If you are in any type of ministry, you must become a people person.

A man came to our office the other day to try to sell us a new copy machine. He was one of those natural born extroverts. He acted as though he had known us for years and put me at ease immediately. He was relaxed, friendly, and came across as genuinely wanting to help us. He was probably born that way, but I wasn't.

I grew up an introvert. (I am surprised at the number of pastors I hear say the same thing.) I was shy and uncomfortable around people I didn't know. I wanted to be outgoing and friendly but that was not the way I was. Then something wonderful happened to me. When I was 18 years old my sweet mother paid my way to a Dale Carnegie Course and it changed my outlook on life. That has been fifty-one years ago and I still remember many of the principles I was taught and have put into practice.

Since I can't think of any deep theological problem that I need to straighten out, I thought I would share a few of the principles I learned. Maybe someone else can benefit from them.

Principle One. Become genuinely interested in other people. This is the key to every other principle. If you are going to become a people person you must get your focus off of yourself, what you have and what you have done and onto the other person. Forget about yourself. No one likes to be around a person who always has to best everyone else. Whatever you have, they have something better. Where ever you have been, they have been there and many other places besides. Whatever you have done they have done greater.

By nature we are all very selfish. We want to be recognized. We want the credit. We want the glory. There is a biblical principle involved here. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:4). As long as you stay focused on yourself you are not going to be a very happy person. I know it is against our nature, but become genuinely interested in others.

Principle Two. Smile. One of the easiest ways to disarm people is with a smile. A smile breaks the tension. I have my picture on my charge card. A while back a clerk looked at the picture and said, "You look mean in this picture." We both laughed and I made some sort of cute comment. But, what was the reason I looked mean? The answer is simple, I wasn't smiling. A smile costs you nothing and is one of the most contagious things you can do. When someone smiles at you, you are almost compelled to smile back. Always remember to smile when you meet people.

Principle Three. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. I have a problem remembering people's names. I have to really pay attention to a person's name to remember it. I often hear a person's name without really hearing it. To remember a name you must first hear it. Then after I hear a name, one of the easiest way I have found is to associate it with someone I know by the same name or associate the name with something really ridiculous. For example: If a man's name is Bill, see him wearing a cap with a bill that is three feet long. The next time you see him you will remember his name because you will remember him wearing the cap with the long bill. Then you can call him by name. People love to hear their own name.

Principle Four. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. If you want to be known as a great conversationalist, shut up. Another biblical principle: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19). Learn to listen. As much as you are tempted, don't talk about yourself. To get others to talk about themselves, ask questions. I have done this for so long it is second nature with me. I love it. I truly enjoy asking questions and listening to people�s answers. One of my favorite questions is, "How did you happen to get into this line of work?"

Years ago I learned a little acronym, FORM, that helped me. (I think I picked it up out of a book by a preacher named Lovett.) F stands for family; 0 stands for occupation; R stands for religion; and M stands for message. You first ask questions about family: "Where do you live." "How many children do you have?" You could ask a hundred questions about family. Next, you ask questions about their occupation. "Where do you work?" "How long have you been in this business?" Again, hundreds of questions could be asked. Then you ask questions about their religion. "What kind of church do you attend?" is usually my stock question. Then I get into my message and find out if they are saved or not. Pretty simple, isn't it? It will work every time.

Principle Five. Talk in terms of the other person's interests. It won't take you long to find out what a person is interested in. How do you know their interests? Because people talk about what they love. It may be church or singing or hunting or fishing or golf or who knows what. When you find out where their interests lie, talk in that area, not in the area you enjoy.

Principle Six. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely. From the cradle to the grave, rich or poor, from the homeless to the social register, every person on earth wants to feel important. That is a basic human need. When someone walks away from a conversation with you, you should have made them feel good about some area of their life. (I am not talking about sin. You should never make anyone feel good about sin.) There is something in everyone's life you can brag on. May I say that if you cannot become sincerely interested in other people, I doubt seriously if you will have much success in any kind of ministry for the Lord.

If you will put these six simple principles into practice, you will be able to walk into a room (or church) full of strangers and feel comfortable. You can approach anyone knowing that you are not going to embarrass yourself or the other person. It may just change your way of thinking.

These six principles were taken from Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you have never read it, you absolutely should.


by Raymond McAlister
March 2007