Building Passport

I have dozens of passports, and I need to renew them constantly. No, I’m not James Bond or Jason Bourne. I don’t fly from country to country using alternative identities to evade the NSA, CIA, or MI6.

I just love people. I enjoy meeting, understanding, encouraging, and working with them. And for that I need a lot of passports.

One for my wife, two for my children, over thirty for my relatives and close friends, and dozens more for coworkers, clients, and the other people I engage every week.

A passport is an authorization to go someplace you have no inherent right to be. In relational terms, it is the permission that people give to others to enter into their lives, to learn their secrets, to know their struggles, to offer advice and correction.

If you want others to allow you into their lives—including your employees and customers—you must earn a relational passport from each person you engage. The best way to do so is to relate to others in such a way that they would answer “yes” to three key questions, each of which encompasses a variety of sub-questions that roll around in people’s minds when they are thinking of opening up to you:

  • Can I trust you? Will you keep your word and follow through on your commitments? Will you guard confidential information? Will you continue to respect and value me if I allow you to see my mistakes? Can I trust you with the “fine china” of my life?
  • Do you really care about me? Will you look out for my interests as well as your own? Will you take time to listen to me? Do you sincerely want to serve me? Why? Do you care enough to push past my outer defenses and patiently help me sort out things I myself don’t yet understand?
  • Can you actually help me? Are you able to deal with my concerns and needs? How are you doing with your own challenges and struggles? What kind of experience do you have? Do you have a track record of successfully solving relational and business problems? If this problem is beyond the two of us, do you have the humility and wisdom to help me find another person who has the experience I need?

Let these questions echo in the back of your mind as you relate to others. Ask God to enable you to answer them by engaging others with his humility, patience, compassion, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, honesty, and wisdom (Col. 3:12; James 3:17). If you do so, you’ll be well on your way to having more passports than you ever dreamed.

Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 and the author of numerous books on biblical conflict resolution, including The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.

The Power of Questions

Questions…we all ask them, we all answer them: they are about discovering significant information. But so often we use them without the potential impact of the Power in a Question. Or, said better, The Power of a Well-Asked Question. Think about it.

First, questions can be asked with the potential to provide answers that are significant in both discovery and usefulness. As much as possible learn to ask open-ended questions. (That takes practice!) That is, avoid questions that can be answered by a simple yes/no or a number. The answer you receive will be equally simple and give you no further information or insight into the relevant context. Instead of asking, "Did you enjoy your vacation?", ask, "What was the most meaningful experience on your vacation?" Or, instead of "Have you finished the project yet?", ask, "Tell me where your progress is on the project," or "What have been the greatest challenges in the project?"

Second, there is a caution—and it is a behavior that when ignored greatly depletes the value of the open-ended question's power. The behavior: ask and then STOP and WAIT for an answer. You see, open-ended questions usually force people to think deeper before they answer—and you need to permit them the time to think. If you do not, instead getting antsy and trying to help them answer, they will let you answer for them. You will have learned nothing significant (and you may have proven to them that you really were not interested in them or their answer but only in one that fits your needs).

And that reminds me of a third dimension: how deeply and significantly people respond to your open-ended questions will be directly related to how much they trust you. The things they will wonder about might influence their answers: Why are you asking? Do you really care about them or the situation you are asking about? How will you use the information—for or against them? Will you respond and follow-up with your care and concern?

So the best behavior after asking a good open-ended question is "Let silence do the heavy lifting." That, too, takes practice—and patience!