I recently read Dale Carnegie’s popular How to Win Friends and Influence People. Here’s what I learned:
- Trying to understand people is more effective than criticism. Not only does it bring clarity, it breeds tolerance and kindness, which engenders people. So before criticizing someone’s effort or creation, ask them why they did what they did. See things from others’ viewpoints. As a born critic, this is difficult for me to do. But I’ve already seen how effective this is after using it on those closest to me.
- Smile when greeting and talking to people. This is a simple and powerful act. “The expression one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back,” Carnegie writes, this coming from someone who notes the power of dressing nice. And from someone who says “one” quite a lot.
- Take a genuine interest (even if you’re selling something). Being interesting means being interested. So remember people’s names and birthdays, greet them with enthusiasm and animation, make thoughtful gestures, and ask what others hold dear in their personal or professional lives. Remember: a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound they’ll ever here. So remember it. And let others do most of the talking. Not in a conniving way, but in the wisdom Ralph Waldo Emerson used when conversing with others. “Every man I meet is my superior in some way,” he wrote. “In that, I learn from him.” So be a good listener. “The only way on earth to influence others is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it,” Carnegie writes.
- If you’re wrong, admit it. Say “I’m sorry.” Be willing to accept and suffer the consequences of your mistakes. Ask “How can I make this right?”
- Show respect for the others’ opinions. Never say “you’re wrong.” Rely on diplomacy when challenging ones beliefs. For instance you could say, “Well, now look. I think otherwise, but I may be wrong. I frequently am. If I am wrong, I want to be put right. So let’s examine the facts.” As Alexander Pope taught, “Men must be taught as if you taught them not.”
- Recognize people. Show genuine appreciation for them and their efforts. Praise improvement, even the slightest. Be friendly and gentle. Like a good horse whisperer, doing so motivates people.
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly. Since everyone makes mistakes, let people save face, Carnegie counsels. Offer a heartfelt, “Thanks for trying” with an, “I look forward to your revision.” Don’t discourage people. Encourage them. For example, when Charles Schwab found a couple of his employees smoking directly under a “no smoking” sign at the office, he didn’t belittle them. Rather he offered each a cigar and asked them to enjoy it outside. He didn’t judge. He just reminded them of what’s expected in an endearing and gentle way.
- Ask questions instead of giving orders. For example, say “We need to do better. What are some ways we can improve?” Asking people for their ideas and challenging them to succeed makes them feel important, inspired, and confident.
- Dramatize your ideas. Make things a game. As Carnegie notes, he was able to help his boys clean up his room by pretending they were all trains picking up pieces of “coal” instead of toys.
- Ask questions you know they will say yes to. When I first read this advice, I cringed. It smacks of manipulation. But Carnegie doesn’t endorse taking advantage of people or getting them to do something their uncomfortable with. Rather, he states that if you understand their wants above your own, know that they are comfortable doing something, you can ask questions they will say yes to in order to encourage positivity. In other words, psychology works. Don’t abuse it. But use it to grease the wheels of positive persuasion.
Four stars out of five.