How to Earn Trust from Those You Want to Influence

I remember holding hands with a sweaty African boy in Kenya in the summer of 1996. I had already learned during my stay that it was common for males to hold hands. This was a sign of friendship and alliance. So, when Norman reached out to hold my hand, I had to push down every cultural resistance bursting inside of me. Norman was highly respected among the other boys in the High School where I was trying to minister. We had been playing basketball, and as Normal and I waited on the sidelines to sub back in, we held hands. I hoped to get back in the game soon . . .

Let’s continue to take a look at the seventeen strategies for developing "better relationships faster" from the Business Insider article,  “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” You can read my first two posts here: Develop Better Relationships Faster and How to Be the Kind of Person Everyone Wants to Be Around.

We will continue to evaluate these strategies based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ. Here are the fifth and sixth pieces of advice from the article.

“5. Make friends with their friends.”

Here is the main idea: “Two people are likely to be closer when they have a common friend.” This is the power of a reference. If someone I trust trusts someone else, I am inclined to trust them as well. In his book, Making Friends for Christ, Wayne McDill  calls this “the web of relationships.” As we seek to influence others Christ, it helps for us to be aware of this natural dynamic. The people we already know, and their friends, are our mission field.

McDill writes, “Each of us lives in a ‘world’ unique to himself. No one else, not even your closest relative, knows the same combination of people. This special set of acquaintances is your world, your own everyday mission field. No one can influence this group of people as you can.”

So, I would suggest reversing the strategy from the article. Instead of trying to get to know the friends of a person we are trying to influence, it is more natural to make new connections with the friends of people who already trust us. These are paths of trust. New friends we make through our trusted friends provide us a beginning level of trust.

“6. Don’t be complimentary all the time.”

Here is the main idea: “Your positive comments will make more of an impact if you deliver them only occasionally.” A study is cited in the article which concludes that people like it better when others noted their negative qualities as well as their positive qualities.

This makes sense because we know that no one is perfect. If someone only states positive things about us, we conclude that they are not being totally honest or genuine. In my experience, the number one quality people want in a friend is honesty.

I remember talking with a few people at a wedding after I had enjoyed some cake. After several conversations, a good friend of mine approached and almost immediately informed me that I had icing on my face. All those people from the previous conversations just left me with cake on my face! It is not difficult to figure out who I counted as a true friend.

The Bible expresses this principle in Proverbs 27:5-6:

 "Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
 profuse are the kisses of an enemy."

If you want to earn someone’s trust, be honest with them. Real friends don’t flatter. Give them realistic feedback that helps them grow. They will count you as a trustworthy friend.

How to Be the Kind of Person Everyone Wants to Be Around

When I was in college, we used to have “laugh-fests.” It all started at a large gathering when my roommate Jarrod and I decided to do an experiment. We began to laugh together. We were not really laughing at anything, except each other laughing. It was contagious. People started to gather around and laughed at us laughing.

People love to laugh. They like to hear people laughing and be around happiness. This is just one quality of the kind person that everyone wants to be around.

I already posted my first installment discussing the article from Business Insider,  “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” Let’s continue to take a look at these seventeen strategies for developing "better relationships faster." Let’s evaluate them based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ. Here is the second piece of advice from the article.

“2. Spend more time around them.”

This just seems obvious. If we want to build better relationships with others, then we will spend more time with them. This is easier said than done for Christians who spend almost all their time with their Christian friends. This is one of the greatest hindrances to the church’s influence in the world: staying in our closed Christian culture. Jesus addressed this very issue:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket,
but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

If we want to influence others (salt and light), then we are going to be where there is need of flavor and illumination. We cannot hide under our Christian culture basket. How are you intentionally developing friendships with people who need Christ?

“3. Compliment other people.”

Here is the basic idea: "People will associate the adjectives you use to describe other people with your personality."

I think there is a deeper truth here. The ways we compliment others say something about us. It tells others what qualities we value. If others value the same positive qualities, then a shared value system is developed, which is important for strong relationships.

Paul often spoke positively about others, in a way that he hoped would establish a shared value system and stronger relationships. When he wrote to the Philippians, he complimented Epaphroditus, the messenger the Philippians had sent to him. Paul described Epaphroditus as “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier,” who “nearly died for the work of Christ” (Phil 2:25, 30).

“4. Be in a great mood.”

Just as people love to laugh, they love to be around smiles and happiness. People like to be around positive, fun people.

