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Learning 643

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” 

Many successful individuals actually made it a habit to never openly criticize others.

Benjamin Franklin, for instance, claimed that the secret of his success was to “speak ill of no man.” Abraham Lincoln learned this lesson as well. Criticizing someone is easy, but it takes character to be understanding and to forgive others for their mistakes and shortcomings.

If you want others to like you, try to understand what drives them, accept their shortcomings, and make it a rule to never criticize them openly, for this criticism will only come back to harm you.

One of the strongest drivers of human behavior is the desire to be appreciated by others. We all like being complimented and hearing we’re doing a good job. Some people even claim that all of civilization ultimately rests upon the human desire for appreciation. Our desire for approval and praise makes us climb the highest mountains, write novels and found multimillion-dollar companies.

Try thinking like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said that every person he met was superior to him in certain ways, so there was always something to learn from and appreciate in other people.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Show your appreciation for others by talking about what’s important to them. Take Theodore Roosevelt, for example. Whenever he was about to meet someone for the first time, he thoroughly prepared for the meeting by reading everything he could about the other person’s interests. He understood that the route to any person’s good graces is the ability to talk about the things they value the most.

Of course, there is one topic everybody is interested in: themselves. Every person feels that they are valuable and interesting, and we enjoy others confirming this belief. Benjamin Disraeli was certainly right when he said, “Talk to people about themselves, and they will listen for hours.” Whenever you meet someone, find something you admire about them and tell them about it.

Dale Carnegie, for example, once wanted to brighten the day of a bored service employee, so he told him, “I certainly wish I had your head of hair.” The easiest way to get into the mind-set of appreciating others is to keep in mind the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like others to treat you.

If you want to win others over, show them your full appreciation and be enthusiastic about it. Demonstrate that you’re interested in them and in what they have to say, and try to remember the things they tell you.

Theodore Roosevelt was popular among all his staff because he made a habit of greeting them all by their names. He also deliberately made time for listening to them and tried to remember what they said. By doing this, he showed others his appreciation, and he got far more back in return.

Avoid all arguments – they cannot be won. When you encounter opposition to your ideas, there’s often no need to find an agreement. It’s already valuable to have others challenge your views, without imposing your own ideas on them. Be thankful for their input, and think about their reasoning, instead of automatically arguing to bolster your views.

Never tell others they are wrong; they will only resent you. To get the other person to reevaluate their view, it’s much more effective to be humble and open-minded; for example, “I thought differently but I might be wrong. I’ve been wrong pretty often, so let’s have a look at the facts again together.”

With a little luck, a soft approach will quickly turn opponents into allies, making it possible for you to change their opinions.

Benjamin Franklin made it a habit to never openly oppose others. When speaking to others, he even banished certain expressions from his vocabulary such as “certainly” and “undoubtedly.” He felt they were too rigid and reflected an unbending mindset. Rather, he used phrases like “I conceive” or “I imagine.”

Whenever you are wrong, admit it immediately and clearly. Whenever you do and someone is about to berate you for it, there’s a simple way to steal your opponents’ thunder: admit your mistake quickly and clearly.

This can have an unexpected effect: just a second ago, the other person was planning to bolster his own self-esteem by criticizing you, but the moment you admitted your “guilt,” the situation completely turned around. If the other person still wants to feel important, they must be generous and forgive you.

Dale Carnegie experienced this once when a police officer caught him walking his dog without a muzzle. Even before the officer began to talk, Carnegie himself expressed how very, very sorry he was, and how unacceptable his misdeed was. Normally, the officer might have been very critical and preachy, but thanks to this upfront admission of guilt, the officer did the opposite: he accepted Carnegie’s apology and let him go without a fine.

This approach also has another very positive side-effect: publicly criticizing yourself is much more pleasant than having to listen to others do it.

Public self-criticism is also likely to make others think more highly of you. Anyone can defend themselves in the face of criticism, but it takes character to openly admit your weaknesses and shortcomings.

To be convincing, get others to say “yes” as often as possible. Always emphasize shared interests. Make it clear that both you and your opponent have the same goals. Never reveal your own views before ensuring the other person believes your interests are shared. The most effective way to persuade them of your views is to make them agree with you as often as possible. Build your argumentation by asking your opponent lots of small questions that can only be answered with a “yes.”

The reasoning behind this approach, also known as the Socratic method, is simple: the more yeses you get during a discussion, the greater the probability that you will also get a “yes” when you finally reveal your real position on the subject.

By using the Socratic method, you can even get people to agree with views they would have fiercely opposed only moments before.

Make sure others like you by smiling, listening and showing your appreciation for them. This will make them more inclined to listen to you and do you favors. 

 – Lessons from “How to win friends and influence people. – By Dale Carnegie”