We all need more energy, the vitality that helps us stay motivated, focused and productive in life. We know we receive energy from good nutrition, along with working out, adequate sleep and maintaining positivity. But there is another major source for the energy we need: having the right kinds of relationships with others. Not the ones that drain us, but the ones that refuel us. Join us for part two of this conversation with Dr. John Townsend about his new book, People Fuel: Fill Your Tank for Life, Love and Leadership. Listen in as Dr. Townsend shows you how we need the fuel of "Relational Nutrients" from others, and, in turn we can then provide them to others.

More About Our Guest

John Townsend

Dr. John Townsend is a New York Times best-selling author, speaker and leadership expert. He has more than thirty books with over 10 million copies in print. He is an internationally recognized business consultant, leadership coach and psychologist. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and Rosemead School of Psychology. He is founder of the Townsend Leadership Group and the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University.

Episode Transcript

Scott Rae: Welcome to the podcast, Think Biblically, Conversations on Faith and Culture. I'm your host, Scott Rae, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Christian Ethics at Talbot School of Theology Biola University.

We're here part for two of our conversation that we had last time with my friend Dr. John Townsend, New York Times bestselling author of 30, now make this 31 books, over 10 million copies in print, leadership expert, clinical psychologist, director of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling that Concordia University, Irvine and director of the Townsend Leadership Group. The Institute of Concordia is more the academic arm and the Townsend Leadership Group is the more professional arm that deals with executives and companies around the country. So John, thank you for agreeing to be with us on part two as we talk about your new book coming out here soon called People Fuel. And again, the big idea of the book is what in one sentence.

John Townsend: We are as healthy and successful as the people we let in our lives.

Scott Rae: Okay. And we've, we spent a lot of time in the, in our first segment on this talking about the, the way you frame this as around a growth tree and you find that fruit doesn't necessarily produce itself by ourselves by working harder or putting more effort into things. It's as we take in the proper relational nutrients into our root system that we actually find that we have the growth that we need both personally and professionally. So tell us the, let's go, let's take this a little bit further. Once we've framed this correctly around the growth tree, you've developed in the book the concept of relational nutrients. Hey, what do you mean by those and what are those and how can we use those in our lives?

John Townsend: Simply put, Scott, they're a lot like bio nutrients. Now we're all trying to be healthy these days and we're all taking supplements and eating right, and hopefully we are. And the way that bio nutrients work is they keep us healthy and keep us from getting unhealthy. For example, if you don't have enough calcium in your system, you're going to have bone problems like osteoporosis. If you don't have enough iron in your bloodstream, you're going to have problems like anemia. So in the same way, the concept of relational nutrients is that we need to take certain elements that I have in the model, from each other to keep us healthy, that we give to them and they give to us, the right people. And instead of it taking it in a capsule or a pill, they come through conversations from brain to brain and mind to mind.

So if we don't have enough of those coming in our system from the right kind of conversations, whether that be phone calls or face to face or texting or whatever, it doesn't matter. We don't have enough of those, we suffer in terms of energy, creativity, focus, resilience, and those sorts of things. So the model of relational nutrients, I've kind of discovered, we worked on this for years, I discovered about my number is 22 overall. But to keep it easy to remember I have them organized into four quadrants, four categories, so that they're easy to understand. Can I go into that?

Scott Rae: Sure. Yeah. I wish-

John Townsend: Okay.

Scott Rae: I wish we could put a whiteboard up for our listeners, but this is audio only.

John Townsend: Right.

Scott Rae: But paint the picture as best you can.

John Townsend: Okay. It's whiteboard time, right? Quadrant one is to be present and what does be present mean, well, it means shut up and listen for once. I mean, there are so many passages that talk [crosstalk]

Scott Rae: Don't sugar coat it now.

John Townsend: Okay. I just see so much of this, there's something about our faith that people like to give advice more than they like to listen and the Bible has so many things to say that are negative about that.

Scott Rae: Here here.

John Townsend: When you think about it in Job, you know the only good thing his three buddies did is it says in the early part, it's either chapter four or six it says "they sat with him seven days and nights and did not speak a word to him for they knew his grief was very great". Sometimes all a person needs is that for us to is to accept them like they are, give them attunement, tune into their feelings and their experience, validate their experience and just say, hey, you're normal. Identify with them and say, I've struggled too. Not a lot of real advice, but we are built that we don't really take in truth and advice and principles from somebody that doesn't understand this.

