What would happen if we stopped giving people the finger?

Josh Bledsoe
Mar 29, 2018 · 8 min read

HAHA! 😅 😆 Not the finger you may think of…. This finger…

That one. Thanks Stone Cold Steve Austin! 🤜🤛

Yep. The one that is directive, singles out and drives the person on the receiving end of this pointed index of command to a corner where they are forced to go shields up defensive mode.

It’s true.

I’m only speaking from experience AFTER I pushed people into defense mode with my very own 3-knuckled demanding pointer. In passionate conversations, good or bad, I used to dawn this powerful weapon of mass requisition and hold nothing back in using it.

It wasn’t until a good friend of mine asked me, after a meeting we were in with several people, why I shot everyone in the room like Yosemite Sam that I realized I gave people the finger ALL THE TIME. 😬

“What do you mean?” I asked him. “Every time you wanted to make a point or talk about someone else’s point of view you pointed at them.” he responded. “So. What’s wrong with that?” I quickly asked with a confused look on my face.

“Do you like to be told what to do in a directive way? Do you like to be singled out?” he asked. “No!” I quickly answered.

“Would you rather people include you in the flow of the conversation? Would you feel valued if you were allowed to think independently, formulate your own opinions, and decide what’s best for you instead of someone else telling you what was best?” he asked with this sort of wise old owl way who was about to tell me a story from a low tree branch. A story I would remember the moral of forever.

Nope! This isn’t a Disney fairytale story. Sorry.

In fact, I won’t tell his story.

I’ll tell you my own. It’s a story about how I gave my brother, Kaleb, the finger so much growing up it drove us apart. (index finger, not middle)

Kaleb and I are 4 years apart. Growing up, we seemed to always be just out of reach from being on the same sports teams, same school buildings, and similar chapters of life.

When I started varsity sports in high school, Kaleb started junior varsity sports in middle school (good thing for me because he dominated in football, phew!).

When I graduated college and began my “big boy” life, Kaleb was going into college.

There seemed to always be this overwhelming sense inside me of, “Come here little brother and let me tell you how to succeed at _____.” like I was the expert at it all. I know I can feel your eyes rolling just like mine are right now. LOL

For years and years, we fought and argued over just about everything. One time, we were in the backyard doing yard work. I had the push mower, and Kaleb was using the weed eater. At some point, in the middle of our elementary landscaping labor amongst the loud noises of each small engines going we found ourselves aggravating each other over one patch of grassy area.

Like to small dogs fighting over a small piece of territory in the yard each of us were determined to not let the other go first. Silly I know, but not then. It was war!

I pushed Kaleb. He pushed back. I jumped the mower at him (both of us knowing I was bluffing). Kaleb called my bluff…and proceeded to trim my leg hairs with the weed eater on full throttle…ALL of my right leg hairs!

With my leg covered in blood. A face more red than the blood. I gave Kaleb a look that would have struck fear in old Stone Cold up there 👆. He dropped the weed eater and bolted!

IT WAS ON!! Or at least until the fight was broken up by my dad. Lucky punk!

Thankfully not all of our sibling fights were physical.

Looking back on our arguments they all seemed to have this trending theme. The theme of our brotherly arguments would go something like this:

Me: Bro why did you do it that way? (without even waiting on his response) You should have done it this way! (giving him the pointer)

Kaleb: Whatever!

Me: Seriously! When _____ happened to me I did ____ and _____ was the result I got. You should do this _____. (still not holding back the pointer)

Kaleb: (Getting heated 😑) Josh, you don’t need to tell me what to do all the time!

Me: (Getting more heated 😠) Dude! Listen to me!

And I’m sure you know where the rest of this goes….

For years I didn’t see that I was forcing my opinions and thoughts on Kaleb. In my mind I was “giving advice”. We all think our thoughts are genius right?! Of course we NEVER have bad ideas! 😆

Funny how “giving advice” sometimes doesn't seem to stick with the other person. This is especially true when they didn't even ask for the advice to begin with.

Fast forward to my college years, Kaleb’s high school years, and then after for about 4–5 years… We barely spoke to each other.

Sure we would see each other for holidays, and whenever we were both home, but there wasn’t much we connected on. At one point in our early adult lives I think I only counted maybe 2 times Kaleb and I spoke to each other.

We didn’t hate each other. We just didn’t have much to talk about.

