21 principles on how to build relationships.

Have you ever wondered why some people just struggle through life?  It just seems like no matter where they are, there is drama, confusion, and excuses as to why nothing works out.  Yet, other people seem to walk through life and there is a sense of calm.  They can appreciate others, and things just get done.  Why the difference?  Think of Jesus’ teaching.  The beginning of surrendering your relationships is thinking of others.  The one who has constant drama, many times, struggles to think about others.  They are selfish and can’t get out of their own world.  The one who has a sense of calm, many times, is good at thinking about how others are feeling.

Stanley Allyn quote: The most useful person in the world today is the man or woman who knows how to get along with other people.  Human relations is the most important science in living.

The Bible says it better in James 3:17-18:

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.  You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.  MSG

Just a couple general points here about relationships. First, getting along with others is an indicator of a spiritually healthy heart.  So look at all your relationships today and in the past.  What do you see?  Are most of them healthy?  Are they on good terms?  Is there drama and wounds?  In our past, is there a long list of busted relationships?  All of this is an indicator of what is in your heart.

Secondly, getting along with others is for everyone.  It may look differently based on your personality, but healthy relationships are for everyone.  You can’t hide behind labels like introvert or extrovert.

Lastly, if getting along with others is hard for you, chances are, you struggle to see things from other’s point of view.

Let’s jump into it.  Source: ‘Winning with People’ by John Maxwell.

Today we walk through 5 principles to see if we are ready to be in a healthy relationship.  This is important because to be in a healthy relationship starts with us being healthy.

Am I ready to be in a relationship #1: The Len’s Principle.

Who we are determines how we see others.  Let’s explain this with a story.  There was a man who was moving to another city.  He packed and started his journey over the mountain to the next city.  As he crossed the mountain, he came to the home of a man who was relaxing from his work.

He asked the man, “In this next city, what are the people like?” The older man thought for a second and responded.  “Sir, in the city you just left, what were the people like there?”  That traveler said, “They were awful.  Jealous, gossipy.  I couldn’t wait to leave.”  The older man said, “I’m sorry to hear that, the people in the city where you are going, they are the same.”

Not more than an hour later, another traveler was going to the same city.  He too walked by the old man.  He too asked the man, ““In this next city, what are the people like?” The old man responded, “Sir, in the city you just left, what were the people like?”  That traveler said, “They were wonderful.  Loving and kind.  It broke my heart that I needed to leave.”  The older man said, “That is great to hear, the people in the city where you are going, they are the same.”

In general, how you view people may be an indicator of who you are.  You should ask yourself, in general, how do I view people?

Am I ready to be in a relationship #2: The Mirror Principle.

The first person we must examine is ourselves.  When you struggle to be in a relationship or when relationships go bad, who do you blame?  Before we blame others, the Mirror Principle would encourage us to look at ourselves first.

Most relationship problems come from our blind spots.  That means there are areas in our lives that are not pleasant, and we don’t see them.  Everyone around us sees them and experiences them but we struggle to see them.

For example: A person who is insecure can come across as controlling.  The people in their lives see it and experience the pain of that controlling person.  However, the insecure person doesn’t see it.  When confronted, they claim they are loving and want the best for others.  What happens?  People quietly withdraw from that relationship.  Sadly, the insecure person struggles to understand why people withdraw.  They end up blaming everyone around them.  They look for a new spouse, a new church, a new workplace, etc.

Who do you blame when relationships go bad?  In general, if you conclude it’s everyone else’s fault all the time, you may have a blind spot.

Am I ready to be in a relationship #3: The Pain Principle.

Hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt.  And Sam would add, healed people help heal people and are not hurt easily.

In general, a hurting person’s response to life is always larger than the real issue.  They tend to over-react, over-exaggerate, over-protect, over-influence which results in drama.  Why?  Drama gets the reaction they want.  Drama is not a foundation to healthy relationships.  This drama will damage relationships over time.