So be present means be with me, being, I call it being in the well. Be in the well with me and then some people say, "hey, you know what? You understood I don't need your advice. I know what I need to do. I was just empty. Thanks a lot. I need to go on my way." That's how powerful being present is. Women tend to be much better at that than us men and we need, men need to work harder on that.

The second one is convey the good. Sometimes people just need to pick them up a little bit. They needed a little shot of encouragement, sort of a relational Prozac. You need things like respect. "Hey, I respect you. Even though you're having a hard time." Give people hope, encourage them, affirm the good. You know when somebody says, "Hey, I noticed how hard you worked on that project and I really appreciate that." That'll make somebody's day. And so conveying the good just means sometimes I believe in you right now even though you're not believing in yourself, I'm there for you.

Now the third one is called deliberate reality or provide reality, meaning sometimes we need more than presence and we need more than encouragement. We need truth. We need somebody to give us information that we don't possess. Like can you give me insight and perspective? Like, I'm a real big fan of Simon Sinek's Why Ted talks, the power of why. Somebody that'll help us work through the why of a business problem, of a spiritual problem, of a theological problem, a financial problem, of a family problem we'll need, we need feedback and wisdom and just really good complicated truths from people.

And then the fourth quadrant is call to action because at the end of it, successful people are acting right, they're behaving correctly. And that might mean some advice and or some structure or read this book or go to this conference or here's a planner, here's a path. And what you find is you got to know the people you're with in your life well enough to know what they need. And if you give them the wrong thing, it doesn't do him any good. Like the classic marriage, you know, where you get home and you and your, suppose there's a husband and talking to the wife and his wife says, "Oh I had a crummy day. The kids who are nuts, and then I banged up the car and my job didn't go well" and the husband says, "okay, the first thing you need to do, you need to discipline that child. Secondly, you really need to drive better." No, that just, that is not a good night for anybody.

Scott Rae: Right.

John Townsend: Because she wanted presence and he, that was quadrant one, but he gave her a call to action, which is quadrant four. So it gives you a structure to think, what does this person in my life need? I have people that just bring the card out and think, what am, because I don't know what any, and they looked at the 22 and they go, that's what they need. But even more, Scott, that model is for us as well because like we said earlier in our last conversation, I can't give what I don't possess. So when I wake up in the morning, I think, okay, "good morning Lord, what do I need to like follow you today?" Well maybe I need some advice. Maybe I need to talk to somebody about some wisdom. Maybe I just need somebody to tell me I'm a nice guy. So it helps us to be practical about what nutrients I need to grow and what nutrients the people in my life need to grow.

Scott Rae: So I don't want to give away everything in the book, but I think it might be helpful to our listeners to take one quadrant and briefly spell out what the nutrients are from that one particular quadrant and just, and then go into a little bit more detail about some of the specific nutrients-

John Townsend: Sure.

Scott Rae: That that people need.

John Townsend: All right, let's start with a quadrant one because a lot of times for leaders, that's the most challenging. Acceptance, connect with me without judgment. In other words, Hey, I know you messed up at work or you weren't a great spouse today or this week or you had some failure. I'm your friend and I know you messed up and I want to help. I accept you.

The second relational nutrient of being present is attunement. Attunement is being able to follow somebody's feelings. Because in a conversation with, sometimes a person can be discouraged and they can be happy and they can be angry. I mean we have, God made us very, very complicated people. So a attunement means to follow what somebody is feeling so they don't feel alone. They don't fill all by themselves.

The third one is validation, means your experience is important to me. Ever had somebody when you were kind of challenged, some kind of uber coach person say, well get over it. Well that is such a helpful information. You know-

Scott Rae: Yeah, yeah.

John Townsend: We don't need that. We need somebody. It's like somebody saying, you know, your opinion is not important. Someone needs to validate. Even if I disagree with you, your opinion is important.

The fourth one's identification. Hey, I've struggled too. I struggled too, financially or or in my self care or my marriage or my dating relationship. I get it.

