The Most Compelling Kind of Influence

by | Mar 12, 2022

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 powerful ways to influence others. Before I describe her simple strategy (which you can use in your family, church or workplace), I’d like to show you the scene where Nicholson describes how profoundly Hunt’s character 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 compliment. 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 last Friday 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 the previous year. I felt that my efforts were truly appreciated and valued.

But our Directors also questioned and respectfully disagreed with some of my perspectives and ideas. They also offered some insights and suggestions that were clearly better than mine. My pride and perfectionism were jostled a bit, but the graciousness of their words helped me to listen humbly and ultimately see the wisdom in 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 flow 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 encouraged and 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 talking to your child, meeting with a friend 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 – 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, by yourself or, better yet, by leading a small group study with friends or coworkers so you can all grow in relational wisdom. For more advanced training, bring a team from your church ministry to our 2024 Sowing Peace Conference, where you can learn how to establish an in-house Peace Sower Team of RW instructors, coaches and conciliators.

*PSS – Although the movie mentioned above contains some moving relational scenes (I came across this one on YouTube), it also includes offensive language and themes, which is why I’ve never watched the movie itself. Therefore, although I appreciate the relational principle illustrated in this particular scene, I do not recommend this movie to others.

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

© 2022 Ken Sande

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