Free Shipping on orders $35+ within the continental US

9 Relationship Principles for Winning with People

Show us one “people person” and we could show you five others who are deficient in the people skills department.

Winning with people is both a science and an art. There are proven relationship principles grounded in research and an understanding of human psychology, but our reputations depend on our unique approach to cultivating good will with the people in our lives.

Building strong relationships is a crucial skill needed for business and leadership success. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or role you fulfill in the economy—entrepreneurs, salespeople, CEOs, teachers, tradesmen, and small business owners all agree that winning with people is a worthy goal for professionals.

In fact, 81% of corporate recruiters say employers identify interpersonal skills as desired qualities among top job seekers.

Leadership author John Maxwell wrote in his bestselling book, Winning with People:

“All of life’s successes come from initiating relationships with the right people and then strengthening those relationships by using good people skills.”

With decades of gathering insights about the world’s greatest leaders under his belt, we’re inclined to follow Maxwell’s advice on building successful, productive, and good relationships.

Maxwell organizes his advice into a vast library of “People Principles” broken down into 5 categories or questions for the developing leader:

  1. Are you prepared for relationships?
  2. Are you willing to focus on others?
  3. Can you build mutual trust?
  4. Are you willing to invest in others?
  5. Can you create a win-win relationship?

Here are some of our favorite People Principles proposed by Maxwell in Winning with People to guide you toward developing strong relationships:

John Maxwell’s Best Advice for Winning with People

the mirror principle from winning with people

The Mirror Principle
The Person We Must Examine is Ourselves

Maxwell delivers a cautionary tale about baseball player Pete Rose who became so immersed in his job that he neglected reflecting on his life and actions.

Rose excelled in his career, winning National League Rookie of the Year, National League Most Valuable Player, and World Series MVP awards from 1963 to 1975. But his personal and professional life came to a screeching halt and he destroyed several high-value relationships. Rumors were confirmed that he was betting on baseball, even going so far as to place bets on his own team.

If winning with people is our ultimate goal, we must start by looking in the mirror—focusing on all of the aspects of “self” including self-awareness, self-image, self-honesty, self-improvement, and self-responsibility.

the elevator principle from winning with people

The Elevator Principle
We Can Lift People Up or Take People Down in Our Relationships

Have you ever heard of the Compliment Club? It was an experiment created by physician, consultant, and psychologist George W. Crane at Northwestern University in 1920.

He tasked his students with giving 3 compliments daily over a 30-day period to help them learn a very important aspect of relationship-building. The experiment showed his students how relationships could change quickly and positively when they delivered value first.

According to Maxwell, there are four types of people:

  1. People who add something to life… We enjoy them.
  2. People who subtract something from life… We tolerate them.
  3. People who multiply something in life… We value them.
  4. People who divide something in life… We avoid them.

Through this important People Principle, Maxwell asks: which type of person are you?

the learning principle from winning with people

The Learning Principle
Each Person We Meet Has the Potential to Teach Us Something

As a journalist, this principle stands out to me. A big part of the job is recognizing that everyone has a story to tell and a perspective that is able to shape our understanding of an issue. Sometimes, a reporter might have weeks of interactions with a source to draw information from. Other times, he or she will only have a few seconds or minutes to learn what they can about an individual.

Maxwell believes that our relationships won’t always follow the same script.

“The nature and purpose of the relationship will determine the energy and time needed to cultivate it,” he writes in Winning with People. Our most important relationships—those that last for seasons and lifetimes—require the most attention and care.

This is a great principle to keep in mind if you feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin in your relationships and need to determine where your time will be spent best.

The Confrontation Principle
Caring for People Should Precede Confronting People

Our relationships with family, team members, and friends will never be without conflict. This chapter of Winning with People is so comforting because you learn that even Maxwell has dealt with conflict.

You also discover how he achieves positive results from confrontation by going into them “with a mindset of caring about the other person and trying to help him.”