The fifth one is containment. Containment is a great relational nutrient because it means you can vent with me and I'm not going to freak out. You can just, you don't have to edit what you're saying. You can't be verbally abusive or anything, but you can just throw it out there and we'll make sense of it and just don't worry about saying the right way to me.

You know, I love, that's why I love the Psalms because David vents to God all the time, Hey I'm the king but I live in a cave, what are you doing? Are you still there? I mean the guy that's not the king's trying to kill me and he never, he never edits with God and he praises God at the same time-

Scott Rae: That's right.

John Townsend: Because he knew that God was strong enough to contain him. And then the last one is comfort. People need to be comforted when they have a loss, financial loss, relational loss, emotional loss. Somebody just be with them, say I'm on your side. That's being present, so that that quadrant has those six nutrients in it.

Scott Rae: That's really helpful. Thank you. Thanks for the details on that. And I think for our listeners, they should be aware of the book spells out each quadrant in that kind of detail and it's really helpful stuff. And I think, you know the idea that I could look at these different nutrients and, and you know, at the beginning of my day think, well what do I need today, as a really helpful exercise. Now John, let me go-

John Townsend: We also now have a website for a free copy of a card with the nutritions on it for people that want to put it on their smart phone because so much, so many of us are digitally based. It's called, I mean basically it's just called relationalnutrients.com. You just go to it-

Scott Rae: Terrific.

John Townsend: And there's the 22 with their descriptions in the quadrants. You can either print it out for your refrigerator or you can just put it on your smartphone to go, what do they need? What do I need? So that's a freebee there.

Scott Rae: Sweet. Give the web address one more time.

John Townsend: Relationalnutrients.com, one word. Relational nutrients.

Scott Rae: Sweet. Hey now John, let me go somewhere theologically here, because I suspect that there, a lot of our listeners may have this view, you're saying in the book that God actually designed our needs to be, to be what they are. But I thought that and I think a lot of our listeners might think that most of our needs were the result of the general entrance of sin and there because we're on brokenness. But I hear you saying something a little different in the book. Am I reading that correctly? And if so, how do you put those two together?

John Townsend: Well, I can't find a Bible verse that says that needs are the results of sin. I see a lot of Bible verses that say problems as a result of sin, like relational problems, like addictions, like impulse problems, people who are too angry, depression. Now those are problems that as a result of sin, but I think had we never had the fall, we would still need support from each other. We would still need to know the others love us because the key to this is God, theologically speaking, God created a system in which the vertical relationship with him is not enough. He did that, he said is not good that man be alone in a perfect universe, Genesis two. [crosstalk]

Scott Rae: Yeah, Adam connected with God.

John Townsend: Yeah. He had all of God and he had this wonderful world of no sin and God says this is not good here. And how do we make sense of that? That's just a long, long conversation, but it means that he created a system where the horizontal had to be part of it also. And you know what else? That's not a marriage passage. And when we preach it, [inaudible] we shouldn't preach it as a marriage passion because it's about relationship. We can be, a person can be a happy single if they've got enough great people in their life and they can be a happy married. But it's really about the fact that the vertical that God created, God also said, I'm going to put another needing you. It's also for the horizontal.

Scott Rae: Okay. So maybe just to be clear, how are you defining what a need is, if it's not something that's a result of the entrance of sin and not so, so that we're clear that we distinguish that from a problem that is the result of the entrance of sin?

John Townsend: Well, let me, I'm looking at the quadrants card while we're talking. Okay. And some of them are related to sin because, like look at comfort. Had there been no sin, there'd be no need for comfort, right? Because it'd be another loss as the comfort.

Scott Rae: Right.

John Townsend: So probably not every one of the 22 is a Genesis two only. Acceptance. Now we wouldn't need that either because the judgment, but attunement, I think we need to be aware of what each other's experiencing to respond to it, whether there's sin or not. For example, somebody says, I'm going to do a non-sin conversation for our idealistic sort of purposes. And somebody goes, "Gosh, I had a great time in the movie. It was a really a good movie." And the other person says, "I'm hungry." And the first person says, "I'd like to talk about what I thought about in the movie." Another person says, "I think I'm like a hamburger." Somebody needs to say, I think you need to listen to me.

Scott Rae: Yeah.