Ask yourself: Do I hurt people and/or am I easily hurt?

Am I ready to be in a relationship #4: The Hammer Principle.

Never use a hammer to swat a fly off someone’s head.

Do you know people like this?  In discussions, they don’t play by the rules.  You want to talk calmly, they respond with a bomb.  In arguments, they don’t play by the rules.  You want to talk about what happened today, and with passion and anger, they sandbag you with everything you’ve done wrong over 5 years.

What happens?  People who live with someone holding the hammer are scared and cringe around them.  They are so rough in their responses, their spouses and friends avoid talking to them.

We would also need to include the over-reaction of the emotion of woundedness or crying.  When responding with too much emotion all the time, it takes a lot of energy away from people and the tend to stay away.

Here is a good question to process this.  Do people, in general, come up to you to talk or do they stay away.  Chances are, you might be holding the hammer.

Am I ready to be in a relationship #5: The Elevator Principle.

We can lift people up or take them down in our relationship.

4 kinds of people in your life.  Adders: their desire is to help others, make life more pleasant and enjoyable.  Subtracters: it feels like they take energy from you with their negativity and sarcasm. Multiplyers: they help you think new things, they give energy and force you to grow.  Dividers: they drain you with complaints and gossip about other people.

Think about this.  When someone enters a relationship with you, it’s like they are entering an elevator.  Where do you take them?  What would those closest to you say?  Do you take them up or drag them down?  If this is true, how are you as a leader?  How do you follow?  Do you take the team around you up or do you drag them down?

To conclude today.  Are you ready to be in a healthy relationship?  Maybe not.  Maybe there is some heart work to do.  Ask those around you, they know.

The Len’s Principle.  Who we are determines how we see others.  The Mirror Principle.  The first person we must examine is ourselves.  The Pain Principle.  Hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt.  The Hammer Principle.  Never use a hammer to swat a fly off someone’s head. The Elevator Principle.  We can lift people up or take them down in our relationship.

Next we ask, am I ready to connect with others?  Do you ever wonder how you can meaningfully connect with others?  Your spouse, your boss, your friends.  The ability to connect is not automatic.  Today we ask about the Connection Question: Am I ready to focus on other people?  To increase your ability to connect with others, you must stop thinking about yourself so much and begin focusing on others.  The implication.  If thinking about others is a struggle for you, relationships are probably a struggle for you.

Listen to how the Bible put it in Romans 15:1-3.

Strength is for service, not status.  Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”  That’s exactly what Jesus did.  He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.  MSG

Am I ready to connect with others Principle #1: The Big Picture Principle.

The entire population of the world, with one minor exception, is composed of others. To some people, this is a complete shock.  People who are self-centered and self-focused miss this great big reality.  Because they miss this, they don’t understand when you say; “Think of others.”  They still think the world revolves around them and their happiness.  And they fail at connecting with others.  That means people do things for them because they feel like they have to, not because they want to.

What does it take to snap people out of being selfish?  They are growing.  Read books, learn, they listen to others, travel to another county.  They serve others at New Hope, homeless in Harrisburg or church.  They find themselves with responsibility at work, in marriage, or a baby.  Trauma like divorce makes you softer to those who are walking through divorce.  When you walk through a funeral, you are more aware about the emotions of those walking through the passing of someone.  In general: to snap out of selfish mode requires us snapping out of the ruts and routines of life.

Am I ready to connect with others Principle #2: The Exchange Principle.

Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place.  We just expect more from others than we do ourselves – don’t we.  How do we see ourselves?  Through the lens of our good intentions.  How do we see others?  Through the lens of their actions.

Example at work.  If you are late to work, you had a good reason – right?  If someone else is late to work, we must hold them accountable because of their actions – right?

Example in marriage.  If you didn’t follow through with a promise, you had a good reason – right?  If your spouse doesn’t follow through with a promise – we have to remind them of how they came up short because of their actions – right?

