How to Relate Better to People (continued)

by Dr. Clyde M. Narramore
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They Will Respond

One of the encouraging things I have learned through the years is that people do not have to remain as they are. As long as we are alive, we can change. And we can help other people to change and be happier.

Here are some techniques and basic approaches that will predispose people to respond favorably to you.

The Plus of Appreciation

Every person likes to be thanked. We appreciate being appreciated! We respond positively to those who encourage and compliment us. Perhaps you're not getting along with others because you are usually concentrating on yourself rather than thinking about how the other person feels. You may be overlooking his longing to be thanked and appreciated. The Bible has much to say about thankfulness. And, while we need to be grateful to God, let's not forget to show appreciation to the people around us.

Some people are caught in a "self" trap. For example, their own pain and problems or lack of parental models prevents them from noticing and recognizing other people. But whether your acquaintances are well-adjusted or not, they will tend to respond to your encouragement.

Is Anyone Listening?

No matter where we go in the world, we find that people are much the same. They want someone who will listen to them. I remember a lady phoning me from Texas. She started talking non-stop. She poured out her heart until I thought I should remind her this was probably costing her a pretty penny.

"Is there someone nearer whom you can talk to?" I asked.

"No, Dr. Narramore," she replied, "there isn't. There's no one in Texas who wants to listen. They all want to do the talking themselves." I'm sure there were plenty of people in Texas who would have listened to her but she apparently didn't know them!

Whether people are in Texas, New York, California, or elsewhere, they need to talk, and, of course, someone needs to listen. So, if you want people to respond to you, if you want to click with them, there is a surefire way to do it - become a genuine listener. People don't need your advice as much as they need your ears.

We are attracted to people who will listen to us. Just notice your own friends. Are they not people with whom you feel comfortable and who will let you do the talking? When you let people talk, you are helping them meet a basic need to release their feelings, to sift their ideas and make plans for the future. They like you because you're helping them by listening!

Accepting People "As Is"

One of the problems in getting along with people is that we tend to want to change them. We don't accept them as they are. Rather than concentrating on their good points and their strengths, we focus on their weaknesses.

There are several reasons why you and I may not accept people as they are. Dorothy, for example, was a past master at finding the weaknesses of other people - especially men. If anyone followed her around for a few days, he would find that she was continually finding the faults in her husband, men in her church, and fellows at the office where she was employed.

Little does Dorothy realize that she has a basic hostility, especially toward men, because of the negative relationship which she had as a child with her own father. When Dorothy was growing up her father had little time for her, and told her so. Then when she was a teenager he left the family and never returned. As a result Dorothy has a built-in dislike for all men and she finds fault with them easily.

Steve, on the other hand, notices the undesirable traits in other people because he feels insecure himself. Perhaps he doesn't realize how insecure he is. But the results are just the same. By criticizing other people and looking for their undesirable points he attempts to lift his own self-concept.

Other times we exaggerate others faults or weaknesses because we see in them things we dislike in ourselves. We may actually be "projecting" onto them our own problems. Fred, for example, was known as a person who exaggerated; but while he couldn't see this trait in himself, he disliked it in other people. He couldn't bear to indict himself, so he indicted others.

We will never be able to relate well to people until we have accepted them for what they are, rather than for what they're not.

The Magnetic Optimist

Have you ever noticed that you tend to move toward people who are cheerful? There's something about a joyous person that draws people to him, much like metal to a magnet.

Life is not happy for everyone. In fact, many people are discouraged most of the time. It isn't that they want to be; but their circumstances and conditions are such that they are unhappy with the way things are going.

Consequently, when someone comes along who is radiant and happy, it's like a pleasant breeze. "A merry heart does good like a medicine" (Proverbs 17:22) is a demonstrable fact. Just notice the next time you are in a crowd how people gravitate to those who are encouraging and optimistic.

When you look around and see other people's problems, your own may not seem so significant. You can go through the day thanking God that you have arms and legs and eyes and ears, and that you feel as well as you do. You can thank God for all the good things that have come across your path that day. If you want to get along with people, remember they don't need another down frown. What they appreciate is someone who is looking on the bright side. Many people don't realize how negative they come across.