John Townsend: That's not a need based on sin. It's like, I just need to know you like me and you're listening to me. That's not based on sin. And would we need quadrant three? Would we need feedback? I would need feedback.

Scott Rae: I would think so.

John Townsend: I don't think I would go through life in a perfect universe without wisdom and feedback. I think those are wonderful things. I always would love structuring advice and I love that, I would love to have affirmation. I think that like quadrant two affirmation, I would love to know in a sinless world, that I'm doing a good job. Can you imagine telling, let's suppose you're raising kids and you've got a five year old kid and you say your kid, you know you're, these needs you have are just based on sin. So you know, we're gonna kind of ignore them. So the kid like hits a home run and the parent goes, well all you need is God. You don't need me to tell you a great kid. Just go to your father. Well Dad, and was that need for the dad to say I'm so proud of you. Was that based on sin? No, just because the way God made us. So yeah.

Scott Rae: Yeah. I can see some of the, we have needs because we have limits-

John Townsend: There you go.

Scott Rae: But that's just because we're human beings, not because we're sinners.

John Townsend: Right. There you go. Because God's limitless, so he doesn't have needs. He is self, he has his own [inaudible 00:00:16:22]. But yeah, we have limits and so since we're not, we got to get good stuff from God to keep our engine running and good stuff from people to get our engine running.

Scott Rae: Okay. Let me take this a little bit further. Stepping out of the explicitly theological realm for a minute. You know, we've both been around, some people they don't have any trouble asking for their needs to be met. Those are the people that sometimes make me nervous. Others, you know, others will never ask. And I guess those are the people that should make us nervous but don't. What, I mean I know there's some interpersonal dynamics that keep us from asking for our needs to be met, but are there, are there other things that are maybe more culture wide that encourage us not to ask for our needs to be met?

John Townsend: I think the big one is shame. Most people that have accomplished some things and they have a pretty decent life, to get where they got to get, they had a certain, to have unfortunately had to have a certain amount of shame that kind of kind of like as a goad to keep them going. And so for them, they only feel normal when they are successful and they feel very embarrassed and humiliated when they're not successful. So instead of calling a friend and saying, I'm really down, can we go out and talk about this? They don't want to show that because they didn't want to feel like they're going to be rejected or put down. They just kind of shut down. Maybe they say a Bible verse or play with their dog and they work harder and then, like I said, they die earlier.

So the number one thing I see in high performing people is a lot of shame. And the funny thing is Scott, is when I finally get these people to open up, like the Bible says to the, to the good people in their life, they'll say, "this is amazing. I thought that I would be rejected. I thought that, you know, they would say, I thought you're a sham or you're a fraud." They said "the person would say to them, I am so happy that you brought me into your life. I feel like you give to everybody and you give to me and here you are saying you need support too. Man, I'm there for you." And they were blown away by how it was not really that way.

Scott Rae: Yeah, I can see. We have we have students here who who are from what I would call more traditional honor, shame cultures. Where you see that really playing out. It's very hard. It's just that it's just not something that's talked about openly. Okay. You also talk about seven types of relationship, the gains and drains relationships. I mean, no, that's a really important concept and being able to tell the difference between those two is a really critical skill. Tell us about those types of relationships and how you distinguish between those two and focus on the gains and avoid the drains.

John Townsend: Well, the model is seven Cs, like the letter C for alliterative purposes, and it starts on the highest level of nutrient rich. If you think about the relational nutrients of who can give us the best quality down to the lower level, so you can kind of find out how balanced am I in my relationships. So the top level is coaches. That C is coaches and coaches are those people who are mentors, guides, disciplers, kind of our Yoda figures, therapists, spiritual directors, but people who give to us and it's all about us. Like, I have several coaches in my life for various things. I've got a whole life coach who helps me, I've got a spiritual coach, I've got a a workout coach. I know I should probably fire him, but...

Scott Rae: Well let's not go there.

John Townsend: Yeah, so the great things about a coach, Scott, is that number one, their SMEs or subject matter experts, they have been, they spent their Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000 hours doing something we don't have the time to do. I'd have to study it. I don't have the time to study the molecular biology of my body. I don't have time to study. I don't have time to go get an extra degree. But I want somebody who really knows their craft and I feel like I'm in the hands of somebody who's putting the time in. And the other aspect is a coach doesn't have a need for you. They don't have to be your BFF.

