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Relationship advice and the many people who give it

Van Moody is a pastor, author and motivational speaker.
Courtesy of Quez Shipman of EQS Photography

Relationship advice giving and relationship coaching have fast become the trendiest markets for making a quick buck and a well known name. Although some "relationship gurus" are well meaning and come from a good place, many others are only in it for the money and fame. So who do you listen to when seeking advice about the issues you are having?

In an effort to explore relationship advice giving and its givers, today's article includes and exchange with Van Moody. You will read more about Mr. Moody below. (This article is not an endorsement Mr. Moody's Books or services, but an exploration of relationship advice givers.) Before getting into that, it is important to examine the pitfalls of relationship advice giving and receiving.

Delano Squires wrote a piece for Black and Married With Kids, where he lists the "4 Common Mistakes Male Relationship Experts Make." Although he focused primarily on male relationship experts, he included female experts as well, in that the errors come when the advice centers on:

  1. Men’s needs are exclusively physical
  2. Women hold the keys to men’s behavior
  3. Making women the primary audience for men’s advice
  4. Not recognizing their blind spots

So, how do you know whose advice to listen to?

  • You can learn from anyone

Note that you can receive good information and wise counsel from anyone. What you should not do is pick up that person's bad habits cloaked as advice and employ them in your own life. If a person tells you to do everything he or she has done and you can see the error in his or her ways that he or she did not see, do not take that advice.

  • Every message is not for everybody

Not one person can outline the perfect strategy for you in your romantic life without knowing and speaking openly with you and the other party involved. Grabbing onto mantras and cliches is not going to give you your happily ever after. If advice sounds gimmicky, it is probably a gimmick!

  • Check the credentials

Get to know who the person is and where he or she is coming from. There are a lot of eloquent speakers and marketing experts in the world. If a person is not transparent about who he or she is, can you trust his or her advice? Also having a background in some form of human relations, sociology or psychology could help give some credence to what a person offers you by way of interpersonal relationship advice. However, at times the degree doesn't tell you the depth of that person's knowledge or good intentions.

  • Go to the source

The first thing you do before you go to someone else about your problems is to talk to the source of the problems. Now, if what you're looking for are methods and strategies to approach resolving your issues, that is one thing. However, when you go to outside sources to give you the sole solution, you will have bigger issues on your hands. No one can tell you what another person is thinking like the person who is thinking it.

Van Moody

One person who dubs himself a source for relationship advice is Van Moody. Moody does not call himself a relationship coach or guru, he says he is a"People Scholar." Moody answered ten questions for the purpose of today's column and to promote his book, "The People Factor."

1. Tell me something about your background that impacts what you do with respect to giving relationship advice, that I cannot find online.

One of the biggest things that drives the way I counsel others through challenges in their relationships is that I always want to give others the advice that I wish someone would have given me. Some of the most painful experiences I've had over the 20 years that I've been working with people and leading teams have come from my own missteps and miscalculations in navigating my personal and professional relationships. In many ways, with The People Factor, I've written the book I always wanted to read. I put into print critical lessons about the importance of truth, trust and transparency in relationships that I wish someone would have taught me years ago.

2. There are a number of people who have dubbed themselves relationship coaches, do you consider yourself one? If so, what makes you stand out from the crowd?

I would consider myself a People Scholar because my work is focused on understanding people, empowering them to work effectively on teams at work or in marriage and inspiring them to reach their individual leadership potential. When we understand ourselves and the people around us we make better decisions, ones that make the difference between a great, happy life,or one that’s characterized by disappointment, failure and regret.

I believe the need for people of integrity, ingenuity and insight has never been more critical than it is now. My work is about catalyzing the kind of transformational change in relationships that will impact your overall quality of life. My message is about helping people assimilate and apply universal principles for living and dealing with each other in the ever-changing dynamics of today’s culture.

3. Your 10 Don'ts list is phenomenal with respect to being an open and transparent person when you work to build a relationship. What are some Do's?

It’s an interesting phenomenon that we as humans tend to notice the warning signs along our route to work or a particular destination more often than the road signs. It’s partly because the route to work or home is committed to memory; we know the way. Likewise, we tend to believe we know how to navigate relationships, simply because we are already engaged in them. I believe two of the most critical road signs – or Do’s – that are underestimated but essential to raising your Relational IQ are to: be honest and be willing to be vulnerable. Be honest about who you are, your strengths, your goals or intentions and be vulnerable enough to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Relationships are not strengthened from living peak to peak but by working things out in the valley. I think these two habits can make the difference between good and great relationships at work and at home.

4. What compelled you to tackle something as difficult as interpersonal relationships?

At the core of nearly everything we do in life will involve interacting with another person, whether it’s working on a project with coworkers or maintaining a friendship or marriage. Because you have some kind of relationship with everyone you encounter, I believe every relationship you have influences your life. There are no neutral relationships.

Each one lifts you up or weighs you down. It moves you forward or holds you back. It helps you or it hurts you. Some relationships are extremely personal and some are strictly professional. Some are casual and short-lived; some are intimate and last a lifetime.

Some are exhilarating and some are exacerbating. Some are both. While the exchange between people can be easy and enjoyable, it doesn't stay that way. It’s when there is discord or difficulty that learning how to navigate relationships effectively becomes an indispensable skill to achieving personal and professional success.

