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Cover Art for Life on Target Episode 3 featuring Nathan Spearing at the dinner table with his kids.

Episode 3: People Skills and Speaking the Truth

Many people have a difficult time interacting with people—in family, at work, on social media, and in everyday life. But people skills are crucial for building relationships and developing agency. In this episode, Nathan discusses how authenticity and honesty provide a simple framework for strengthening your people skills.

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Table of Contents

This is the Life on Target podcast. I’m your host Nathan Spearing. Today, you’re listening to Episode 3 on people skills. Quick review—this is the third installment in a series on the four languages of agency: mechanical skills, people skills, organizational skills, and aesthetics. I would encourage you to go back and listen to the previous two episodes, mechanical skills and organizational skills, as they form a framework for becoming someone with agency—the ability to make your own choices, affect specific outcomes in your life, and be free. Not free to do whatever you want or to sin, but to faithfully live your life within God’s created order the way He said to live it. As always, the show notes for this episode can be found at Spearing.co. Also I ask that you please share this episode with one friend, if by the end, I’ve improved your life in any way.

Now let’s get to the people skills. I’ve actually decided to audible because this is my show and break people skills up into two episodes. After attempting to condense everything down into one episode, I’ve just found that too difficult. And the language of people skills is just a little bit too broad to be in one episode.

So today I’m going to talk about my background and how I formed my specific framework with respect to dealing with people and explain how I formed that from a couple of different times in my life and give you a framework for viewing people and making decisions and choices with respect to people. And then in the next episode, we’re going to talk a little bit more about the application of that framework and those skills deal a little bit more about where you are, whether you’re a subordinate, whether you’re the boss or whether you’re within your family and just kind of assessing where you are and what spheres you’re in and how to apply that framework to people and walk out living the truth accurately.

How Homeschooling Allowed Me to Focus on Truth

As some of, you know, my background I’m homeschooled the whole way, and it may seem kind of ironic that a homeschooler is going to try to educate people on people skills because you have bought into the stigma that as a homeschooler growing up, I was always in the basement, not allowed to be around the sun or other people, and that’s actually not true. I was able to arrive at adulthood first focusing on what the truth is and what virtue is and less evaluating my decisions based on what people will think, but understanding and studying the truth and knowing what the truth is in God’s Word and understanding how that filters out into other areas of life. Because the purpose of education isn’t just to educate someone to be a factory worker, but it’s to enable them to understand what the truth is and how that truth affects how they live in every aspect of their life.

The purpose of education isn’t just to educate someone to be a factory worker, but it’s to enable them to understand what the truth is and how that truth affects how they live in every aspect of their life.

So as a homeschooler, I feel like I got that in a really good way, by and large. Obviously my parents have faults and they mess up, but I was able to arrive at adulthood, not really caring so much about what did everybody else think because I was always trying to blend in to an ignorant peer group, but that I was forced to interact kind of up and down the chain, as far as people that were older than me, parents, adults in my life, and then younger children and understanding how I fit in the human experience, more so than an ignorant peer group.

And I wanted to quickly play a clip from Jordan Peterson that deals with kind of his, one of his twelve rules for life: “Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie.” And this is a quick clip summarizing that. And I think it embodies a really fundamental pillar of people’s skills.

“There isn’t anything that’s more rewarding than trying to do things right. All other forms of reward pale by comparison. They’re not even in the same conceptual universe. And there’s nothing that’s more adventurous than telling the truth. You have no idea what will happen to you if you tell the truth. And so if you’re looking for an adventure, boy, that’s an adventure.”