We’ve all had hard-headed leaders with a “my way or the highway” attitude. Chances are, they don’t make an appearance on your list of favorite bosses.

But if we keep Maxwell’s number one rule for confronting conflict in mind, we’ll never turn out like the bosses you’ve disliked the most. Maxwell urges us to “confront a person only if you care for that person.”

It was enlightening to discover that it’s possible to understand another person without agreeing with them and that you can care about someone else’s interests without giving up your own.

The Situation Principle
Never Let the Situation Mean More Than the Relationship

There will be moments in the course of a relationship that will test its strength. It could be as small as a scheduling conflict that forces you to choose between two relationships. It could be as big as a health diagnosis that will require you to take time away from your job to support your relationship.

Or you could be playing a tennis match against your sister in the Australian Open like the example of Venus and Serena Maxwell described in Winning with People.  

Whatever the situation may be, Maxwell makes it clear that “keeping a relationship strong is a decision.”

You always have choices when it comes to your relationships; you can abandon, damage, or improve them.

The Approachability Principle
Being at Ease with Ourselves Helps Others Be at Ease with Us

Barbara Walters was a news personality who could coax information and stories out of anyone including statesmen and stars.  

Leaning into a similar skill—kindness—Leadership Essentials author Adrienne Bankert has an approachable demeanor that has made her a sought-after interviewer, landing leading roles at ABC News and NewsNation.

Maxwell wants readers to get the point he tries to make through his story about Walters: approachability is not a talent; it’s a skill anyone can acquire with practice.

Several factors go into making yourself a more approachable person, but Maxwell shares a few recommendations:

  • Learn how to truly like people.
  • Appreciate the differences in people.
  • Be consistent with your mood.
  • Be sensitive toward people’s feelings.
  • Understand human weakness and expose your own.

Among others, which he details in Winning with People.

The Patience Principle
The Journey with Others Is Slower Than the Journey Alone

We all hated group projects in schools, especially if we were the group members that got stuck with the brunt of the work.

But these experiences taught us more than we probably realize about what it’s like to work with others in the “real world.” Maxwell would argue that our teachers were probably trying to teach us how to be patient with one another.

According to Maxwell’s Patience Principle, a relationship that has patience without connection will lack energy. On the other hand, a relationship that has connection without patience will lack potential.

Spoiler alert: you want both.

The Celebration Principle
The True Test of Relationships Is Not Only How Loyal We Are When Friends Fail, but How Thrilled We Are When They Succeed

Celebration or recognition—whatever you want to call it—everyone in the entire world wants to be noticed for their successes and good deeds.

It’s innate to our human nature to crave attention and positive reinforcement. That’s why personal trainers will recommend new gym-goers give themselves small “treats” to reward themselves for going to the gym multiple times during the week.

Maxwell doesn’t sugar coat this principle. He says there will be people in your life who won’t celebrate with you. You’ll often be celebrating your success alone, which should be all the more reason for you to be the cheerleader in someone else’s life.

The Partnership Principle
Working Together Increases the Odds of Winning Together

The benefits of cultivating powerful partnerships are numerous (and can be found within the pages of Winning with People).

But what I found most interesting about this People Principle was how Maxwell described the evolution of our understanding of a partnership.

He says most people go through four stages:

  1. “I want to make a difference…”
  2. “I want to make a difference with people…”
  3. “I want to make a difference with people who want to make a difference…”
  4. “I want to make a difference with people who want to make a difference doing something that makes a difference…

This final stage is where your impact on your community multiplies and where your relationships are at their strongest points.

Other Ways of Winning with People?

These are just some of the People Principles Maxwell shares in his book for a total of 25 ways to win with people. In the same book, he warns leaders about the consequences of violating these principles and celebrates the meaning you’ll receive if you follow these principles as you handle your most important relationships.  

Are there any other relationship principles you would add to the list?

Want to read more? Get the book!

Sold out

John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 33 million books in fifty languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business and the most influential leadership expert in the world.

Related Posts

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published