Fortunately for Christians, we have a reason to have joy and hope! Jesus said,

“These things I have spoken to you
that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:11 ESV)

Peter expected others to notice the hope shining through the lives of believers, so he encouraged them to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)

How is your joy and hope affecting the people around you?

Book Review of 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

My daughter insisted that I read 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. A friend of mine, who knew that I enjoyed fantasy fiction, recommended it to me years ago. So, I finally got around to it and just finished devouring this story. I enjoyed it very much. This book belongs in the “children entering other worlds through secret doors” genre. With children as the main characters, it naturally appeals to young readers.

I give this book three stars, which is a pretty strong rating in my view. It is worth reading, especially if you enjoy fantasy fiction. Here are the positives:

  • Wilson delivers an intriguing plot and creative twist on engagement with other worlds or dimensions.

  • The “real-life” part of the book was grounded and realistic, which made the story more believable.

  • The reader meets an interesting and somewhat developed set of characters.

  • The story unfolds slowly and carefully, but not too slowly. Mystery is presented in helpful doses.

  • There is a clear presentation, and even the scent and feeling, of good and evil.

I give it three stars mainly because it is sometimes choppy and lacks depth. The story could have touched a deeper place in the reader if we had more glimpses into the  thoughts and feelings of the characters. The story mainly stayed on the surface, like watching a TV show. Wilson did not take full advantage of the opportunity that literature provides to take things deeper.

Despite all this, if I were rating this book from a young reader viewpoint, I would be tempted to give it four stars. And since it may appeal to young readers, parents should be aware that the book includes genuinely creepy characters and violence. It is probably appropriate for ages 12-13 and up, depending on the maturity of your child. 

It is important to point out that this is the first book in a trilogy. 100 Cupboards leaves the impression it was primarily a set up for the real story. We get peeks into other worlds and brief encounters with mysterious and powerful characters. We get snippets of a long history and ancestry that hint of epic developments in subsequent books (which I have not yet read). I assume we will get a more developed moral and metaphysical worldview as the story continues. I look forward to reading it!

Magic Alert: There is magic in this book, including what appears to be "good magic." If you do not believe such stories are edifying, then this book is not for you.

Have you read this book? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!


Do You Know Where You Are Leading Your Family?

When Sarai suggested that Abram marry her servant so he could have a son, Abram blew it. We can learn from Abram how NOT to be a leader.

This is a recording of a teaching from Genesis 16. We can trust God by leading with godly conviction and love. 

  1. Submit to God’s mission for you and your family.
  2. Take responsibility to lead your family.

Develop Better Relationships Faster

I have been re-reading Dr. Wayne McDill’s book, Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism. In another post, I mentioned the chapter about the simple and powerful act of listening to others. With the idea of making friends for Christ on my mind, I ran across this article from Business Insider called “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” The author provides seventeen “science backed” strategies for developing better relationships faster, based on “psychological research.”

Christians often shy away from such strategies. They somehow seem sneaky and manipulative to us. We usually associate such strategies with irritating salesmen or those trying to get something from us. Dr. McDill addresses this concern.

‘Well,’ you ask, ‘aren’t we cultivating friendships for a hidden reason? Aren’t we really aiming to influence these friends for Christ? If that’s our motive, how are we any different from that saleman?’ That’s a good question. But there are differences. For one thing, you seek nothing for yourself from the relationship—no sales, no commission, no bonus. You are cultivating the friendship, not for yourself, but for the eternal benefit of your friend. The friendship is not, in that sense, merely a means to an end. The relationship itself is filled with meaning. . . .

We have already discussed the miracle key to your influence in your friend’s life—your sincere interest in his personal concerns. We said that one way to show that interest is to listen sincerely to the personal concerns of your unbelieving friend. But let me stress this: listening is not just a gimmick to make the person think you care about him. You must really care.
— Wayne McDill, Making Friends for Christ, 84, 97

Let’s take a look at these seventeen strategies for developing better relationships faster. Let’s evaluate them based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ.

The first strategy for developing better relationships faster is to copy them.

This strategy strikes me as inauthentic, especially if someone were trying to do it on purpose. However, I have noticed that I have a natural tendency to act and talk like the people I am with.

I live out in the country in the NC mountains. I don’t talk like my neighbors, since I have a non-accent left over from growing up in Oregon. But when I am visiting with them, I find myself drawing out my words and adding in mountain inflections by the end of the conversation. I also match the speaking pace of the person I am talking with. When my kids are with me, they grin and giggle at my change in speech.