Jordan Peterson

We’ve already kind of hinted at that, but I think that that’s one of the fundamental pillars there. Is being more concerned with the truth—what is right—than what people think of you. And there’s a lot of people out there in society that are constantly trying to read the room, constantly trying to choose their words and filter them through a very complex matrix to understand, “Okay, should I say this? Is this going to upset somebody?” and being less concerned with “What’s the truth?” And I think that it’s asmuch simpler matrix or a much simpler decision tree to think “What is the truth?”and then “Should I speak or not?” And that is much easier in the long run. And I’ll go to a quote from C.S. Lewis, that’s more focusing this particular aspect of speaking the truth to friends. So this comes from The Four Loves:

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be ‘I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend’, no Friendship can arise – though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something…Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

So that quote right there is just, I feel like it’s so great because there’s a lot of people out there that aren’t really concerned with the truth. They want friends, they’ll do whatever. They’ll say whatever to just get a friend, but instead they’re only ever having some, some mild affections with people and there’s not any concrete foundation for a friendship to be built on because it’s not built on the truth.

My Homeschool Upbringing and Basic Combat Training Culture Clash

And again, I’ve talked about that. That’s why I feel like a homeschool education by virtuous parents is the best possible education. And it allows you to, to really wash yourself in the truth first, before trying to create these friendships. When I showed up to basic training, it was kind of a culture shock, but I got advice to wear my faith, my convictions on my sleeve, and that’s what I did. And there were tremendous conversations had about my worldview. There was a lot of shock because it was, this was 2003 in basic training. I was 19 years old. So showing up and talking to a bunch of recruits in infantry basic training and saying to them, “Hey, I’m a virgin. I don’t cuss. I don’t drink. And, you know, I was homeschooled.” People were just baffled and, and literally viewed me as, as somebody who just crawled out from underneath a rock.

But the conversations and ultimately, you know, a lot of people came up to me and are still coming up to me and saying that they admired the way that I lived with conviction. And it always seemed like just about the point where I was letting some of the critiques stick and I was kind of getting down that God would bring someone into my life to say, “Hey, you’re doing the right thing. They, they just don’t like it because of how it makes them feel.”

At the same time, I had bosses that I was working for that ultimately, weren’t really trying to create a climate of the truth, either. And so that was difficult for me to work with having superiors that had a, I initially, you know, maybe I wouldn’t care about what people thought about me as a person, but I would try to decide, okay, I understand authority really well because my father raised me to respect just authority. This person is my Sergeant. They’re my, obviously my just authority within the, the military. And I’m going to do whatever they want to do and trying to kind of look at it like, what did they want me to do? And then I’m going to do that.

But then realizing that a lot of those people weren’t even making decisions correctly or knowing what to do, because they were just trying to look at the person above them and do what that person wanted them to do. And so I got some great advice, one time from a boss that just said, “Hey, stop worrying about what everybody else thinks and just do the right thing.” And I actually had a pretty strained relationship with that supervisor before I got that advice. I changed that way of operating and just said, “Okay, what is the right thing to do here?”

And it immediately, and decisively improved my relationship with that senior, just deciding less about trying to filter it through, what does he want me to do and to do what is, what is right.

Learning Authenticity from a U.S. Ambassador

And, you know, I feel like authenticity and people can tell when they’re talking with someone, when their nonverbal and verbal don’t match, they can tell that this person is author isn’t authentic. And then being able to have authenticity actually equals people trusting you. When I got kind of farther up in my career in the military, I was put through a strategic communications course that was designed to train enlisted infantry, knuckle dragger, Ranger type guys to liaise with state department agency people in a convincing, strategic way to further Department of Defense initiatives. And to kind of give us a cultural education of diplomatic life and to be politically correct and understanding where you are.

And I talked with a bunch of these former ambassadors that were trained to come in and critique our communication. And so people were giving me some critiques that said, “Hey, you know, you used the word ‘y’all’, in a brief and you shouldn’t do that because that’s a colloquial kind of thing.” And one of the former ambassadors actually stepped in and said, “No, I feel like that he is authentic, and we want to help him because of how naturally he speaking to us and how authentic he is.” And so I think that there’s certain types of doctrine and communication and things that will say, “Hey, you need to modify who you are. You need to try to come into this environment. But I got some specific advice that I haven’t forgot from some high ranking diplomats that said, “No, we want somebody to come in and to be who they are and to be able to trust them.”