And here’s when I realized I had created that reality…

Niki and I had moved to North Carolina for my last active duty military assignment. We had been living there for a little over a year. We just found out Niki was pregnant. Kaleb is living in Kansas City at this time after graduating college in Arkansas.

He had moved out to KC to be near people he knew and also find his own path in life. After a little over a year had passed there a job opportunity came up in 2 locations: Raleigh, NC (20 minutes from Niki and I) and Dallas, TX (20+hours away from us).

Things weren’t going so well with Kaleb’s friends out in KC. He was ready for a change.

So he calls me up one day and says, “Hey there is a job opening in Raleigh and in Dallas. Same job just different locations. What can you tell me about Raleigh?”

WHAT?! I thought! I haven’t lived near my brother in almost 10 years at this point, and this could be a great way for us to rebuild our relationship! So I reverted to my old “big brother” methods and UNLOADED all of the reason I thought it would be a great move for him to come to Raleigh.

He thanked me and told me he was considering both places heavily. He wanted to find out more about himself and find his own path. He would let me know in 2 weeks.

“Cool!” I responded

With all of my excitement I immediately told Niki there’s a good chance Kaleb would be moving to Raleigh and what that meant to me.

See the trend in my thought process here????

I was only concerned about how great this could be for my beliefs, my ambitions, my selfish wants.

Niki, knowing I was trying desperately to change and become a better version of myself along with her wisdom, asked me, “What does Kaleb want?”

I didn’t know much other than find his own path. So she simply asked me to consider asking him, not telling him, and NO MATTER where Kaleb decides to move ONLY be supportive of his decision. She was right. So I made that commitment.

2 weeks later Kaleb calls me, just like he said he would.

“Hey bro!” I answered the phone with.

“Hey bro.” Kaleb responds, but not nearly as excited as I am. In fact, he seems a bit shaky and sort of hesitant.

“I’ve made a decision…….(long pause)…………I’ve decided to move to Dallas.”

Be your new version Josh! Be supportive! were the thoughts going through my head.

“Great! What’s in Dallas?”

I could hear the tears welling up in his eyes over the phone as Kaleb explains to me that he never expected to respond like that. He expected me to question and tell him what to do. My eyeballs are sweating even now as I write this and remember.

He went on to tell me all about the place he is looking into to live, the downtown areas he was interested in, the job he was going into, and much more.

To say that was a pivotal moment in our relationship is an understatement entirely. Our relationship has never been better since that phone call AND I’ve learned so much about my brother since changing my approach to him and NOT giving him the finger.

Kaleb lived in Dallas for a year, found more of his own path, and discovered more of his passions. Then one year later he decided that Raleigh would be a cool place to live and he wanted to be around us plus our new son Asher 😊.

Do you think he would’ve been excited to live near his former version of an older brother? I know I would not have.

Perhaps this is true for all of our relationships, personal and professional. In fact, all of our relationships effect us personally.

Dale Carnegie once said:

“A man convinced against his own will is of the same opinion still.”

So if we are going to make the decisions we want to because we know what’s best for our own lives, then suppose others will do the same for themselves. Instead of giving people direct orders, “direction”, and passionate guidance (giving them the finger) perhaps we could try a different approach?

Even to this day (because I’m human) I have to remind myself to take a better approach, not directive, in order to build deeper more meaningful relationships with my brother and other people. I use these Dale Carnegie Leadership Principles every single day to help me slow things down and building better relationships:

Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, “you’re wrong.”

Ask questions instead of give direct orders

Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely.

Even when I know the answer they are searching for, or the shortcut to avoid headache, I still remind myself of the life changing phone call with my brother Kaleb years ago.

What would I have lost if I had not put my finger away and changed my approach to more Kaleb focused instead of my own wants?

I don’t even want to imagine that because now, Kaleb and I don’t argue even when we disagree. Now we talk every week and make it a priority to not go more than 2 weeks between hanging out. Oh, and Asher LOVES his Uncle K!

My encouragement to you is try one or more of those principles. See which relationships you can build or even rejuvenate.

If this was helpful for you, then someone else may also find value in it or at least a good weed eater fighting story LOL. Share away!

Later! ✌️

To Your Success,

Josh Bledsoe

Talent Development Strategist

Dale Carnegie Training

www.thejoshbledsoe.com

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