This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John C. Maxwell’s personal growth and significance guidebook, Becoming a Person of Influence. In it, Dr. Maxwell outlines the 10 pillars of influence, including nurturing others, having faith in them, and understanding them. You can pick up a copy here.
“Few things will pay you bigger dividends than the time and trouble you take to understand people. Almost nothing will add more to your stature as an executive and a person. Nothing will give you greater satisfaction or bring you more happiness.”
In Climbing the Executive Ladder, George J. Kienzle and Edward H. Dare wrote these words to communicate a fundamental truth: people are valuable, and truly knowing them has the power to impact you, them, and many more.
Understand Others to Impact Their Lives
Knowing what people need and want is the key to understanding them. And while people are varied, complex, and nuanced, these five keys will help you better understand everyone you meet:
1. EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE SOMEBODY.
There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t have the desire to be someone, to have significance. Even the least ambitious and unassuming person wants to be regarded highly by others. Once that piece of information becomes a part of your everyday thinking, you’ll gain incredible insight into why people do the things they do. And if you treat every person you meet as if he or she were the most important person in the world, you’ll communicate that he or she is somebody – to you.
2. NOBODY CARES HOW MUCH YOU KNOW UNTIL THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE.
To be an influencer, you have to love people before you try to lead them. The moment that people know that you care for and about them, the way they feel about you changes.
Showing others that you care isn’t always easy. Your greatest times and fondest memories will come because of people, but so will your most difficult, hurting, and tragic times. People are your greatest assets and your greatest liabilities. The challenge is to keep caring about them no matter what.
The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership from Dr. Kent M. Keith show the people-focused calling on leaders. Here are just a few of them:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered – love them anyway.
The good you do will perhaps be forgotten tomorrow – do good anyway.
Give the world the best that you have, and you will get kicked in the teeth – give the world the best that you have anyway.
If better is possible, then good is not good enough.
If you want to help others and become a person of influence, keep smiling, sharing, giving, and turning the other cheek. That’s the right way to treat people. Besides, you never know which people in your sphere of influence are going to rise up and make a difference in your life and the lives of others.
3. EVERYBODY NEEDS SOMEBODY.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no such things as self-made men and women. Everybody needs friendship, encouragement, and help. What people can accomplish by themselves is almost nothing compared to their potential when working with others. And doing things with other people tends to bring contentment. King Solomon of ancient Israel stated the value of working together this way:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Everybody needs somebody to come alongside and help. If you understand that, are willing to give to others and help them, and maintain the right motives, their lives and yours can change.
4. EVERYBODY CAN BE SOMEBODY WHEN SOMEBODY UNDERSTANDS AND BELIEVES IN THEM.
John Maxwell shares this story to illustrate just how powerful a timely expression of value can be:
“For fourteen years I was privileged to pastor a very large congregation in the San Diego area where we did a wonderful Christmas program every year. We used to do 28 performances, and altogether about 30,000 people saw it each year.
“The show always included a bunch of kids, and one of my favorite parts of the show several years ago was a song in which 300 kids dressed like angels sang while holding candles. Toward the end of the song, they walked off the stage, came up the aisles, and exited out of the lobby in the front of the church.
“During the first performance, I decided to wait for them back in the lobby. They didn’t know I was going to be there, but as they went by I clapped, praised them, and told them how great they did. They were surprised to see me, and they were glad for the encouragement.
“For the second performance, I did the same thing again. And I could see as they started to walk up the aisles, they were looking back expectantly to see if I was standing there to cheer them on. By the third performance of the night, as they turned the corner to come up the aisle, they had smiles on their faces. And when they got to the lobby, they were giving me high fives and having a great time. They knew I believed in them, and it made all of them feel that they were somebody.”
Once you understand people and believe in them, they really can become somebody. And it doesn’t take much effort to help other people feel important. Little things, done deliberately at the right time, make a big difference.
5. ANYBODY WHO HELPS SOMEBODY INFLUENCES A LOT OF BODIES.
The final thing to understand about people is that when you help one person, you’re really impacting a lot of other people. What you give to one person overflows into the lives of all the people that person impacts. The nature of influence is to multiply. It even impacts you because when you help others with good intentions, you always receive more than you can ever give. Most people are so genuinely grateful when another person makes them feel that they’re somebody special that they never tire of showing their gratitude.
Looking for more ways to better connect and communicate with others?
Leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell has been writing, speaking, and teaching internationally for more than 40 years – and for the first time ever, he has condensed his lifetime of insight into one communication facilitation handbook. Your communication skills impact your personal relationships, your professional results, and your overall influence. If you’d like to take each of these to the next level, preorder The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication today.