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!