Do you have lots of friends? Do people like to be around you? Do you attract people? Do you easily get along with others?
Or—are you introverted? Are you shy? Perhaps you are a loner? Is your personality abrasive? Are you continually in some kind of a dispute with others? Could it be that you actually repel others?
Knowing how to deal with other people is one of the largest challenges we face in life. It is a challenge that transcends age, race, gender and nationality. Indeed, when we look at the problems in this world, we can see that it is simply a matter of minds clashing with other minds! People do not naturally know how to get along with others in a peaceful, cooperative manner. Instead, the world is driven by lust, envy, jealousy, strife, competition, greed—the way of get. This is the real cause of all people problems.
If we are applying the principles of God in our lives, our relationships should not be this way.
So whatever the reasons for our people problems, the question remains: How do we solve these people problems? To answer this, let’s ask four questions.
Question One: Are You Argumentative?
I have known some people who seem to actually enjoy arguing! This shows a real lack of wisdom. Most abrasive communication is driven by feelings of antagonism, cynicism and superiority. God’s way is just the opposite.
Learn to avoid foolish and contentious discussions. They will always be unprofitable and quite often will breed anger and hurt feelings. Even though some people seem to continually try to start these kinds of conversations, we should lead by example and do something to change the subject.
Your example—not your argumentation—is always your most powerful tool. If you want to influence others in a positive way, you have to do it with your conduct—the kind of life you live. A hypocrite—someone speaking one way but living another—will never be able to have a positive impact on the lives of those close to him. On the contrary, he will repel those around him and in so doing will be creating people problems rather than solving them.
So what kind of example are you setting for others? What is your personal conduct like? By setting a good example, we not only will attract others to us, we can actually attract them to the right way of living! People will notice something different about you and will be attracted to it.
But take note! This will happen by your good conduct, your good example and your good works—not by your many words or by arguing.
Question Two: Are You Self-Centered?
Perhaps you are not abrasive or argumentative at all. Yet you still don’t seem to get along well with others because you are too shy or introverted in some way.
Many factors could contribute to this type of personality—your parents, your environment, your education. Nevertheless, this type of personality needs to be changed if you are to solve your people problems.
Though there are many factors that contribute to someone being shy and overly reserved, the underlying cause is self-centeredness. When we find ourselves reluctant to talk with or do things with others, it is most likely because we are only thinking of ourselves. We are afraid of what they may think of us. How will I look? What if I say something dumb? What if they laugh at me or make fun of me? What if I’m not very good at it? All of these questions could be running through your mind—and they would all be about yourself.
Instead, ask questions that have other people’s welfare in mind: How can I uplift them? How can I brighten their day? What can I contribute? How can I help? What can I give? If you think this way, your mind will not be on yourself. You’ll be concerned for those around you—and they’ll know that you are. This will automatically make you more outgoing and friendly, and others will begin to be drawn to you.
If you expect to have friends, you must show yourself to be friendly—continually interested in brightening the day of others around you. Not occasionally—but continually! This gets right to the heart of the problem of shyness. Work hard at being outgoing! Learn to have outgoing concern for others. This is the opposite of being introverted and shy.
Look at the example of the only perfect human being to ever walk on this Earth: Jesus Christ was a very outgoing person, and multitudes of people followed Him around (Matthew 13:2; 14:14; Mark 4:1). People wanted to be with Him. He attracted others to Him and was able to do many wonderful things because of it. He had compassion for people. He fed them, healed them and taught them. He took time for others, even for little children (Mark 10:14).
Jesus Christ is the perfect example for us. We should follow His pattern of outflowing service toward others (John 13:15; 1 Peter 2:21).
Question Three: Do You Give A Soft Answer?
Another primary cause of people problems is harsh words. A lack of emotional control often fuels those harsh words that you later wish could be taken back.
Don’t be conquered and controlled by your emotions. In dealing with others, remember that your words are very important. They will have lasting effects, and you will be held accountable for them (Matthew 12:36).
A basic biblical principle you can use is found in Proverbs 15:1. There the wise King Solomon wrote, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
How often do you apply this principle? Very few people really live by it, and as a result they have many problems with others.
When you are at school or work and someone says something or does something that really bothers you, apply this principle. Stop and think. Make sure your emotions are under control. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt—and then say something nice to them. You will be surprised what effect this has on those around you. They will take note of your responsible, mature course of action. You will have less stress in your life, and you’ll find that others will begin to want to be around you.
Of course, none of us can do this perfectly. However, the closer to perfect we become, the more people problems we will solve, and the less people problems we will even have to deal with.
To control your mouth, your thoughts must be under control. Work to control your mind—what you think about and meditate on. That means trying to avoid not only saying the wrong thing, but even thinking it! Indeed, we need to have every thought brought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:5); then we can control our mouths.
How many times have harsh words been spoken that you wish you could take back? Remember, if you don’t think the harsh thoughts, you won’t speak the harsh words.
If we do not apply this principle when we speak to others, we will fuel antagonism, anger and bitterness among others. Grievous words stir up anger; that’s why we should give a soft answer when there is contention or strife of any kind.
Question Four: Do You Go Directly to the Other Person?
We have already looked at three very basic points that, if applied, will solve most people problems. However, even if you apply the points already covered in this article, you may still have problems with others from time to time. What should you do if this happens?
Go directly to the other person, with a good attitude, and speak about what happened. How often would our people problems be blown away—out of existence—if this were applied? Following this instruction would eliminate nearly all of these types of problems before they blow out of proportion.
Rather than going directly to the individual who caused (or supposedly caused) the offense, usually we talk about the problem with someone else. This only makes things worse.
Also, remember to use this step only when there is a real problem! In other words, don’t take things personally all the time, being overly sensitive and getting caught up in self-righteous pettiness. If you do, you’ll be causing problems rather than solving them! Only go to the other person when there is a real offense against you.
In some cases, a real offense has occurred and the individual offended has taken the problem to the offender—but then failed to accept the explanation or apology given. Remember, the purpose here is to help resolve the problem, not to impose your will upon the other person. Be willing to forgive and to assume the best instead of thinking evil of that individual. This is a quality that all of us need to grow in.
Without a doubt, people problems are common and have been throughout human history. You, however, do not need to live with those problems. If you apply these basic principles in your life, you can live differently. Your relationships with others will be much more successful and peaceful.
Try to find common ground with others whenever possible. This means that you will be working hard not to be argumentative or abrasive with your communications. Instead, let your good works, your good example and your good conduct attract others to you and to God’s way of life.
If you are shy, work to overcome your reserved, inward nature by thinking of others. Be an outgoing and giving person. Think about what you can do to uplift others and to brighten their day. If you are overly concerned with your own issues, you won’t be able to really give to anyone else, and that will add to your people problems.
Also, learn to deal with people without using harsh words, applying the beautiful proverb of “a soft answer turns away wrath.” Control your tongue by controlling your mind. Keep your emotions in check.
Finally, when a problem still occurs, don’t be a gossip or an accuser. Go directly to the individual and talk about the problem. When you do this with people, remember to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them the way that you’d like to be treated yourself. Go to the other individual wanting to resolve the problem, not trying to impose your will.
If you apply these points, you’ll learn to be a peacemaker! You’ll be a “people problem solver.” In so doing, you’ll not only be solving your people problems—you’ll also be pleasing the great God of the universe, who is eager to bless you (Matthew 5:9)!