How do you know you are focusing on others and seeing things from their perspective?  It’s about listening and being open to learning their point of view.  If you are willing to listen and understand, you are looking for how you are similar.  However, if you refuse to listen and learn, you will stay focused on the differences and you will go no-where in the relationship.

This is the primary reason you may fight with your parents, teenager or spouse.  Your struggle to connect might be because you won’t listen.

Am I ready to connect with others Principle #3: The Learning Principle.

Each person we meet has the potential to teach us something.  Why do people struggle with focusing on others and treating others like they can teach us something?  Reason 1: Pride.  We think we are amazing.  We think, I am right and I really can’t learn anything from you.  So why listen to you and what you think?  Does that sound like you?  Your spouse?  Teenager?  People at work?

Reason 2: Bad Attitude.  I want to be safe and keep things the way they are so I don’t want to grow and change even if it would help me.  Does this sound like that person who loops in the same problem but will never change to get out of it?

Am I ready to connect with others Principle #4: The Charisma Principle.

People are interested in people who are interested in them.

Dale Carnegie quote. You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.

Being a charismatic person has nothing to do with personality.  The person without Charisma walks into a room and says, “Here I am, what can you do for me?  Fix my problems.”  The person with Charisma walks into a room and says, “There you are, what can I do for you?”

Question for you:  Are you becoming interested in others or are you trying to get others interested in you?  If you find that you are doing most of the talking, you probably are struggling at connecting with others.

Am I ready to connect with others Principle #5: The Number 10 Principle.

Believing the best in people, brings out the best in people.  The reality of life is that people will hurt you and disappoint you.  So, what should you do?  You believe in them anyway.  Why?  Because, that’s what you want, isn’t?

I must be honest with you and tell you, this has probably been one of the most hurtful things I have experienced in leadership.  Constantly believing in people, encouraging people, communicating with people and building them up.  And many times, people don’t believe in themselves and they don’t come through.  The reality is, we continue to believe in people because when they are ready, it is the one thing that will help them believe in themselves.

Am I ready to connect with others Principle #6: The Confrontation Principle. 

Conflict is an integral part of relationships.  The worst thing to do is avoid conflict and hope it goes away.  The best thing to do will demand the most from you.  Be honest and have the conversation.  If this is hard for you, maybe the best way to deal with conflict is replace the word ‘conflict’ with ‘clarity’.  Yes, this sounds like a ‘How to be Positive’ seminar.  However, most of the time we see conflict and pain but when you deal with the conflict, it’s not as bad as we thought.  We tend to make things worse than they really are.  Enter the conversation in hopes to bring clarity instead of an emotional confrontation.

Are you ready to connect with others?  Maybe not.  Maybe there is some heart work to do.  Ask those around you, they know.

Next we talk about how you build trust.  Can I build trust?  Are others able to trust me?

Proverbs 25:13 says:

Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat – refreshing.  MSG

The question is, how can we be that for others?

Becoming a trustworthy person begins with principle #1 about Trust: Trust is the foundation, the bedrock, of any relationship.

Please understand, trust isn’t something you create, it’s earned over time.  How?  Trust is about risk.  Every time someone trusts you, they are taking a risk.  What do they risk?  They risk you letting them down.  Every time people trust us, and we don’t let them down, a relationship of trust grows.

In your marriage, family, work, church, community, are you building trust?  Are you coming through for people or do you have excuses as to why you can’t come through on your commitments?

Just a couple quick tips about trust.  If you have a friend and you think you can trust them, please remember, what a person will do with you, they will do to you.  If they are willing to gossip with you, you may feel close to them but remember, they will probably be willing to gossip about you.  If they steal or cheat with you, they will steal and cheat from you.

Are you trustworthy?

Principle #2 about Trust: The Situation Principle.

