look around and observe.  

Flowers we only see in the fall appear now. Here in the Upper Midwest of the US where I live, cone flowers, coreopsis, and black-eyed susans are in full bloom.

Observe relationships

And it’s not just the beauty of nature that rewards us when we take time to look around in September. It’s also the beauty of relationships that can soothe our souls when we take time to observe them. I live in a neighborhood where a lot of people walk, and I’m one of them. 

While on a walk one early morning I came across a tall dad walking his small, young daughter to her bus stop on the first day of school. Hand in hand they walked, and you could tell they had a loving relationship. You could just tell. For those of you who are parents, first-day-of-school walks to the bus stop are over before you know it. The years just fly by. 

Observing that tall dad reminded me of how quickly our children grow up. While parenting is a lot of work – no doubt about it – there is much joy to experience as well. Like the joy of being there for your children as a new chapter of their life opens each September.

September also brings a measure of relational sadness at times. The other day I was talking with Dave, my next-door neighbor. He told me his oldest daughter was soon moving to Washington, D.C. to start her first job out of college. In a moment of vulnerability he said,

“This is hard on me. Harder on me than it is on Barb. I’m not ready for this.”

Yeah, I get it. I’ve been through having our daughter move away. It’s a grieving process.

Observe our relationships with strangers

Besides relationships as I’ve just described, I find it helpful to observe the relationships we have with strangers. I’ll explain why later. Recently, for example, I bought a used car to replace an older car we had. 

There was a particular model I was looking for, and after much research, I found one on the lot of a large auto dealer in our area, which meant I had to deal with a car salesperson. Yikes. I hate doing this.

What I dislike even more is dealing with the finance or business manager you have to go through to complete the transaction when you buy a car from a place like this.  Listening to THEIR sales pitch to upsell their financing and extended warranties is painful. Oh, how I dreaded this process when I agreed to terms on the car with the salesman.

To my great surprise though, I really liked the finance guy within 30 seconds of meeting him. There was no hard sell on anything from this very likable man. He was friendly, but not overly so. Apologetic for having to put me through his dealership’s process. Understanding of our desire to get out of there as fast as possible. I thought to myself he would make a good next door neighbor.

So how are these observations a helpful relationship tool? 

Remember in September to reflect upon our relationships

Observations we make about people are helpful to the extent we use them to reflect on their meaning. Many of our relational encounters with people are purely transactional and have no deep meaning. You call to make an appointment. We say hello to the postal carrier. You say “Excuse me” to the lady with the grocery cart as you walk around her in the cereal box aisle.

 But it’s a shame if we look at all the interactions we see with people as ordinary run-of-the-mill encounters. Our lives are enriched when we reflect upon what we see. Maybe there’s nothing there to reflect upon, but other times what we observe can encourage us or add to the richness of our life.

For example, observing that father in our neighborhood taking his daughter by the hand while they walked to her bus stop the first day of school brought me much joy. It reminded me of the joys of fatherhood and the times I saw my own children off to their first days of school. As I reflected on this scene it evoked gratitude for my joy-filled relationship with my daughter who once was like this little girl I saw on my morning walk. 

It wasn’t nostalgia that moved me, but it was thankfulness instead that I continued to be blessed by my relationship with my daughter and my son., both of whom have children of their own.

Yeah, remember this September to reflect on relationships like this. It will do your heart good. It’s a great relationship tool to put into practice.

When people leave us

And then there’s the conversation I had with my neighbor Dave whose daughter was moving to Washington, D.C. It caused me to reflect on when our own daughter moved out of state. It was a grieving process where there were no words that could make it better. In fact, at times like this, words often make it worse. Words like, 

“At least your son is still in town… you’ll now have a new place to visit…when you see her when she visits you’ll have quality time with each other…time will heal your grief.” It’s like rubbing salt into a wound when we hear words like this.

It’s always harder on those left behind. Those who move on are off to a new adventure. Those left behind get a piece of their heart ripped away.

Strangers can inspire us

On a more positive note, as I reflected on my interaction with the finance guy at the car dealer, it actually inspired me to be more like him. I tend to drift toward being critical of people, which I hate to see in myself. 

I want to be winsome and put people at ease like the finance guy I met. I want to be gentle and kind with people, to bring out the best in others. 

When we reflect upon what we observe in our relationships it opens the possibility of becoming more the man or woman God created us to be.  It shows us the extent to which we are reflecting the image of God well.

