Master Interpersonal Skills with One Sentence

“When we meet someone who’s humble, we’re attracted to them. When we meet someone who’s arrogant, we’re repulsed.” -Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church

Interpersonal relations in a nutshell.

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Think of someone you really dislike.

Maybe it’s someone you’re forced to be around, say, in a work situation. Maybe it’s a family member who always rubs you the wrong way. Or perhaps it’s a customer that you absolutely cannot please, no matter how much effort you invest. Now, ask yourself, why is it that you don’t like them?

In my case, I work in proximity with an individual who, among many idiosyncrasies, only engages in conversation to disagree. This person never agrees, never aims for concensus, and never has neutral conversations. The result? Whenever they jump into the discussion, everyone else is looking for the fastest, most painless exit possible. How does that relate to the One Sentence to Rule them All? They never receive information, presumably because their opinion is always superior and the inputs of others are inferior and worthless. Even if that’s not the true thought process behind it, it’s certainly the way it appears in context.

How about the person you thought of that you have a hard time getting along with? Is it because┬áhis issues always trump the conversation? Is it because her opinion is always loudest and least relevant? Is it because he refuses to be part of a conversation and would rather give you a lecture? Whatever the specifics, does it lead back to a lack of humility? A lack of interest in the needs, desires, and lives of others? Does it stem from a sense that they think they’re better? Smarter? More interesting?

Now, flip the tables. Think of somebody you do like. What makes those interactions positive?

There are probably a few characteristics, no matter who you’re thinking of and no matter what context that relationship is in. There’s a reasonably even amount of give and take from both parties. She listens when you present your points and isn’t just waiting for her turn to talk. He presents his side as if it’s valid, but not the ultimate,┬ásole truth that only a fool wouldn’t believe. Her responses to comments and questions are focused on what you said, not her counter-scenario.

Nearly every bit of relational advice points back to this one idea.

  • In See You at the Top, Zig Ziglar says you can get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
  • In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie presents dozens of time-tested principles for becoming skilled socially. Among them: become genuinely interested in other people; be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves; talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • James 3:13 says to show your wisdom by acting in humility.

You could fill the page with examples from different authors, different works, different philosophies, different historical periods, and they would all sing the same song. Likeable people are humble, interested in others. Difficult people act and speak solely in self-interest. Consider this excerpt from Dale Carnegie:

If you want to how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don’t wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence.

Do you know people like that? I do, unfortunately; and the astonishing part of it is that some of them are prominent.

Bores, that is all they are – bores intoxicated with their own egos, drunk with a sense of their own importance.

…if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.

Remind you of anyone you know? Probably so. But more importantly, is it something that could be said of you? We’re all about honest introspection around here.

There are several practical ways to identify if you’re guilty of excessive self-interest and start to master interpersonal skills today:

  • Count the number of questions you ask versus the number of statements you make
  • Become aware of how many times you say “I” or “my” versus how often you use “you”
  • Focus on withholding negativity and speaking positively

You just might find the world to be a brighter place when you acknowledge the other people in it!