Never let the situation mean more than the relationship.  This is when a person puts a situation of life ahead of the relationship.  Example, in sports, the Williams sisters [Venus and Serena] who play tennis, never allowed their competition destroy their relationship as sisters.

Here is the big question you should ask yourself: when rough times hit, what is more important to me?  Winning the situation or keeping the relationship.  Any time someone is willing to sacrifice the relationship over a situation, they have lost perspective.  When do you see this?  In a stressed marriage or stressed business situation, etc.

Here are 3 questions to help you know about yourself or others if you are making situations life or death.  How often are you tense or upset?  How often do you raise your voice when talking to others?  How often do you battle for your personal rights and what is fair?  Basically, it’s about managing your emotions and if you have to be right and win.

Remember, trust in you is about others taking a risk in you.  When you allow the situation to be greater than the relationship, you are breaking that trust.  You are telling others, I need to win more than keep this relationship.  When that happens, your relationships may become volatile, deceitful, selfish, draining, insecure, manipulating, conditional, etc.

Principle #3 about Trust: The Bob Principle.

When Bob has a problem with everyone, Bob is usually the problem.  Here is how this looks.  If Bob has a problem with Fred and Bob has a problem with Sue and Bob has a problem with Bill, guess what, Bob is probably the problem.

Let’s talk about Bob/ Bobbie and what he/she tends to do.  Bob likes to find problems and share them with everyone around him.  Bob likes to create problems and likes to involve everyone around him.  Bob tends to carry problems with him, and he makes sure it affects everyone around him.  Bob usually takes on everyone else’s problems and encourages them to dump more on him.

Why is the Bob or Bobbie principle a problem?  They break trust. You can’t trust this person.

So how do you know if you are a Bob or Bobbie?  Do you experience some kind of conflict almost every day?  Do you experience similar conflict in several different relationships?  Are you easily offended?  Do bad things just naturally happen to you?  Do you like it when people share negative things with you so you can share them with others?

What do you do?  Ask yourself – Am I Bob or Bobbie?  All the problems you find, or you have, or others tell you about; write them out in a prayer journal and throw the journal away and never revisit them.

Principle #4 about Trust: The Approachability Principle.

Being at ease with ourselves helps others be at ease with us.  Being approachable has nothing to do with being bold or being timid, it’s about how you conduct yourself.  When you are secure with yourself, it shows.  You don’t over-react.  You can be real and honest with no hidden agendas.  You aren’t prideful which means you don’t feel like you always have to win or one up someone or have the last word.

What would others say about you?  Are you approachable about difficult issues?  Are you so reactionary with anger or emotion that people are afraid to talk with you?

If you are approachable – you build trust.

Principle #5 about Trust: The Foxhole Principle.

When preparing for battle, dig a hole big enough for a friend.  Here is why.  Life is hard.  You need that encouragement and support from others.  Question is this, are you that friend for others?

The California Department of Mental Health discovered the following.  If you isolate yourself from others you are 2 to 3 times more likely to die an early death.  If you isolate yourself from others, you are more likely to contract terminal cancer.  If you are divorced, separated or widowed, you have a 5 to 10 times greater chance to be hospitalized for mental health disorders.  If you are a pregnant woman without good personal relationships, your chances of having complications is 3 times as great as others.  You need friends.  Others need you.  As you go through life, dig a fox hole for yourself big enough for 2.

Do you feel lonely?  Do you feel like you have no good friends?  Who do you blame for not having good friends?  Your work, your church, your spouse?  It’s time to pray and ask God for friends.  Engage people.  Talk to them.  Take them out for coffee.  Volunteer with them.  And with no expectations from them, be a great friend to them.

Are you building trust with others?  Maybe not.  Maybe there is some heart work to do.  Ask those around you, they know.

Next we talk about how you invest into the lives of others.  When I say that, does that make you want to turn this off or does it kinda excite you to want to learn more about it?  I think many people feel so worn down, we are trying to survive.  To hear about purposely investing into others can almost feel like, whatever.

