Finding the Key to a Person

Rev. Ron Piedmonte ministered in my hometown of Binghamton, NY for over 30 years. He excelled at presence. If you asked the people he pastored, most of their meaningful memories related to his visits to the hospital, thoughtful phone calls, and remembering their names in congregation over a thousand people.

1187433_43519107I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with him. Pastor Piedmonte shared his wisdom through stories. One of his most meaningful stories he told had to do with a disagreeable board member. This person seemingly shot down most of his proposals, ideas, and decisions.

Right before a meeting Piedmonte called this man into his office. The conversation started like this, “I just wanted to let you know what we are going to talk about tonight…” From that moment, the board member immediately supported him. Pastor Piedmonte would always end the story by saying, “You need to learn the key to every person.”

How often do we make assumptions about what matters to people? Many times people have simple things that mean so much to them. It may look something like this:

Taking care of a task without being asked.

Valuing other’s time by showing up early.

Writing personal notes, sending texts or emails.

Verbally affirming a person when they succeed. 

Listening as opposed to giving advice.

Letting a person have silence to recharge.

The difficulty comes in trying to learn the simple key for each person. Yet, these small acts can make all the difference. Actions like these communicate the care of actually getting to know a person.

What are some other simple “keys” for people?


  1. I’m confused. In reading this, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that these “keys” are really manipulations to get what you want from people. I worry that the message here is to find the key to a person, so you can get what you want. I don’t know Pastor Piedmonte personally, so perhaps his intent wasn’t what came to my mind when I read of his meeting with his disagreeable board member. What came to my mind was that his goal was to get this board member to support him, and so he gave him special treatment.

    I’d like to point out that learning to tap into the “keys” of a person should be motivated by more than pragmatism. The goal of getting to know a person ought to be to position yourself so that you can bless that person, right?

    • Peter Englert

      November 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      Chris, I think you bring up a great point and possible dangerous interpretation to this post.

      First, this story Pastor Piedmonte was less about strategy and more about relationship. One of the things I was hoping to communicate was, that this man took time to get to know people. Not for gain or support, but because he felt called to pastor them. The narrative of the board member surprised him because he had no intention of trying to coerce or manipulate.

      Second, this post describes many types of relationships. The positive motivation and reaction to this idea should not be how can I control a person, but how can I create an atmosphere to work well with them. I remember working with a person who loved to receive words of affirmation, but they did not like receiving it in public. After making this mistake, I started to thank and encourage them in private. This key was important, because I could have continued to diminish my kindness be not really getting to know the person.

      In the end, trust is built over time. Manipulation can bring short term results, but in the end will fail. So hopefully, this post shared more insights on building trust in relationships and really getting to know someone for who they are.

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