It is my pleasure to introduce you to another interesting book; one I reckon most people have never heard of. It is no other than, HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, by Dale Carnegie. This book is truly a classic first published in 1936. The values espoused in this book have stood the test of time, which is why it has sold over 15 million copies to date. Again, it is easy to misconstrue the core values that Mr. Carnegie enshrined in this book by merely taking the title at face value. We spend more time at work all week long than we do at home, and amid the frenzy of work, we encounter difficult and sometimes impossible individuals. I have to say that in some cases we are the difficult individuals in question. Within the immediate and extended family we are not shielded from the need to masterfully manage certain important relationships either. A recent report by Forbes Magazine shows that people who are adept are dealing with other people are more likely to be better paid, hold leadership positions, command the respect of their peers, family and general public as well live longer – largely because they adroitly avoid some of the high blood pressure- or ulcer-inducing encounters most of us encounter in dealing with others.
Here are some of Mr. Carnegie’s timeless suggestions, which if applied consistently, will shape you into a leader among your peers, given you a different perspective on life, increase your income, and most of all set you apart in times of crisis bet it at work or at home.
- If you want to gather honey, don’t kick the beehive: Quite clearly kicking the beehive would set you up for scorching pain, but why then do we do that with people? Humans are naturally defensive; even when we are entirely wrong, we still want to be seen as innocent. We want our wrongdoings to be over-looked, but when another person is wrong, especially those that work or operate under us from a hierarchy standpoint, we are clearly the first to point fingers and play the blame game. According to Dale Carnegie, “I learned thirty years ago that it is foolish to scold. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations.” Hurtful and caustic criticisms are counterproductive. They push the other person to the corner, and raise all defensive barriers in them to a point where they vehemently resist your scolding. I like to think that most of us can attest to having criticized someone else even though we may have done the exact same things ourselves, except that no one found out! It is quite simple, “Judge not that ye not be judged.” In the workplace or among business partners or colleagues, you are likely to make enemies quickly if you are in the habit of pointing out other people’s faults. Of course, there are situations where we have to help the other person take a look at their mistakes…we must do that with thoughtfulness, care, and genuine desire to help them and not to pull them down. Unsurprisingly, most of us remember harsh words and stinging criticisms levelled at us by others for life. When the wife of the great American President Abraham Lincoln spoke harshly of the Southerners, whom Lincoln had defeated in the civil war, Lincoln would reply, “They are just what we would be under similar circumstance.” If you must scold and point out another person’s faults and mistakes, do that in a way that does not attack them directly – with love and genuine care. It is said that there is a way to tell someone to go to hell, and they will start packing as they look forward to the journey.
- Be lavish with your praise: Leaders who lack confidence tend to be shrewd with praise. They hoard it like gold and sparingly dish it out, out of the fear that their subordinates might get too lax and lazy, or even think they are better than the boss. Conversely, confident leaders make their subordinates feel like stars. They bring out the best in them and help them grow into reliable members of the team. They praise hard work and creativity with glaring sincerity. To feel important is one of the strongest human desires, and those who have mastered this art, simply command enormous respect and importance. According to Carnegie, “To feel important is a gnawing and unquenchable human hunger; and the rare individual who honestly satisfies this heart-hunger will hold people in the palm of his hands, and even the undertaker will be sorry when he dies.” It is vital to note that Mr. Carnegie stressed that honesty is the key to truly making others feel important. Empty praises (flattery) are worthless, and before long, the person to whom they are meant will begin to see through your lies and hate you for it rather than respect you! One of the greatest assets you could ever possess is the ability to arouse enthusiasm in people; in so doing, you can lead, direct and manage some of the most difficult people ever, by simply making them truly feel important.
- To get others to work with you, don’t talk about that you want, instead, appeal to their interest and goal and they will follow you even to death: How often do we sincerely try so hard to make the other person see things our way, yet we fail to appeal to their interest. The truth is, it is childish to talk about what we want. In fact, it is absurd, because people are rarely interested. The rest of the world is just like us, they are chasing their own interests and aspirations. Imagine trying to push a big, strong bull into the barn…for such a big animal, your chances are very narrow. On the other hand, if you took a juicy carrot or a piece of succulent grass and waived it at the calf, it would follow you wherever you want. In so doing, you can lead it to the barn than try force it unsuccessfully. The same is similar with humans. Action springs out of what we fundamentally desire. To induce action in others, appeal to their desire/interests/goals.
- Become genuinely interested in other people: In pursuing our goals and dreams, we are bound to work with other people. In case you have not noticed, as I said above, painfully, people are not interested in you. But that can certainly change. To swing others to your view, to convince them, or at least attempt to, to sell an idea to an investor or a business, show a genuine interest in them and they are bound to reciprocate. Remember, for people to do business with you, co-operate with you, or work successfully with you, they have to like you to some degree at least. Take an interest in their birthdays, listen to their needs, ask sincere questions, find out what drives them, and truly listen to them. Have you noticed the sort of attention you get as a Southern Nigerian when you speak Hausa to a Northerner? And vice versa. Once I was in a taxi in Chicago with my wife, and I noticed that the driver was Indian. I asked him, “How are you?” in Hindi, his native tongue. For A black man to do that, it blew him away. Of course our price was cut in half and he was on hand to drive us at insanely low rates for the rest of the time we were in town.
- Smile: Yes, as simple as it sounds, it makes you likeable, endearing, warm and fun to have around. It draws people to you and you to others. It makes you approachable. More importantly, in the work or business world, it helps you make a good first impression. Leave that frown at home whenever possible and wear a warm smile on your face the best you can…And do it genuinely!
- Make an effort to remember people’s names: Try the best you can not to address people in what I call ‘blanket’ titles such as, ‘hey’, ‘man’, ‘my man’, ‘my friend’, etc., that is if you have met them before or severally. It suggests that they are not important enough for you to remember their names, and while that might not be true, you cannot change what they think within, but you will certainly get the cold treatment along the line…when they have the power to make an important decision affecting you!
- Be a good listener; encourage others to talk about themselves: If you want people to shun you, laugh behind your back, and despise you, never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is still talking, don’t wait for them to finish – they will easily conclude that you think they are not as smart as you are…You are so arrogant that you can’t wait for them to air their view. If you act as listed above, people will see you as a bore, intoxicated with his/her own ego. Be it at work or at home, you are likely to be devoid of true friends or loving colleagues. Instead, let others talk about themselves. Listen and make them conformable to bare their hearts. Nod your head and look at them in the eye when they talk. Ask short questions in relation to their topic when they are done instead of shooting off in your own narrative, which would seem like you are trying to drown out theirs. Today, people do this by looking at or playing with their smart phones when others are talking. According to Forbes Magazine, one of the habits of exceptionally likeable people is that they put away their phones when they are talking to someone.
- The only way to win an argument is to avoid it
- Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell a person out rightly that he/she is wrong: You can honestly tell them that you don’t agree with them, but not that they are wrong and you are right.
- If you are wrong, admit it
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
- Be sympathetic
- If you must criticize, criticize the mistake and not the person
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing others
- When someone is wrong, allow them room to save their face. Don’t rub it in!
- Give anyone a fine reputation, and they will strive to live up to it
- Encourage others. Make the mistake you need them to correct easy to correct
Of course most points highlighted in this book have caveats to them, most of which are dealt with in the book. Reading this book and working towards living by these principles would not only change the way you see and relate with others, but most of all, the way others see and relate with you. No man is an island, so as we go about aspiring to our callings, may we find amiable ways to work with others!
Photo credit: parade.com
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