I started reading a classic book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie years ago but I never “got it” at the time, so I stopped before finishing. I picked it up a gain this year and I was shocked to learn that I’d been so “wrong” about myself and human nature – and how best to love people in simple ways. See, I’d spent the past 3 years (and even longer) doing the opposite of some of the key best practices this book shared b/c I thought the opposite was best… and in fact, it was best for me to be that way, but not for the reasons I thought.
For as long as I can recall, I prided myself in being honest and tried to be as efficient and effective as possible plus I’d help others improve by calling them to the same standard. The problem is the last half of that sentence. For me, calling others to the same standard meant showing them what they were doing wrong and how to correct it. So, yes…. I was that guy in my band, at work, at home, wherever – always willing to show someone how to improve by “constructively criticizing” them… showing them what they were doing wrong as directly as I could and explaining how to fix it. Know anyone like that? Do you enjoy spending time with them? lol I’m actually grateful I was that person in the past, and I’ll share why.
First, what I learned after so many years of acting this way was that although my heart was in the right place, my methods often turned people off. Granted, I honestly had the best of intentions and the reason I’m grateful I carried on this way is because it taught me first-hand the results of this sort of behavior. No matter how insightful and on point my constructive criticism may have been, it rarely yielded the what I’d hoped for: to see people change. In fact, people seemed to view me as difficult to work with and some even seemed to avoid me. Go figure. lol
So here are just two of the many key things I’ve learned from “How to win friend and influence people” that helped me change the way I am around those I care about. I hope you enjoy:
1. “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” People don’t like it and it often receives the opposite response of what you’d hope for.
The author, Dale Carnegie, shares the following nugget of wisdom:
“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
Out of the various examples Carnegie gives to show how demoralizing criticism can be, my favorite quote follows:
“B. F. Skinner, the world-famous psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior will learn much more rapidly and retain what it learns far more effectively than an animal punished for bad behavior. Later studies have shown that the same applies to humans. By criticizing, we do not make lasting
changes and often incur resentment.”
So, what do you do instead? Carnegie offers what I consider a very loving alternative, explaining “…instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. ‘To know all is to forgive all.’ ” Now that’s love!
This is just the starting point and the rest of the book builds from here to share 8 more principles, the second of which I share below.
2. “Give honest and sincere appreciation.” Make giving appreciation and gratitude a new way of life.
Carnegie points out that Charles Schwab, John D Rockefeller and many other extremely successful people shared the same successful trait where they influenced people though sincere encouragement and praise. Carnegie quotes Schwab in the following section of the book:
“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people,” said Schwab, “the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement… There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticisms from superiors. I never criticize any-one. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise. “
Of course, understanding human nature as well as he did, Carnegie goes on to point out that he’s not suggestion flattery. Flattery and appreciation are not the same:
“The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.”
What I found so amazing is that by changing my approach and using several other principles in the book, I could sincerely encourage, praise and inspire people, which truly turned around some of the relationships I’d unintentionally “soiled” at work.
Learning how “wrong” I’d been also gave me a chance to see first-hand the value of these principles and I also use them with my family to break the old habits of criticism and instead, encourage, appreciate and inspire.
I view these as simply new ways (at least new for me lol) to be love to those around me and hope you find them as useful as I did. You can get a free PDF copy of “How To Win Friends and Influence People” online here and learn all 9 principles.
Thank you life for the many ways to love and be love. Thank you for the new ways to show those I am around day-to-day kindness, appreciation and compassion. Let the learning continue!!!!