Simply mimicking other people to get them to like you is superficial. But there is a true principle in meeting people where they are, acting in such a way that allows them to hear you better. Paul explains his own strategy:

For though I am free from all,
I have made myself a servant to all,
that I might win more of them.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.
To those under the law I became as one under the law
(though not being myself under the law)
that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law
(not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ)
that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

(1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)

Next time we will discuss other strategies like “Spend more time around them” and “Compliment other people.”

Do you adjust your communication style to the person with whom you are talking? In what ways do you think it is appropriate to become like those you are trying to reach? Please leave your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you!

Which God Is the Real One?

As I wrote before, if our universe came into existence by chance, then we have no purpose in life (except for whatever we make up ourselves). However, I believe the most logical conclusion we can make, based on our observation of the universe, is that a powerful, intelligent being created everything. If so, then the creator determines our purpose. 

But how do we know who this creator is?

God has not only revealed himself in creation, he has revealed himself through the Bible. The Bible is God’s book to us. 

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable
for teaching, for reproof, for correction,
and for training in righteousness, 
that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16

But aren’t there other gods and bibles? How do we know the Christian Bible is the right one? The Bible is internally coherent and is confirmed by our experience in the world. A person can read the Bible and compare it with other Scriptures and decide for himself which one, if any, is from God. You should not take another person’s word for it. Read the Bible and decide for yourself.

Voddie Baucham explains why he believes the Bible is God’s Word: “I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin.”

I am suggesting that these facts are obvious: God created everything, and the Bible is his Word. So, why are there so many other religions and worldviews? Are there really logical and scientific arguments against what the Bible teaches about God? In Romans 1 Paul explains why people reject God. He says that “by their unrighteousness” they “suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18). He goes on,

“For although they knew God,
they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,
but they became futile in their thinking,
and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . .
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie
and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”

Romans 1:21, 25

Yes, there are difficult questions about God, the world, and the Bible. But there are many reasonable and satisfying answers for those with an open heart and mind. Yes, what scientists say often seems to contradict what the Bible says is true. But “scientific” conclusions have changed throughout history. Everyone has his own bias, even scientists. In addition, there are laws of nature and observations about the universe that point to the existence of God and his creation of everything.**

I know that some people are genuinely confused and want to know the truth. If they honestly seek the truth, they will find it. In the end, those who reject God do not do so based on scientific evidence or intelligent reasoning. They don’t believe in God because they don’t want to. They don’t want to believe in God because they don’t want to be accountable to him. They are not making a mental choice; they are making a moral choice.

** [Here are six scientific observations you can study more about and how they point to a Creator: 1. The order of the universe (the teleological argument); 2. The existence of DNA; 3. The impossibility of spontaneous generation; 4. The Second Law of Thermodynamics; 5. The gene pool and the limits to change; 6. Fossil gaps and intermediate forms.]

How to Find Your Purpose

One day when shopping at Trader Joe’s, I saw an employee wandering around carrying a sign, “Ask me!” So I walked up to the young man and asked him, “What is the meaning of life?” He looked at me, surprised and speechless. When I broke into a grin, he looked relieved and seemed to hope I didn’t actually expect him to answer the question. People often refer to this as the supremely difficult or unanswerable question. Is it really impossible to answer?

Like most people, you have probably asked yourself, “Why am I here?” Another way of putting it might be, “What is the purpose of my life?” Now you can make up your own answer to that question, and many people do. However, many sense that there is a greater purpose outside of themselves to discover. Who or what else might determine our purpose in life? This brings us to another question that most people ask, “Where did I come from?”

We might begin answering the question, “Where did I come from?” with “From my mother and father.” But where did they come from? Where did any of us come from? Where did the world come from? There are primarily two common answers to this question: We came from nothing (The Big Bang and Evolution) or we came from God (some intelligent, powerful being). If we came from nothing, then you get to make up your own purpose in life (because there really isn’t one). If we came from God, then we should ask God what his purpose is for us.

So, which explanation makes more sense to you? Have we come from nothing or from God? It seems obvious to me that a world full of beauty, freedom, design, love, morality, and order did not come from nothing. The other explanation is that God created everything. The Bible teaches that the existence of God is obvious to us because of creation.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them,
because God has shown it to them.
For his invisible attributes,
namely his eternal power and divine nature,
are clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.
So they are without excuse.”

Romans 1:19-20

Next time we'll ask: "How do we know who this creator God is? Aren't there other gods and bibles?"