So this is going to be a little bit off-topic then my more recent posts.
I’ve recently been listening to the audio-book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, a classic if you may, and I’m not really trying to provide any kind of summary, as you’ll find about 10 million of those with a quick 2 second Google search.
But rather, I want to do a “revisit” on some of his more important points, in my own opinion, that is. It will be the two points that I think have changed a bit in this age of information AND misinformation. So here it is.
And before I start, if you wanted to summarize the entire book into just one single sentence, I think it would be this:
Don’t be a dick and also think about others feelings.
Seems pretty straightforward right? And I think we all intuitively know this, too. But then, why is it so easy to be a dick especially without us realizing we’re doing so?
And that’s where the second part of that message comes into play. We often get too caught up in how we’re feeling, and forget how the other person feels as well.
Contrary to what you might think, I feel that an empathetic approach to conversations and building relationships isn’t actually an easy thing to do, at least without practice. Our natural way of thinking is about OURSELVES first.
The first point I’d like to bring up is actually the very first one that he introduces in the book: you shouldn’t be so quick to criticize others when something goes wrong.
Although he doesn’t directly say this, I think it can be implied from his message that a good leader takes responsibility for his own mistakes, and doesn’t try to blame other people or factors, even when you could make a reasonable claim of doing so (blaming others).
This is a fabulous message, and one that more people should really adopt. On the flip side of the argument, I’ve noticed that some (myself included) have adopted this idea much too the extreme.
What happens is while most of us want to avoid conflict, sometimes we use apologies as a “shortcut” to a resolution. We hope to skip all the fighting, and just make up.
But imagine this. Imagine you just came home and you caught you significant other cheating on you. What would you want her/him to say?
“ I’m sorry, it’s all my fault”
Somehow, that just doesn’t do the job. It doesn’t resolve how you feel inside. No matter how much he or she might tell you how it’s “their fault”, I think many of us would rather have a fight instead. At least then the little secrets and repressed feelings might come out, even if they do hurt.
And that’s my point. While we don’t like it when others deflect responsibility and blame away from themselves, on the flip-side, when one is too quick to apologize, it can often lead to a feeling of inauthenticity and lack of sincerity.
The thing is, we know this. We feel almost lied to when someone uses their words, even the “right” words, to calm a situation.
So then, what’s the answer? If we’re to not blame others, but we also can’t blame ourselves, what should we do? That’s when I think the lifelong advice of Actions Speak Louder Than Words is the best way to go.
The second point I want to revisit is this: Use genuine compliments to open people to be more receptive.
And in practice, this sounds like a phenomenal strategy. It is true that we feel more receptive to those who show interest in us, compliments being the easiest and most straightforward way of doing so.
The problem is, with the age of the internet, our “bullshit detectors” have become fine-tuned.
Almost all of us have at least some point in our life, been burned or played by failing to read the “fine print”.
We signed up for a “free trial” only to be charged $29.99/month for something we didn’t even like. We signed up for that “promotional deal” only to have your rates doubled after 12 months.
We’ve gotten so keen on the notion of if it’s too good to be true it probably is.
So what does that mean? Does it mean to compliment people less?
No, I don’t think so.
I think it means exactly how Carnegie puts it: only use genuine compliments.
And I’d like to add a note to that. Just because we “like someone’s hair” does that mean it’s not genuine if we tell them? Of course not! If you like someone’s hair, and you genuinely want to compliment them, then do it.
The only thing I would add is Don’t expect anything in return. Selflessly give your compliments without expecting them to do something in return. Don’t expect them to sign up for your promotion, or buy your product, or even agree to go on a date with you, just because you complimented them.
No, just tell them how you feel, and let their bullshit detector realize, you really do mean it.
So what’s the takeaway message in all of this? I think it’s A) Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is still a great and relevant book, but B) Don’t just take advice from a book and “expect it to work” because they told you it would.
And even when reading this post, just because I say something should be this way and not that way, that doesn’t mean I’m right.
Honestly, the best way to improve your social skills is to stop reading about it, and go out there and do it.
thanks for reading,