Can We All Just Get Along?

“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.” — Dale Carnegie

 Dale Carnegie

By Dawn Onley

In his seminal, self-help book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie gave a great analogy about influence that went something like this:

I like strawberries and cream. I also like to fish. I know that if I try to put strawberries and cream on the bait to catch a fish, it won’t work. What I like won’t influence the fish to take the bait because it’s not something that the fish likes. Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people? We try to influence them over to our way of thinking without realizing that this isn’t what they want. This isn’t what they like. Our way will not win them over. We need to become genuinely interested in what other people like and not waste time on what we think they should like.

The same holds true for seeking to change bad behavior. Carnegie said we want an intended result from a person and so we approach the person in a way that is not conducive to the results that we’re after. He gave an example of how it may not be effective to try to get your teenage son to not smoke if you merely talk about the dangers to his health. He’s young and feeling invincible and might not have an immediate reaction to that scare tactic. Instead, Carnegie instructed, try relating the perils of smoking to something that he does care about, like his ability to play baseball or run track.

Although Carnegie wrote the book in 1936, his advice is as timeless as ever on how to strengthen relationships in business and in life. Carnegie extols the values of being kind, being thoughtful, listening to understand and being complementary in our dealings with people that we know, people that we deal with on our jobs, and even complete strangers that we encounter. He includes countless stories of how these values usually lead to better outcomes in influencing people to get the results that we’re after rather than the results we get by being inconsiderate or angry or constantly talking too much about ourselves.

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Flattery Isn’t Sincere

Carnegie wasn’t talking about flattery. He wasn’t a fan of flattery and called it insincere. It is something that people say just to be nice. Flattery feels superficial. Instead, Carnegie said, when we develop an honest interest in people and listen to what they tell us, offering up kind words that are true to what we believe in our heart will ease out naturally.

This is about gaining an appreciation for people, learning what motivates them to act, what they care about most, what makes them sad, angry, ambivalent, fulfilled. It’s about letting people know that they’re important and that they matter. It struck a chord with me because it’s essentially why I wanted to be a journalist – to find common ground, to listen, to understand.

Less is More

We should spend less time trying to be understood and more time seeking to understand. We should spend less time talking and more time listening. We should spend less time critiquing and more time appreciating.

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In this social media era, everyone has a platform and wants to be heard, but fewer people want to hear. So it should be no surprise that we suck so bad at communicating with one another. Sometimes it seems that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see eye to eye with people that share different religions, political affiliations, ideologies, life experiences, etc.

Sometimes, I’ve bailed out, if I’m being honest, not even bothering to try.

Carnegie’s book made me question how often we disagree, even get upset at people for misunderstandings that have more to do with how we interpret things as opposed to how things were meant. How often we, figuratively, put strawberries and cream on our hooks and wonder why no fish are biting.

I’m glad to have read this book at this moment in time. For as Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “when you know better, you do better.”

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