When Nathanael first met Jesus, he wasn’t impressed. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asked. (John 1:46) Apparently Jesus’ home town wasn’t known for its wise prophets. Nathanael judged Jesus based on his place of residence, which seems kind of shallow.
But we all do it. We quickly judge a person we have just met. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we quickly evaluate the people we meet each day. Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy says we ask two important questions:
• Can I trust this person?
• Can I respect this person?
Put another way, we are looking for warmth and competence in other people. And they are looking for those things in us. The tendency, according to Cuddy, is that we often try to appear competent first. We want to impress people with our knowledge and skills. We want people to know that we are smart and can handle any situation. However, that’s not the first thing people are evaluating us on.
The first thing people are asking is, “Does this person deserve my trust?” Is this someone that I could get to know and like? Are they interested in getting to know me? They want to know something personal about who we are. It reminds me of that old saying, “People don’t care what you know, until they know you care.”
This doesn’t mean that we always have to be overly friendly or mushy-gushy. But other people do want us to reveal something about who we are. They want to know we are human. We don’t have to know it all. We can ask for help. We can admit to weakness. Once people sense our humanity, they are more likely to open up and work on a positive relationship with us.
Paul reminds us that our goal as Christians is to imitate Christ. So when it comes to interpersonal relationships, he counsels us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)
I think that’s something we can all learn to do more often. When we value others and let them know it, Christ is glorified and people are encouraged.