Scott Rae: Right.

John Townsend: That's what a friend is for. A coach, when I call up my coach for my sessions, I don't spend half of my, 30 of my 60 minutes with, I don't spend 30 minutes saying, so how was your vacation? How was the family? I just say hello. And they say hello and I go, it's all about me. Just I get, I just get out whatever their expertise is. So it's a very nutrient rich environment. I coached people with the same [inaudible] I tell people, if I'm your coach, I don't have to be your friend. Don't worry about my life. I'm okay. Let's talk about you. And it's a great environment. So that's number one.

Number two, by the way, and coaches we're finding out, if you read Harvard business review, coaches are bringing three to four x the money that we spend on them. So if you spend x amount of money, you'll get three to four times that back every year. That's just how how important it is.

Number two is comrades and comrades comes from the idea of battle and comrades in arms and supporting each other. And that's where the life team concept comes in. People that I want around my life, that they're mutual. It's not like a coach and a coachee. It's people that they're growing and I'm growing and hash out ideas and care about each other, pray for each other and be very vulnerable with each other. Those are those people we talked about with the life team and they are very high source because then when I have my text or phone call or dinner with them, I'm going to come away growing and they're going to come way growing. Very important.

Third level is what I call casuals and those are sort of your, your acquaintances in your life. Maybe your neighbor or somebody that you met at your kids' soccer event or somebody you go to church with. You maybe have lunch with every couple of months and they're not really into growth, but they're just a nice person and they're kind of a nice stop and smell the roses person. I've got lots of acquaintances and casuals and they're also a really good farm team for guess what? For comrades. Because you could spend some time with the casual and start thinking, I love their values, great chemistry, they're truthful, they're vulnerable. Then, you can, might recruit them to that. So I just, it's really good to have some casual stop and smell the roses friends. They're a good source.

The fourth one is colleagues and colleagues is because we spend so much time at work. Work's a big part of our life. And so all the research on great colleagues is they've got to be, A, competent, they've got to know their craft. B, they've got to work well on teams. And C, they've got to be relational. And so if you've got a great, you can't always pick your colleagues and sometimes your colleagues are given to you. But as much as possible, surround yourself with very high quality colleagues with those three characteristics.

The fifth level is what's called care, C-A-R-E, care. Meaning that God calls us biblically to give back. We're supposed to give back. We're supposed to help people, you know, build water wells in developing countries. We're supposed to help sex trafficking. We're supposed to help the marginalized. We're supposed to share Christ with people. We're supposed to help people who maybe need mentoring as a young professional who never really made it and we're to reach out to them with no, with no thought about being paid or anything. The only recompense we get is a thank you. And thinking about all the times, I mean, I'm on boards and stuff and you are too, and we've helped out people, and you're coming away from that meeting, you think, Gosh, why am I not doing it again? Why am I not doing that more? I just love it because God put in our neuro psych again. God put a hormone in our body that makes us feel so great when we give to people, that we want to care more. So care's a really good thing.

And then the next one is chronics. Now we're going to a less nutrient level. Chronics are those people who, well, you know, I'm originally from the south, live in, Barbie and I raised the kids in California, but I'm originally from North Carolina and we had a group of people we used to call bless their heart. And bless their heart means they're sort of a hot mess. And those are those people that they always have a business struggle, a financial struggle, a marriage struggle, a kid struggle, an everything struggle and you know, bless their heart, you want to help them out. So you know, you skip occasions with your spouse or with your friends or whatever and you're trying to disciple them and have all those lunches and Starbucks and you're giving advice and praying with them and bless their heart, they have what psychologists called a flat learning curve.

They just don't ever change and they just keep making the same screw ups in their life and you're beating your head against it. And we spend so much time with those folks and you start to find out they're not there. You're not helping them because they want to grow. You are helping them because they just think you're a nice person. They feel good around you. But as soon as you walk out the door and you think you've changed their life, they just go back to making their big mistakes again. God bless them. They're just chronics. And what, maybe one day they'll stop having a flat learning curve. But we spent oodles of time on people that don't.