And so I think that’s, that’s another thing that, that living for the truth and trying to do the right thing, regardless of what people think is, is important because you’ll be authentic. And that will be a natural thing that can’t be faked to people.

Knowing God’s Design for People

[Here’s] a little bit more about how my framework with respect to viewing other people is developed. So a couple of scriptures I wanted to read the first one is Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image in the image of God, he created him, male and female. He created them.”

 So just understanding that man was formed by God, in his image, that he created male and female—that’s it—just male and female. That’s all there is created by God and that they were created in his image. And then if you look at Psalm 139:13–14, “For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for, I am fearfully and wonderfully made wonderful are your works. My soul knows it very well.”

 Those two verses illustrate that human life is unique to an animal or any these different things on earth. I think we’ve warped in our society and we value, a dog or a horse or chickens or whatever, more than human life. But there’s something specifically unique about a human life. And the fact that God created him, male and female in his image, and that every person is fearfully and wonderfully made. Now, sin can corrupt that and mask that image of God and deform life or a human into some monster that they were not meant to be. And so a lot of times there can be layers upon layers that you have to sift through when dealing with people, but ultimately that belief that every human being matters and is made in the image of God can put you into the mindset to understand them better, or to seek, to have a relationship with them out of that context.

There’s another quote by George McDonald. I feel like that that’s really good. It’s a little bit lengthy, but I’m going to try to read it here.

As the fir-tree lifts up itself with a far different need from the need of the palm-tree, so does each man stand before God, and lift up a different humanity to the common Father. And for each God has a different response. With every man he has a secret–the secret of the new name. In every man there is a loneliness, an inner chamber of peculiar life into which God only can enter…From this it follows that there is a chamber also—(O God, humble and accept my speech)—a chamber in God himself, into which none can enter but the one, the individual, the peculiar man,—out of which chamber that man has to bring revelation and strength for his brethren. This is that for which he was made—to reveal the secret things of the Father.

George MacDonald

So that quote is essentially pointing out the fact that God has a relationship with each of us, and there is a secret name that he has for us. And that, that likely means that there’s an aspect of God’s nature, that each one of us is uniquely capable to see. And that forms a core part of why we were made to reveal the secret things of the father here on earth to our fellow brethren. And I just love thinking about people with that particular framework to view them as able to show me something about God that I wouldn’t get from other people. Now, again, we’ve talked about there being sin that can, can kind of pervert that, but the belief that each person is wonderfully knit together in their mother’s womb by God that they are made in the image of God and that they have something particularly they can teach me, even in their flawed state about the father allows me to view them differently.

And, you know, that goes back to kind of the golden rule that we see in Luke 6:31: “And as you wish others would do to you do so to them.” And that is, that is a, a huge part about how you treat other people. So quick review of the framework and the development of that framework. The important thing is caring about the truth and to develop and to search out what the truth is and not to lie. And the choice is either, “Should I speak the truth or not speak right now?” [There’s] actually wisdom to not speak in certain situations. And then understanding that every human being is, is made by the creator was knit together in their mother’s womb. And that have an aspect of the Heavenly Father that they’re imaging despite their, their sin state, that they’re potentially in relationship with people, you can learn something about God is a empowering way to live life, to not be blown about by people’s opinions, but to seek the truth and to seek other people that appreciate the truth and then deciding whether you should speak or not. That is the framework which we will operate out of.

So in the future episode, we’re going to talk about several books that I felt helped walk out ways to practically deal with people in different situations. We’ll be talking about How to Win Friends and Influence People, First Break All the Rules, Good to Great, different books like that, that I feel like form a really good summary of different ways, whether you’re in a subordinate position as a leader in your family and applying that framework. That humans matter that humans has an have an aspect of the creator and that you should be concerned with the truth.

So thank you for listening to this episode. Share with one friend, and we’ll see in the next episode,

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