The Most Compelling Kind of Influence

The Most Compelling Kind of Influence

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In 1997, Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt won Academy Awards for Best Actor and Actress for their roles in the romantic comedy, As Good As it Gets. Throughout the movie, Helen Hunt demonstrates one of the most compelling ways to influence others. Before I describe her simple strategy (which can be used in the family, church or workplace), I’d like to show you the scene where Nicholson describes how profoundly she has changed his life.

Here’s the background …

Nicholson plays the role of Melvin Udall, a best-selling author in New York City. His dislike for people and obsessive-compulsive behavior alienates nearly every person he meets. The one exception is Helen Hunt’s character, Carol Connelly, the only server at a restaurant who can tolerate his behavior.

After many tumultuous interactions, Melvin takes Carol out to dinner. His abrasive behavior offends her once again, and she threatens to leave unless he gives her a sincere complement. Watch how it goes. (If a screen does not appear below, click here.)


Carol is stunned by Melvin’s simple statement, “You make me want to be a better man.” She realizes she has changed his life in the best possible way; she has given him the desire to improve as a man.

Can you think of anything more meaningful or rewarding than making other people want to be better?

Imagine how wonderful it would be to hear the words, “You make me want to be a better husband … a better wife … a better parent … a better son … a better daughter … a better employee … a better boss … or a better pastor.”

You can learn how to have this kind of influence … all you have to do is practice the simple strategy Carol uses over and over with Melvin: she blends sincere encouragement with candid yet gracious counsel.  

This Happened to Me

I personally experienced this kind of compelling influence two weeks ago when I met with our ministry’s Board of Directors. The vast majority of their words were affirming and encouraging as we reviewed the progress God enabled us to make in 2017. I felt that my efforts were truly appreciated and valued.

But our Directors also pressed in candidly yet gently on a few areas where I have not been as discerning or focused as I should have been. My pride and perfectionism were jostled a bit, but the graciousness of their words helped me to listen humbly and ultimately see the wisdom of their counsel.

As I reflected on the meeting later that evening, I realized our Directors had done to me what Helen Hunt did to Jack Nicholson: they made me want to be a better ministry leader.

It wasn’t a sense of guilt or shame or embarrassment, or a fear of future criticism or failure, or even the possibility of losing my job if I didn’t improve.

It was a pleasant and powerful desire to reward their encouragement and support—and to respect their wisdom and counsel—with my very best efforts.

You Can Learn to Motivate Others through Encouragement and Counsel

The ultimate inspiration for change and improvement is the gospel of Christ (2 Pet. 1:3-11). If you have experienced his saving and transforming grace, one of your greatest desires should be to let that grace work through you to trigger a desire in others to be better people in every way, ultimately out of the desire to love and honor Christ.

If you’re a church elder or deacon, I hope you’ll go into your next meeting praying, “Lord, help me to encourage and counsel our pastor in such a way that he leaves this meeting wanting to be a better pastor.”

If you’re married, learn to pray, “Lord, help me to encourage and counsel my spouse in such a way that he (or she) wants to be a better husband (or wife).

The same kind of prayer can be prayed if you’re meeting with a friend, talking to your teenager or engaging a co-worker or employee. Ask God to help you learn to use your words in such a way that whoever you’re talking with will leave the conversation wanting to be a better person.

~ Ken Sande

PS – Although As Good as It Gets contains some moving relational scenes, it also includes some offensive language and themes. Therefore, I do not recommend this movie to others unless such content moves you to look more compassionately on people who are struggling with sin and to be more more eager to bring them the liberating message of the gospel.

PSS – One of the best ways to develop the ability to bring out the best in others is by going through our online course, Discovering Relational Wisdom 2.0. Now is the time to register! Next Monday, the price is going to be raised from $35 to $79 ($70 for group registrations). At the same time, we are going to begin offering “Pay-It-Forward Scholarships” of up to $71 that you can give to a friend. For more information, please see

Reflection Questions (Most effective when discussed with a friend)

  1. How is the gospel of Christ the ultimate motivation to want to be a better person? (see 2 Pet. 1:3-11)
  2. Think of a person who makes you want to be better in some way. What is it about that person that motivates you this way?
  3. How important is it to God that we learn to encourage one another? (see Acts 16:32; Rom. 15:5; Eph. 6:22; 1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 10:25).
  4. How important is it to God that we learn how to offer counsel in love and receive it with humility? (see Ps. 141:5; Prov. 12:15; Prov. 9:9; Prov. 13:10; Prov. 13:13; Prov. 15:32;
  5. What does Ephesians 4:29 teach us about how to blend encouragement and counsel?

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like. If you wish to adapt the questions to better suit your group, please include a parenthetical note (Questions adapted with permission of RW360) and send a copy to

© 2018 Ken Sande

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One Response to "The Most Compelling Kind of Influence"
  1. This was VERY helpful. Shared it:
    As we consider how we rise to the challenge, “…be always ready to give an account to whoever might ask of the Hope that is within us…”,
    this wise counsel warrants our continual & serious attention.

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