Ideas for improving human relations

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Hoyt W. Brewster Jr. offered a “baker’s dozen” of ideas for improving human relations at Campus Education Week.

Brewster invited his audience to introduce themselves to the people sitting on either side of them and said, “It’s an important aspect of human relations to reach out and get to know others.”

Brewster’s first item of advice was to put one’s best foot forward. He posed the question, “Why must our best be limited to short-term situations?” He used the example of how people are especially happy and willing to serve around Christmas, and submitted it is possible to be that cheerful year round.

He then encouraged to recognize individuals to be of great worth. He quoted a 1973 Ensign article in which Elder Marvin J. Ashton, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that one of the reasons our Savior Jesus Christ was rejected and crucified was because in the eyes of the world he was blindly viewed as a ‘nobody,’ humbly born in a manger, an advocate of such strange doctrine as ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men.’ He went on to say, “God help us to realize that one of our greatest responsibilities and privileges is to lift a self-labeled ‘nobody’ to a ‘somebody,’ who is wanted, needed, and desirable.”

Human relations can also be improved by finding safe common ground. Brewster shared a story of a former mission president who had a difficult missionary whom no one got along with. He didn’t want to send the missionary home because he saw in him the capacity to succeed. Instead, he paired him with one of the best missionaries in the mission. At zone conference a month later, when the president asked the obedient elder how it was going, the missionary said, “Great! We found something we have in common. Neither of us have ever been to Africa.”

According to Brewster, praying and fasting for others will improve human relations as well. He taught that while there are times to pray in generalities, such as in sacrament meeting or in the temple, there is power in being specific. He told a story originally shared by President Henry B. Eyring of when he was once an early morning seminary teacher. There were two boys in his class who clearly didn’t want to be there. They slouched, kicked the chairs and moved them so President Eyring could not see their faces. At first, he prayed for the power to teach the class effectively. He prayed for himself. But his prayers changed to specifically mention each student in the class. The power began to come and the students’ demeanor changed as well. Years later, one of the boys approached him after general conference and introduced Elder Eyring, his old seminary teacher, to his daughter.

Brewster encouraged listeners to focus on individuals rather than numbers or positions. He quoted Elder Russel M. Nelson, saying “Some well-meaning Saints … do the right things for the wrong reasons, if they narrowly center on the percentages they report rather than on the precious people they serve.”

Other ideas Brewster shared for improving human relations include replacing fences and walls with gates and bridges, loving thy neighbor as thyself, practicing courtesy, giving others a chance to be in the spotlight and avoiding taking offense.

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