Investing into others is what Jesus did with the disciples.  It’s what every son or daughter wants from their dad.  It’s what many people want at work.  It’s what many kids want from teachers and coaches.  It’s what we want from our leaders.  The problem is people want others to invest into them but don’t feel like they have the energy to invest into others.

Seneca Quote: No man can live happily who regards himself alone; who turns everything to his own advantage.  You must live for others if you wish to live for yourself.

The Bible says it better.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life… put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. MSG Philippians 2:1-4

Investment Principle #1: The Garden Principle.

All relationships need cultivation.  In other words, you can’t ignore relationships and expect them to grow.  Every relationship is like a garden.  You have to spend time planting, watering and pulling weeds.  Ignore the garden and it will ignore you.  Ignore the relationship and it will ignore you.

The great struggle is that you can’t effectively have more than three to five deeper relationships.  If you are in a family with kids, it makes it even harder.  It takes time and energy to grow a real relationship.

Investment Principle #2: 101 Principle. 

Find the 1% we agree on and give it 100% of our effort.  What do we naturally do in relationships?  We see the differences, we focus on those differences, and complain about the differences.  So instead becoming a person who invests in relationships, we can tear our relationship a part.

Why do we naturally focus on differences?  We compete with others.  We see others and they compare themselves and think they need to win.  We are always looking for an edge.  We have pride.  We see others and we need to stand out, be better, win.  We have low self-esteem.  Others make us feel threatened.  When we walk in competition, pride or low self-esteem, it’s hard to see what we have in common.

In your relationships, let me ask you, do you look for common ground or do you look for differences?  Give up competing, give up pride, give up low self-esteem and look for the common ground.

Investment Principle #3: Patience Principle.

Doing life with others is slower than doing life all alone.  I promise you something, if you live by yourself, if you have a one-person company, if you are single, you will go so much faster.  There is a second promise, if you do life with others, if you have more than you in your company, if you have a larger family, you will move so much slower.

This is hard for people to understand.  If you are task oriented, people, relationships, emotions get in your way to accomplishment.  Our tendency is to ignore this and jump into accomplishment mode and say, “Look what I did.”  What people fail to see at home and in business, is that people, relationships, emotions are powerful.  The person, the leader, the parent who takes the time to invest in others, I promise you something, you go slower at first, but you will go further and the journey will be more meaningful.

Secret to the patience principle?  You have to be flexible.  People are a package deal – they come with good and bad.  If you want to invest into their lives, you have to be flexible.  If you are rigid, it may be easy for you to cut people, relationships, emotions out and you would be missing the best part.

Investment Principle #4: Celebration Principle.

True test.  How happy are you when others succeed?  Average people do not want others to go beyond average.  Do you know about crabs in a bucket?  You never need a lid.   People who go to bay and gather crabs just put them in a bucket and never have to worry about a lid.  What happens is amazing.  As soon as one crab reaches for the edge and tries to escape, the other crabs grab it and pulls it back.

The challenge for you is this, do I enjoy and celebrate the success of those around me or do I get jealous and petty?  If you want to invest into others, you need to celebrate their successes.

Investment Principle #5: High Road Principle.

We invest in others when we treat others better than they treat us.  Let me ask you: has anyone hurt you or disappointed you?  What did you do?

Let’s look at what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 5:43-48

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’  I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves… In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” MSG

You can take the low road: treat others worse than they treated us.  It just damages the relationship and alienates people from us.  You can take the middle road: treat others the same as they treated us, tit for tat.  When we live like that, we become reactive.  The result?  Others set the agenda of our lives.  You can take the High Road.  Treat them better than they treated you.  This builds relationships and attracts people to us.  You set a positive agenda and negative petty people have a hard time undermining you.  Jesus said, to let others bring out the best in you.

Let me ask you, when you see relationships, do you purposely invest into them?  Maybe not.  Maybe there is some heart work to do.