And this was his messages: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”
This biblical passage from Mark 1:7 describes John the Baptist, who may also be considered as a teacher that preaches, teaches, and solves questions, spoke in a way that influences the generations to come. It is through his “shoelace philosophy” that we are to learn today 3 ways of getting along with others.
At the time, John was swarmed with followers listening to him preach. If we were to call them, “fans” is definitely the right word to use. As John became increasingly popular throughout Jerusalem, he had also grabbed the attention of the upper and middle classes. One day, a group of social elites sent a messenger to John the Baptist to ask him, “Who are you?” They supposed that this well-received leader should be a particular religious leader of the time.
Fig. 1. Saint John the Baptist Preaching. Raphael, 1505. The National Gallery. Web. 23 September 2019.
Then the messenger pressed on, “Are you Elijah?” (Elijah is a future seer well-honored at the time). John then responded, “I am not.” Apparently, this detective was too surprised by John’s response that he thought confirming one’s occupation would be more precise than confirming one’s name. So, he probed, “Are you the Prophet?” Unfortunately, John still answered, “No.”
Take a guess. What do you think John said then?
“No, I am not, but I know him very well.”
“No, I am not. I am his senior.”
“No, I am not, but I am in fact a teacher from the Elite College. I’ve taught students from the higher social class and a lot of people know me.”
Far from our expectation, none of the three answers above correctly presents what John the Baptist said. Instead of bragging about his personal history or making a claim using other people’s names, John humbly replied, “He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” Setting aside the real background of this mysterious “He”, we can conclude with confidence three major relationship management techniques employed by John during his conversation with the messenger.
I. Treating Others by Their Insides
From the first sentence spoken by John, we can tell that he does not view others through their “rankings”, but rather he sees the true abilities exhibited by others. That is, he could have demanded the one that comes after him to bow down to him and serve him, simply because he is a senior, but he did not do that. Looking back at ourselves, are we not used to judging and treating others by their titles, fame, and/or social statuses? Or further, how often do we boast about our numerous and various entitlements just to prove that “I am good”?
It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.
-- Political philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli
II. Praising Others with Sincerity
If I am to argue where Dale Carnegie learned to be hearty in approbation and lavish in praise, I would guess that John the Baptist was one of his major sources. After informing the emissary that he was not the leader they were searching for, John even went on to introduce this great man on how capable he is and how he is to be John’s model. Living in a society where multihyphenate is valued, we are indeed becoming emotionally stingy in offering people praises for one thing that they have done well of and even learning from their strengths. The model John provides us is truly a valuable communication skill.
Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.
-- Communication expert, Dale Carnegie
III. Prioritizing Others’ Needs and Benefits
As John talked about this mysterious character for the last time, he noted how unworthy he is to untie the shoelaces of this man. We can tell from here that John the Baptist is a selfless man helping others to succeed. His altruistic personality is certainly one we are all looking for in a friend. A psychological study by the University of Oxford also found that people are normally more attracted to those who exhibit selfless behaviors (Moore et al., 2013).
Not for ourselves alone are we born.
(Non nobis solum nati sumus.)
-- Roman philosopher, Marcus Tullius Cicero
Through the three communication skills above, we have seen, how a small potato like John can become a historical figure shaping the future centuries. Not so fast, my friend! Stay tuned for next week’s article and learn about the other three helpful skills for better communications.
- The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 1984.
- Moore, D., Wigby, S., English, S., Wong, S., Székely, T. & Harrison, F. (2013). Selflessness is sexy: Reported helping behavior increases desirability of men and women as long-term sexual partners. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 13(182), 1-8. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-13-182
- Raphael. Saint John the Baptist Preaching. c.1505. The National Gallery, London. Web. 23 Sep. 2019.