Salespeople are taught that in order to make a sale, you must first develop a trusting relationship with the customer. Such is true in all areas of life: Relationships are key. As the saying goes, "People BEFORE Process". Relationships must always come first and be the highest priority, both personally and professionally. You can't influence someone if they don't like or trust you.
In John Maxwell's book, "Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships," Maxwell discusses the importance of identifying what we find attractive in others' personalities and then implementing some of those aspects into our own interactions with others. It is equally important to identify unattractive traits and avoid implementing those. For example, no one really likes "Negative Nancy," so we wouldn't want to behave as she does. Most people do, however, like being greeted with a warm handshake and a smile so implementing those traits into our own interactions would be beneficial to our relationships with others. His advice is especially true in a customer service, business, or work setting, but it's definitely applicable in our personal relationships as well.
Maxwell lists a few questions to get us thinking about our own relationships with others and how we can improve them:
1. Are we quick to respond to others' needs?
2. Do we run from problems or face them?
3. Do we talk more about bad news or good news?
4. Do we give people the benefit of the doubt, or do we assume the worst?
Some people are super difficult to deal with, aren't they? Certain people are miserable, often negative, disagreeable, or argumentative. Some are bossy. Others are know-it-alls. What I'm learning is if I don't like those traits in others, chances are others will not like them in me. Conversely, I love people who are friendly, who use direct eye contact, and who remember my name. Those people make me feel like I'm important to them. Those are traits I'd like to model in my own behavior. Maxwell's list of questions is a great start and gave me a lot to reflect on.
He goes on to describe the Golden Rule and how vital it is to relationships. He says,"What's the key to relating to others? It's putting yourself in someone else's place instead of putting them in their place." It's treating others the way you'd like to be treated. Sometimes it means being friendly even when the other person is cranky. Sometimes it means smiling warmly and striking up a conversation with the person in the room who seems tentative or uncomfortable.
Sometimes it means genuinely listening to someone's story when you'd rather do something else. Sometimes it means stifling the urge to share the horrible thing your boss did at work earlier that day. Sometimes it means forgiving someone for something even if they won't admit wrongdoing. The Golden Rule can be difficult, but it is absolutely essential to developing great relationships and becoming a person that others want to be around.
It is difficult--if not impossible--to accomplish anything of significance if no wants to be around you. It would be impossible for others to see the love of the Lord through you if they are sprinting in the opposite direction.
The good news is that the Lord has granted each of us attractive traits that we can utilize in order to build better relationships. He has also granted us the ability to change and refine those traits that are still a little rough around the edges. I find prayer to be especially useful when one of those traits is detected, as well as reading good books on the subject (and then implementing the advice!).
And don't forget the all-important Golden Rule. It's found in Matthew 7:12:
"Therefore whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them."
People matter. Do your best to love them.