Remember this September to Act upon what we observe and reflect upon

The third relationship tool to remember in September is Act. Take some kind of action based on what you observe and reflect upon.

You need to know, though Act doesn’t necessarily mean an outward behavior. It’s also not about trying harder. It’s not about doing. Sometimes it is, but often it is about thinking. Often an action you take looks like you’re doing nothing to an outside observer.

When I spoke about observing the changing rhythms of life this fall and the flowers that appear this time of year it slowed me down to reflect upon the beauty of God’s creation.  It also evoked an action within me, namely to appreciate again the change and energy that comes with each autumn where I live.   Feeling something and being aware of it is just as much an action as a behavior.  It’s an action unobservable to anyone else. But it’s very real.

It would have been easy to observe what I did, reflect upon it, but feel no gratitude or response and just move on to the next thing. 

Two dads and their daughters

The two fathers I observed caused me to reflect upon my relationship with my own daughter. It reminded me of tender moments with her, like seeing her off for the first day of elementary school. When I listened to my neighbor share his sadness over his newly minted college graduate moving out of state, it made me reflect upon the sadness I felt when our own daughter moved 800 miles away.

As far as acting on what I observed and reflected upon, I made a mental note to ask my neighbor the next time I saw him, “How are you doing now with your daughter moved into her apartment in Washington?” Making mental notes like this shows you’re listening, and it creates the potential for deepening a relationship. 

Take action by drawing upon the work of God in our lives

When it comes to taking action in our relationships, draw upon the wisdom and power that lies beyond ourself. Don’t settle for any old idea that pops into your head. It’s too self-limiting. 

Instead, here’s a novel thought: ask God what he would want you to do, and then ask him for the power to do it. Rely on him. It's a valuable relationship tool.

He may tell you to do nothing. 

He may ask you to change your thinking.  

Or he may prompt you to initiate one of a countless number of behaviors.

In a nutshell, to Act is to listen to God. What does he want you to do? Ask him. The possibilities are endless. 


In summary, the relationship tools I’ve mentioned in today’s show are an application of that relationship model I’ve talked about in past episodes, ORA. Observe-Reflect-Act. I’ll be talking more about this in future episodes. For now, though, just remember that ORA is about listening. 

To Observe is to listen with your eyes.

Reflect is to listen with your heart

To Act is to listen to God

Coming this fall 

I mentioned at the beginning of the show there are some changes coming here in season 8. One is that we’re going to move from a weekly schedule of episodes to a semi-monthly format. A new episode will be released on the first and third Wednesday of each month. There may also be occasional bonus episodes or emails I’ll send out at other times in the month. The reason for this is to allow time to implement a new initiative related to this podcast.

I’ve become increasingly aware of how many of us are overloaded with information. There’s a lot of content of one kind or another coming at us like a firehose at times. Much of the content is helpful. I hope you feel that way about this podcast. 

But a shortcoming of all this content is we often don’t have opportunity to process what we hear. It’s one-way communication. Someone talks and we listen. But there’s no interaction to ask questions or learn from others how they are applying the same content we hear together.

I’d like to change that, so this fall I’m going to experiment with creating a community of like-minded people interested in developing deeper relationships in their life. It will start with a test group of mostly people who listen to this podcast. I don’t have all the details worked out and I will be looking for help from the founding members of this discussion group to do so.

I’ll be sending out more details about this in the days ahead. And hopefully, it will be something you’ll want to join.

Because someone listened…

One last item for today in terms of changes to this podcast for the fall is something I mentioned about a month ago in my August 9th email. One of our fellow listeners, Linda Crouch, told the story of how she benefited greatly from a friend who listened to her talk about her trip to Nigeria where she and her husband served as missionaries.  It was all because someone listened.

I bet there are other similar stories you have of being blessed in one form or another because someone listened. So I’d like to introduce a segment in each episode to get those stories out. 

We’ll call it “because someone listened” stories. I have a hunch they will encourage all of us. So just send me a paragraph or two that completes this sentence, “Because someone listened…” You can email it to john@caringforothers.org.

Well, that’s it for today. If there’s someone you think might like to hear what you just heard, please forward this episode to them. Scroll down to the bottom of the show notes and click on one of the options in the yellow “Share This” bar.

And don’t forget to spread a little relational sunshine around the people you meet this week. Spark some joy for them.  And I’ll see you again next time. Goodbye for now.

Other episodes or resources related to today’s show

139: Why Should I Listen to This Podcast?

021: The Most Important Relationship of All

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