10 Great Relationship Principles I’ve Learned from John Maxwell

With more than 40 years in leadership now, I’ve learned that it’s truly all about people. That may seem obvious, but when under pressure, whether personal or professional, it’s not easy to live this truth on a consistent basis.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how gifted you are, or how much you know about vision and strategy. If you don’t know how to connect with and get along with people, you won’t make it far as a leader.

If you don’t invest in friendships, you may end up traveling through life alone. The encouraging truth is that great relationships are not that difficult, but they require time, love and the willingness not always to get your way.

Dan Reiland & John Maxwell

We’ve all made our fair share of relational mistakes, and no doubt you are grateful like I am, for the people who have been kind and patient. I appreciate the people who gave me a chance and continue to give me grace.

  • When we learn to treat people like we want to be treated, it’s amazing how much better life becomes.
  • When we put others first, life has a way of giving back in wonderfully positive ways. That’s not the motivation, but it is the blessing.

John Maxwell has been a great friend and mentor for over 40 years. I’m so grateful for his love, belief, and investment in me. He has taught me so much about relationships over the years; I could fill a book. But for now, I’ll share just ten of my favorite principles with you.

The ten principles are simple to understand, but challenging to practice on a consistent basis.

  • Which ones are you strongest at?
  • Which ones need attention?

10 Great Relationship Principles:

1) We see people through our own lens.

Your self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-perception establish the foundation of all your relationships. The way you view yourself and the way you see life shapes how you see and relate to others.

Whether you see the cup as half full or half empty will transfer every time.

2) People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care.

Caring about people isn’t automatic. Not everyone cares. I’m sure you’ve run into people along the way that it’s clear that they just don’t care.

You can’t learn to care about people, it’s not a skill, but you can decide to care, trust and give your heart. You can ask God to help you become more caring.

If you want to lead for the long-haul, it isn’t enough to be great at what you do. If you don’t sincerely care about people and live in such a way that you demonstrate it, your leadership will suffer.

3) Listening from the heart is a game changer.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is to truly listen.

We are often in a hurry, there is so much to do, right? So, when you slow down for a minute or an hour and truly listen, you communicate that you value that person. It can be life-changing for them.

Listening from the heart requires the ability to make a soul level connection. You communicate empathy, interest and a desire to be helpful far more by listening than merely by your words.

4) Believing the best in people brings out the best of people.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Sorry, but I love that corny line because it’s true! What you look for you will find.

I was surprised one day when asked why pastors and people only say the good things about someone at their funeral. Why would you want to emphasize someone’s shortcomings?

We are all flawed and imperfect, but when someone calls out the best in us, we often rise to that higher standard.

5) Hurting people hurt people.

When the response to a situation is greater than the issue at hand, the real issue is always about something else. The wise leader learns how to get to the real issue.

People who are hurting don’t necessarily want to hurt people, but it’s like a lion with a thorn in his paw, he can’t help it. If we can help people take the thorn out, we can help them live better. In turn, if you are in a relationship with them, your life becomes better too.

6) Admit wrongs and forgive quickly.

Taking responsibility for your actions is core to healthy and productive relationships.

If you make a mistake, own it. If you treat someone poorly, ask forgiveness. Getting defensive or bowing up never makes a relationship better. You might be right, but if you need to win, you’ll lose in the long run.

When you are wronged, forgive quickly. You’ll live with less stress and enjoy life more fully.

7) Always give more than you take.

There may be a few people in your life that you think it’s impossible to out give them. I understand that. John would be one of those people in my life. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t purpose to be generous anyway.

With the majority of people, you can set your sights to give more than you take. However, this is not about a scorecard. If you keep track, you’ve missed the point. It’s a heart level thing. It’s a way of living, and when your motives are pure, it will bring you great joy.

8) Add value to people.

You can add value to people in simple ways and big ways. Adding value is no more complex than the idea of how you contribute to their life in a way that their life is more meaningful, more productive and more joyful.

It can be as simple as a kind and encouraging word, and it can be as involved as a lifetime of mentoring. Sometimes it involves enough love and courage to have a tough and honest conversation.

The greatest value you can add to anyone is the message of Jesus Christ. The gift of eternal life is the greatest and highest value you can bring to someone.

9) You can never encourage anyone too much.

We know the answer, but let me ask anyway. Have you ever been encouraged too much by someone? Of course not.

Whether it’s your kids, an employee, volunteers at the church, a co-worker or your neighbor, take the time to give frequent and sincere encouragement. Your leadership will rise because of it.

10) Trust is the lifeblood of all relationships.

When it comes to a relationship, trust is like a promise, and you should never break a promise.

In fact, that’s the essence of trust. People are counting on you to keep your promises. This reflects your character and ultimately who you are.

No reasonable person expects perfection, but they do expect honesty, kindness and doing what you say you’ll do.

How did you do?

Where are you strong?
What needs attention?

15 thoughts on “10 Great Relationship Principles I’ve Learned from John Maxwell”

  1. Thank you, Dan. This was not new to me, but always an important reminder of what really counts in life: Letting people see Jesus through my attitude and actions.

  2. Dan,

    I hope you don’t mind, and I’d never not credit you, but I save many (MANY) of your columns to refer back to as a personal development tool for myself. I also intend to use them to help others as I eventually transition my 20+ years of Packaging and Commercialization into my next assignments in a few years. So, SO grateful for your guidance and consistency, as I, too, am a follower of John and one of his Maxwell Leadership Team members!

    Many thanks for all you do for the Kingdom… inside and OUTSIDE of church!

    Robby Martin

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