One summer in high school, my parents had a friend walk my brothers and I through Dale Carnegie’s amazing book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I can safely say that the principles in that book changed my life and since that time it’s been a topic that I’m passionate about.
The good news is that no matter what your personality is, you can learn to connect with others. This is not about becoming someone you are not; it’s about becoming the best version yourself.
Actually, when you try to become someone you are not, you are robbing the world of the uniqueness that only you can bring to the table!
I’ve tried being someone that I’m not, and it’s tiring! But if you never “fake it” you can relax and genuinely enjoy connecting with others, rather than being “on” sometimes and “off” other times.
I want to share with you 5 principles for connecting with others based on Biblical principles and drawing insights from the books How to Win Friends and Influence People and “How To Communicate With Confidence“ by Dr. Mike Bechtle.
I love acrostics, so I’m going to use S.M.I.L.E. as our outline.
Start by Seeking To Serve
Ask yourself, “Why do I want to connect? To gain something for myself or to add value to others?”
According to Jesus, the believer’s motivation should be to love God wholeheartedly and… “love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
I constantly have to check my heart on this. Am I seeking to connect with this person because they can do something for me, so they can come to my church, or do I genuinely want to help them?
In a different passage, Jesus explained what loving your neighbor looks like, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” Matt 7:12
Loving people means making their success your success. As John Maxwell says, “To add value to others, I must value others.”
Paul said, Let love be genuine… Romans 12:9
When I first got married, my wife Jessica noticed that I honk the car horn a lot. I admit that I have a tendency to get mad when I’m driving or when someone steals my wave when I’m surfing.
Early in my church plant, I got mad while driving and might have given someone a dirty look. But then I felt like the Holy Spirit prompted me with this thought, “What if this person visited my church?”
What if I treated every person like a visitor to my church? It’s a good thing that our church goes above and beyond to love people who come to our church, but God was convicting me of the hypocrisy of loving people just because they were interested in my church.
If I only love people at church, that’s not really love. What about you? Do you turn love on and off? Living a lifestyle of love means whoever is in your path is a potential recipient of love.
The word genuine here can also be translated “without hypocrisy.” A hypocrite was a greek actor who would put on different masks in order to pretend to be different people. A hypocrite is a fake, and fake love is not love at all.
Instead of asking, “What can I gain?” try asking “What can I give?” The foundation of communication is the desire to serve others. Eph 4:29 summarizes the healthy motivation for communication.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph 4:29
According to Paul, before we speak we must be able to answer YES to the following questions…
- Is this helpful for building others up?
- Does this address their needs?
- Does this benefit my hearers?
Communication is all about others! When people trust that you are really there for their benefit, they will listen to what you have to say. It’s a cliche because it’s true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Make Them Feel Special, Because They Are!
Paul said, Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Rom 12:10
I have an identical twin brother, so I know a lot about brotherly affection. Growing up, we were always roommates; before that we were womb mates. It doesn’t get any closer than sharing the same embryonic fluid!
But even if you don’t have a twin, brotherly affection is commanded. I’ve had guys come into my life who I have grown to love like a brother as we worked together for the gospel.
One way to foster this brotherly affection is to, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” I love to compete, and as far as I know this is the one place in the Bible that actually tells us to compete with others!
What if you treated every person like a VIP? When you think about it, it’s really true. Every person you meet is a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON because he or she is made in the image of God.
Have you ever met someone famous? I’m awkward around famous people, and when I met pastor and author JD Greear, I was nervous. I happened to be with my mom, so I introduced myself and said, “I’m David” and turned to my mom and said “and this is my wife”, oops! “I mean my mom!” But seriously, what if you made it your goal to treat every person you interact with like the very important person they really are?
How to Honor Others:
- Yield to what they want to do. Let them choose the restaurant, activity, or give them the front seat.
- Speak well of them even if they are not there. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to their face.
- Greet them warmly. It says, “I see you and I care about you.”
- Adjust to the person without losing your uniqueness.