Actually, as born-again Christians, we have much to be happy about, because in the final analysis we are on the winning side. We might have temporary losses here on earth, and we may be disappointed in some people or situations. But finally we are going to be in the presence of God for eternity. Earth is just a passing-through place. So we can be happy every day about this. "Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9).

As you think about how you are coming across to other people, ask yourself, "Am I positive? What do people think when they see me coming?" You can do something about your attitudes by being aware of them, and then making a definite effort each day to look at the positive side of life.

Clueing Them In

Another secret of getting along with people is to let them in on things. People like to be included in plans that affect them. Sometimes a person appears to have a negative or uncooperative attitude when actually he just doesn't know what's going on. We tend to reject the things we don't understand. We're usually down on what we're not up on.

For a number of years I served as a psychologist with the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools. My job was to travel to various school districts to help administrators, teachers, and students. I noticed that the better teachers would, toward the end of the week, outline to the boys and girls what they would be covering the next week. The children were in on the plans; and when "next week" arrived, they felt the ideas were theirs! By including them in the plans, the teacher got their cooperation.

If you want to relate well to people, remember that they appreciate being brought in on what you have in mind when it concerns them. This is true even though the person's part in developing the plans may be minor.

Enough, But Not Too Much

There's a fine line between mothering and smothering. We see this in the child whose mother does everything for him, like tying his shoelaces when he is old enough to tie them himself. No wonder kindergarten teachers sometimes complain about their workload!

If you are an energetic person who is outgoing, organized, and talented, you may have a tendency to "take over." You may "help" people too much.

We should be on the lookout for ways to help people. However, they often need our "sweat" or our assistance rather than our "taking over" and doing it ourselves. People want your help but they don't want too much of it. They feel better about themselves when they are doing and creating. They will like you for helping them without taking away their dignity. Isn't this worth thinking about if you really want to get along with people?

It Pays To Be Honest

On the surface, it may appear we don't need to emphasize the value of honesty to a Christian. But there are subtle aspects of honesty that make all the difference between clicking and not clicking with people.

Tom, for instance, has an annoying habit that is costing him friends. It's nothing sinful, but people tire of him after awhile because of it. He says he just "tells it like it is." Perhaps so. But he doesn't choose the best times to do it. You can be honest, yet unwise.

People seem to sense whether you're being honest. And they appreciate your forthrightness. When I was a child I heard my uncle whom I admired so much, give an illustration when he was speaking to a group of children.

"Always be honest in your dealings with people," he said. Then he demonstrated with two empty drinking glasses. He took a little mallet and struck one glass on its side. It made a dull, clunking sound because the glass had a crack in it. Then he took the other glass and tapped it. What a nice, clear ring it gave. "The problem with the first glass," he said, "is that it has a crack in its character. But the other has a beautiful, honest ring. Always try to be like the clear ringing glass!"

In summary, getting along with people boils down pretty much to these areas we have discussed.

If you are not relating well to other people, as well as you would like you can change. It has to start in your head and your heart!

One of the best places to begin is usually with our thoughts and feelings about yourself. It is difficult to like and be liked by others if you dislike yourself.

Try to understand how the other person feels, taking into consideration the physical, spiritual, and emotional causes of his behavior.

Perhaps you can begin to compliment and encourage people more.

A good listener is always in demand. Should you be lending your ears and encouraging people to talk more?

What can you do each day to become a more optimistic person?

People appreciate you more if you let them in on plans that affect them.

Have you been smothering people rather than assisting them? They do want your help, but they don't want too much because it robs them of their own contribution.

Since accepting people as they are is such a major factor in getting along with them, you may want to accept people more for what they are rather than for what they're not, or what you'd like them to be.

Keep an eye on your H.Q. (Honesty Quotient.) It pays.

Remember, the right key will always unlock the door. This is true in getting along with people. And most of us can use better keys for relating well to them.

Dr. Clyde M. Narramore is the Founder of the Narramore Christian Foundation, was President for half-a-century, and is a well-known radio and conference speaker, and author.

2003 Narramore Christian Foundation. Used by permission.