And then the last C is the really the darkest of all, which is contaminants. And contaminants, unfortunately, there are not only foolish people like Chronics in the world, there are evil people. The Bible says there's evil people and they seek to kill and destroy and they don't like successful people and they try to ruin your organization and your family and your marriage and you can't, you've got to set very firm boundaries and limits around those people. So they don't, you know, take you down.

And so when I show that, that principal of those seven Cs to people, they look at it and they'll, the first thing they say is, goodness gracious, I'm bottom heavy. They don't mean, they don't mean it physically. They mean I am out of balance here. I've got, so I'm on so many boards, I'm discipling so many people. Look in the chronics I'm dealing with, I've got a couple of contaminants, but I have very few coaches and comrades. And so my job when I'm working with executives is to say, let's go from bottom heavy to right size. We've got to build up your coaches and comrades, the quality of your nutrients and pare down and prune down the other three at the bottom. And that's what a healthy life is like.

Scott Rae: Boy that, I mean I think the those seven types of relationships, that's worth the price of the whole book there. That's just incredibly insightful and I think the way you described that, it doesn't, I don't think it's too difficult to sort out, you know who in your life fits into which category. There may be some gray areas between some categories, but I think in general, you know, our intuitions tell us that we could probably identify the gains and drains pretty easily in our life. You found, have you found that to be true?

John Townsend: Yeah. Well, there's a funny thing is now that I've been teaching this for a couple of years in preparation for the book, I'll take somebody through it. I'll take a, you know, an executive team or whatever, and the first thing they'll say after they say, I'm bottom heavy. That's what everybody says that, but the first thing after that is they'll look at level six and they go, oh my goodness, I am addicted to a bunch of chronics. It's my fault. I'm throwing all my wisdom and thought and energy and that flat learning curve is producing no fruit and that's kind of, that's the big Aha, I think.

Scott Rae: Yeah, yeah. Wow. Let me, let me ask you, John, one last question here. I feel like our listeners have gotten in these, in this session, in the one in part one before it, we just gotten a whole lot of really good information, super practical, very biblically grounded, well framed theologically, but it's been a bit like drinking water out of a fire hydrant. There's just, there's so much good stuff. That's why I so encourage our listeners to get ahold of the book People Fuel by Dr. John Townsend, but tell our listeners, one practical application that we can make in the next 24 hours after hearing this, that can make our lives and relationships work better.

John Townsend: Recruit one person for that first lunch, for your life team. Go through that list, go through [inaudible] if you got nobody in your life that you think really gets to you except for God and your dog and your spouse, go to that Microsoft Outlook contact, it works every time, and spend about an hour and get those 20 people and then call them for lunch. They probably need this as much as you do.

Scott Rae: Yeah, that's so important to get that life team established and that's such a helpful piece of practical advice to get off the dime and do it. It's just a phone call, than just lunch or coffee. And then you go from there and I think I'll bet, I would bet our listeners too, if they took you to the test on this, I think they would also find that the majority of the people that they contact would have the same response as "Oh my gosh, I need this too in my life."

John Townsend: Yup. I've got, I don't have anybody I can really go deep with and this is really nice that I've got somebody accepts me, who will challenge me when I need it. Let's enter God's growth process together.

Scott Rae: Here here. John, thank you so much for taking the time in these two sessions to tell us about your book to unpack it for us, to give. This was, this is a great teaser because I hope our, I hope all of our listeners get a chance to get a hold of your book. Called People Fuel, published by Zondervan, correct?

John Townsend: Yes.

Scott Rae: Is that right? People Fuel-

John Townsend: Yup.

Scott Rae: Great stuff. I'm so grateful. Thanks for your friendship and for being willing to come on and talk about this. These have been two incredibly helpful sessions for us, so thanks very much friend.

John Townsend: Thank you, Scott, and just thanks for faithfully thinking theologically through helping people look at the limbs of what God is about in our entire world and all you've done over the years.

Scott Rae: Well, I appreciate that. This has been an episode of the podcast, Think Biblically, Conversations on Faith and Culture. To learn more about us and today's guest, Dr. John Townsend, and to find more episodes, go to Biola.edu/thinkbiblically. That's Biola.edu/thinkbiblically. If you've enjoyed our conversation today in part two and in part one as well, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.