Also, a sincere thoughtful compliment can really make people feel special. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.”
Your words are powerful. Pro 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” One of our Worcester family values is “Life-Giving Words” because what we say sets the direction of our lives.
Have “ICNU – I see in you” conversations. My Dad has been one of my encouragers and he spoke life into me, saw potential in me and gave me a vision of what he saw in me. We can be that for others.
Say what you see! If you notice something good in someone, don’t waste the chance to say what you see in them.
As you seek to encourage others, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
How to Encourage Thoughtfully:
- Avoid flattery. Proverbs 29:5, A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. Here’s how you can tell flattery from genuine encouragement. Flattery is for your benefit; encouragement is for the other person’s the benefit. Flattery is about manipulating people to get what you want; encouragement is about helping people get what they want.
- Be specific. The more specific the praise, the more meaningful it will be.
- Don’t tell them how much they improved. It makes them feel bad about what they did in the past.
- Don’t compare what they did to others. You can encourage them without putting others down in the process.
Interest Yourself in Them, Genuinely
Paul said, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Phil 2:3–4
It’s better to be interested than interesting. Instead of trying to impress, try to be impressed. Instead of focusing on being the center of attention, center your attention on them.
Like it’s often been said, humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. If you learn to be genuinely interested in others, you can connect with virtually anyone.
There is something you can learn from every one if you learn to ask the right questions. They are at least experts on themselves, hopefully! I like the acrostic FIRE when I’m talking with people
- Find Common Ground – What do we have in common?
- Interests – What do you do in your free time?
- Relationships – What is your family like?
- Experience With God – Growing up did you go to church or anything like that?
Once you’ve asked them about their life, you must…
Pro 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.”
Curiosity is the key to connecting. See yourself as an explorer more than a supplier of information.
Larry King said, “I never learn anything while I’m talking.”
Focus on what the other person is saying rather than what you are going to say or do next. As Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Good conversationalists observe the little details and use them to direct the conversation.
When you are listening, it’s important communicate that you care with your non-verbal cues. Here’s another helpful acrostic to LISTEN better.
- Lean In – It communicates interest.
- Interested Posture – Don’t cross your arms or put your hands in your pockets.
- Smile – A smile sets people at ease.
- Take Notes – If it’s something you want to remember later jot it down.
- Eye Contact – Keep appropriate eye contact.
- Nod – Let people know you are with them.
Summarize what the person said in your own words. Don’t think about your response while the other person is talking. Wait until they are done then formulate your answer.
Good listeners have mastered the “tell me more” mentality. Find the gaps in your understanding by asking follow up questions based on what you’ve heard.
Every conversation has to end sometime, usually end in either in a satisfying conclusion or a painful escape. It’s better to leave on a high note if you can. So instead of letting it fizzle, be intentional and think about what a next step might be.
Think about if there is a relevant next step to the conversation like exchanging numbers, suggesting a common ground activity or inviting them to an event.
If you are giving a lesson or talk, put some real work into thinking about what next steps you want people to take.
If we connect with the people but fail to connect them to an application, we miss out on an opportunity. That doesn’t mean that every time you talk to someone you have to have something specific in mind; it just means that we should be intentional.
This is especially true in our interactions with non-believers. Paul said,
“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” Col. 4:5-6
Ending purposefully forces us to think about what the natural next step is. Paul encourages us to be wise with people who don’t know God and to seize the opportunities so that we can respond rightly to the situation.
When I’m in a conversation, I will often say something like, “It was great talking to you, let’s go surfing or get coffee soon.” And if I don’t have their number, I will get their number.
If I’m giving a talk or leading a discussion, I challenge people to think about their next step and list two or three options.
So let’s apply this! Look through the S.M.I.L.E. acrostic again…
- Start By Seeking To Serve
- Make People Feel Special
- Interest Yourself in Others
- Listen Curiously
- End Purposefully
Which of these five principles do you personally want to focus on most starting today? Who will you try and apply it with?