Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Watch Off His Own Wrist...

Captain Jerry East is officially retired. Jerry had served The Hood County Sheriffs Office since 1989.  His retirement marks the end of an era in law enforcement. Jerry was what is often called "old school."  His knowledge of people in the county gave him the ability to defuse tense situations in a way no one else could.  He faced precarious encounters in a way that resembled life in the old west. Jerry's actions with criminals will be the making of a legend to be passed on to future generations of law enforcement officers.

As the chaplain, I saw another side to Jerry. I saw him give his coat to a drowning victims daughter one blistering cold night as he and others searched for the body of that ladies father. I saw him express compassion to the wife of a man that deputies were forced to shoot and kill one night. He was always kind to families that had a loved one take their own life.  I have quite a storehouse of memories of this kind.

Today at his retirement reception I heard a new story told by DPS Trooper Dub Gillum. Several years ago Dub was shot in the face during a traffic stop.   Dubs eyesight was permanently affected. Years after that event Dub and Jerry went to see a fellow officer who was dealing with a terminal illness. Dub noticed that Jerry was wearing a watch with huge numbers on the face of it. Dub was excited to see a watch that he could read easily even with a vision impairment. Jerry proceeded to take the watch off and give it to Dub right there on the spot. Jerry is just the kind of guy to give you the watch off his own wrist.

Deputies starting their career this year will do so with all kinds of sophisticated technology. The person that Jerry could get to comply with his old west charm may get pepper sprayed or shot with a taser by this younger generation of officers. Professionally trained negotiators and tactical officers will deal with high risk offenders differently than Jerry did in 1989. It is a changing world.

But the need for a man that will give you his coat in the middle of January or the watch off his own wrist will never go away. Compassion is a trait that technology will never replace.
Jerry has left an example in that area for the rest of us to follow.  I will pack an extra coat in my truck this winter just in case, because the man that would give you the coat off his own back is officially retired.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mind Games: You Can't be Beat a Manipulator

I do not like to be manipulated.  Overt manipulation irritates me.  Subtle attempts at manipulation are even more offensive. We have all been there. Someone says: “You just don’t care about me.”  Or it is stated:  “I just experienced ______ and you never reached out to me.”  In many cases, there was no knowledge of what that person was experiencing.

How do we deal with those that are inclined to manipulate others?  I have a few ideas that I have unashamedly stolen from friends that make my life better.  Here we go:

  • Direct communication in a spirit of kindness:  I don’t let people get by with implying that I failed them when it is simply not true. In particular, I think it is important to communicate that we are not mind readers.  If you don’t tell me that you are going through a difficult period in life, I can’t figure it out all by myself.  I communicate directly and kindly that I expect the same from them the same kind of candor from them.

  • Emotional Ownership: It is generally not wise to tell someone: “You make feel like ________.”  That is responding to manipulation with more manipulation!  It is better to own our feelings.  “I feel _____.” I feel angry. I feel hurt, etc.

  • Non Anxious Presence: My mentor, Dr. Charles Siburt, taught me the importance of remaining non-anxious during times of interpersonal conflict.  That principle holds especially true when encountering a person that is inclined to manipulate.  Such individuals can have a tendency to lure us into losing our cool. We then proceed to say things that we regret later.

  • The Kickoff: Manipulators are masters at playing mind games.  If you show up for the kickoff and enter the game, you are bound to lose. Most skilled manipulators experience undefeated seasons in the mind game arena. Refuse to play.  Don’t even show up for practice. 

Not too long ago a friend told me that he was going through a particularly difficult time. He asked me if I would be willing to check in with him over a period of days.  He was honest and straightforward. And he was humble too. I in turn tried to respond as helpfully as possible. His candidness is the opposite of manipulation.  In essence, he was saying:  “I feel discouraged.” Or  “I feel the need for your friendship right now.”  He owned his emotions, so  the consequences were good.  When we factor manipulative tactics out of relationships, good things can’t help but occur.