“Engagement can be a commitment to love or a declaration of war.
One must enter every battle without hesitation, willing to fully engage the enemy until death do you apart.”
― Emily Thorne
Maybe the mention of the word brings back memories of a time someone you loved asked you to spend the rest of your lives together, or you might have heard it used to push you to do more in a group. If you’ve served in the military, you understand it differently — and there are rules involved. Some words are like that — full of meaning, yet a different meaning for each of us. What does it mean, then, to be engaged? Reading the quote from Thorne, I think of my son and future daughter-in-law, hoping they will have that commitment to love, to do combat with things that might threaten them, until death do they part. Looking at the world around me, I am reminded that a declaration of war can be as simple as my commitment to defend and protect my corner of the world or as extensive as armed forces fighting for someone’s freedom. Whether to your customers, your citizens, your community, your spouse, or yourself, being engaged is a big deal, and being engaged begins with paying attention.
Everywhere I’ve been recently, it seems the word of the hour has been engage. What are you doing to engage your donors? New ways to engage students. Engage in your community. If I understand what it means to be engaged, I come up with this: I must pay attention and be committed to do possible battle against someone or something in order to achieve a desired outcome in a relationship or in an area of my work or world. Animal safety, my marriage, human rights, food and air quality — these are things about which I might want to engage.
As someone who doesn’t enjoy conflict, it was a big step for me to make a conscious choice to engage people in discussions through my social media page after our nation’s recent election. I’ve learned that people aren’t always happy with my opinion or interest in others’ opinions, that some people don’t want a conversation as much as they want to tell me their correct point of view, and that many people simply wish I would pray more and discuss less. Risking their disdain, why have I not stopped asking questions and inviting conversations? Because I think engaging people and finding something to celebrate is more important than being comfortable. Engaging is not always comfortable, and it is often a matter of life or death.
The military maintains Rules of Engagement so soldiers operate with the same rules when threatened on the battlefield. Nothing in the rules, however, limits a person’s right to self-defense. What if we transferred those Rules of Engagement to our own ‘battlefield’, wherever that might be?
Borrowing from Greg Clowminzer, I share these Rules Of Engagement–‘hang on your fridge’ guidelines for us all:
• See communication as an opportunity and a gift rather than a challenge or threat.
• Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking.
• Don’t criticize, judge or make someone wrong.
• Listen to understand versus reply.
• Be able to distinguish facts from judgments, opinions, assumptions and feelings.
• Set aside preconceived ideas.
• Become comfortable with silence.
• Ask a well thought out question, wait and listen.
• Own your judgments, feelings and reactions as your stuff, don’t make it about someone else.
• Get permission before offering feedback, coaching or advice.
Enter an engagement without hesitation and be committed to do your part to make the battlefield a place for everyone to come away feeling heard, appreciated, valued, and respected. Engage with your partner, your customers, your community and be committed to make your part of the world better than it was before you arrived. Praying more is good, discussing less is not necessarily good at all.