5. Being a man of faith, how do you reach those who have a less faith based background or do you reach them at all?

I wanted The People Factor to be grounded in biblical case studies and punctuated with principles that will transcend a particular faith perspective. Few would argue that there are universal truths, such as the law of gravity and the law of physics that govern our lives regardless of our spiritual beliefs. I want to speak to people of all faiths and I believe what will do that effectively is that the book focuses on the universal truths of integrity, commitment, honesty, fidelity and forgiveness.

6. For most relationships, the issues people face are based on poor or inadequate communication. How do people fully overcome their own communication barriers when their upbringing (grooming) is what has shaped the way they communicate?

We definitely bring some of the habits from our upbringing into our current relationships, from how we select a partner or friends to how we interact with them. But regardless of our past, it should never define us or limit our future.

We are all on a journey of becoming stronger, happier and more productive people, partners, friends, and colleagues. My book is a step-by-step guide that will not only help you understand others but also understand yourself. I share practical tips, suggested words to say, and questions for self-reflection. My goal is to help readers intentionally focus on making new choices that will lead to happier and more fulfilling relationships.

7. When silence takes over a relationship, it can exacerbate the issues that caused do people avoid or overcome falling silent in their relationships?

Sometimes we fall silent in relationships because we just don’t know what to do next in a situation. We don’t know how to support, how to speak up or even how to leave an unhealthy relationship. So we stick it out, subvert our needs and stay silent because we’re more comfortable dealing with the pain we know than facing what we don’t know or bearing the loss of the other person’s respect or love.

When we are tempted to fall silent, what we’re doing is putting on a mask and hiding rather than asking for what we need. It’s a scary proposition to ask for help in relationships at work and at home because it means we must take the risk of looking vulnerable, weak or needy. The principles in my book will help you understand why it’s important to ask for what you need such as a raise, an apology or an explanation and examine whether what you get in return is reasonable or consistent with the investment you make.

8. We live in a world where social media consumes a lot of people and their relationships. What is your take on social media's role in relationships?

Social media has drastically changed the way people meet and interact. It’s fun and often exposes you to ideas and people that you wouldn't normally meet in your daily routine. But with that rush of meeting someone new, it’s important to resist the urge to rush through critical steps that will reveal more about the other person’s values and goals.

The other interesting aspect of social media is the pull to believe that more is better – more likes and more followers. We get excited when we hear a ding or chime notifying us that someone sent us a message or wants to communicate. The attention tempts us to invest in more relationships than we can effectively nurture and, in our excitement, we tend to forget the process for healthy relationships is more intense than content we share in 140 characters or less.

Bottom line, you can’t be friends with everyone. The people who are in your life right now are setting the course of your next week, next month, next year and possibly even the rest of your life. In my book, I talk about putting in motion a process of qualification and selection, understanding that the only way to get the right people around you is to disallow the wrong ones.

There is a process for great relationships. Every relationship is a journey and you must go through certain stages for it to be healthy. When we resist the desire to skip or race through the process then we set ourselves up for success. There are some stages that serve a good and healthy purpose in the big picture of relationships.

In our fast-paced, wired world, social media is a great way to connect with people but it only offers you a glimpse into their world. But a real, healthy relationship is predicated on so much more than a glimpse, its about understanding the other person’s values and vision for their lives and determining if they are congruent with yours.

9. One of your 10 don'ts is "Don't hide". What do you feel causes people to hide what they feel, who they are, and what they desire?

Secret identities make for an interesting cast of characters in the movies but when you hide who you are, what you feel and what you want in your “real” life, it’s a recipe for disaster. Actors and athletes need agents to represent their interests but the rest of us must show up and speak for ourselves. Job seekers must resist the temptation to “tweak” their resumes which studies show 10-30% of people do to make their skills stand out in the marketplace.

Studies show that 20% of online daters admit to some form of deception. In fact, 20% of men are poorer than their online profiles reveal. They give in to the pressure to embellish their income level because it improves their romantic prospects. What lies behind our temptation to hide is the fear of not being accepted for who we truly are.

So we set out to enhance, embellish and subvert our true identities. In our quest to appear better rather than be better what we don’t plan for is the day of reckoning. Eventually you’re going to have to tell the truth. So why not start out or recommit to doing that now? No good can come from hiding who you are; the house of cards will one day cave in and undermine your relationships.

10. Finally, what do you hope to accomplish with what you do?

I want people to understand that we all need help and support to navigate through life. And we all want someone in our corner to be a witness to it, and to cheer us on. But it’s not always easy to tell who should be in our lives and why. I believe people come into our lives to do one of four things: add, subtract, multiple or divide. It’s our job to figure out which one it is. But we needn't try to figure all of that out alone. I hope for people to consider my book a great resource to help them do that.

The People Factor is borne out of countless hours counseling individuals and families on ways to achieve balance and harmony, studying the dynamics of relationships for common pitfalls, and reflecting on the lessons I learned in my personal life. I wrote The People Factor to help people break – or all together avoid – destructive patterns, disrespect and deception. My hope is that people will learn how to live free and get along with others. People who have mastered these skills are more likely to feel empowered to build happy marriages, find success at work, raise well-adjusted children, enjoy endearing friendships, have fun and make a difference in the world.

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