Why not study the technique of the greatest winner of friends the world has ever known? Who is he? You may meet him tomorrow coming down the street. When you get within ten feet of him, he will begin to wag his tail. If you stop and pat him, he will almost jump out of his skin to show you how much he likes you. And you know that behind this show of affection on his part, there are no ulterior motives: he doesn’t want to sell you any real estate, and he doesn’t want to marry you.
— Dale Carnegie
Is there a genuine formula for being liked?
And I don’t mean more Facebook likes, a better image, reputation, status or all the superficial votes-up you can gather (although this usually comes with the package)… but to truly connect with people in a way that transcends our fear, apprehension, apparent disconnectedness and usual misunderstandings…
In other words, are there any actionable tips for liking and being liked by people — that is, for having an authentic exchange of aliveness between two or more humans?
Almost a hundred years after it was written, I finally hop on the interpersonal self-help train and pick a copy of Dale Carnegie’s legendary How to Win Friends and Influence People. First published in 1936, now one of the top best-selling books of all times, this must-read communication classic has served as a guide and inspiration to many leaders, movers & shakers over the past century.
Communication is an art and a lifetime practice and few of us have had the chance, time or space to study ourselves and others enough to get good at this art. In fact, it should ring alarm bells that most of the world’s problems, as well as our most painful interpersonal conflicts are a result of misunderstandings — otherwise known as ineffective communication.
Dale Carnegie proposes that we watch dogs and learn from them the basic, universal principles for showing (and feeling) true appreciation — the bottom line for an authentic connection with others.
With an endearing old-fashioned candor, as well as a highly motivational taste of life — reflecting an optimism that most of us, born in the second half of the twentieth century have never even witnessed, let alone experienced — this treasure of a book feels like the lessons your father / grandfather should have taught you, had they more time, or vision or known any better.
It reads like the first manual we should have studied in school (instead of wars) — it would have certainly saved us at least a few years of painful misunderstandings by now.
Among the basic communication techniques that Dale Carnegie draws upon in this book, I’d like to share some essentials with you.
Let me start with the top 6+1 Ways to Make People Like You — or FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES FOR APPRECIATION — since I believe that what makes Carnegie’s work as timeless and as necessary today as almost a century ago, is the fact that it is based upon universal principles, a.k.a. Love Made Actionable.
Enters Mr. Carnegie. Classroom falls silent. I take notes:
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
In other words, if you want to be liked, start by liking others. You can’t give what you don’t have, and you can’t ask for what you don’t give. It goes like this: You become, you give, you receive, you keep on becoming, giving and receiving… Like all the best things in life, this too, is a journey and a practice.
How many people can you think of, who have shown a profound and authentic interest in you? How many people have YOU shown that you are genuinely interested in their lives? How often do you go past the typical, empty & mildly curious How Are You to the HOW (THE FUCK) ARE YOU, MY FRIEND? I WANT TO KNOW YOU. I REALLY WANT TO KNOW YOU.
As Carnegie advises,
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.
Really, just smile. It’s easy. And it’s hard. Because something as simple as an honest, uncomplicated smile can change your entire attitude, day, interaction with other people, and if turned into a habit, you whole life.
“Action speaks louder than words, and a smile says ‘I like you. You make me happy. I’m glad to see you,'” explains Mr. Carnegie.
In my work as an editor, I used to hate these stinking little signs: 🙂 😉 🙂 🙂 😉 🙂 Yes, these happy and annoying little freaks I would immediately delete and judge you for. I used to think they devalued language and turned us into superficial air-headed robots who couldn’t take the time to spell out our most positive human feelings.
But after half my organs have turned virtual, I’ve come to appreciate these simple yellow wordless faces more than words can express. They don’t waste time or language, they actually save it, by reducing our explaining and complaining — both of which have become pretty much our default modus operandi.
Smileys and Smiles can turn a statement around and change its entire meaning, alter the course of and entire day, and who knows — even save a life — through the smallest display of kindness.
Signs are powerful. A smile is an indication of likeability made with your face and a sign of all-is-well-with-my-soul-and-yours.
As for the purpose of a smile in the quantum creative process, Carnegie quotes philosopher and psychologist William James:
Action seems to follow feeling, but really, action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.
So, since I love experiments, let’s do a Smile Experiment. I challenge you to 5 smiles a day for the next 7 days. Observe the results of your usual actions under the cheerfulness contagion and report back.
Smiling more won’t magically solve your issues — but WILL it make your life, that little life that runs through you, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, a little more alive.
A smiling reminder from Elbert Hubbard:
3. Call people by their name.
This notion, learned a few years back, from another universal source, has been a game-changer in the way I interact with people.
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” says Carnegie.
I don’t know about that. I’m not particularly fond of my name or the way it sounds, let alone the fact that half the world doesn’t pronounce it in its original version. But there is something far more powerful here than the degree in which we like or dislike our own name.
When you call someone by their name, you recognize them, you pay attention to their identity — as limiting and constricting as this name might be — it’s still one of the most powerful ways to point out a person’s natural relevance, to separate that person from the crowd and let them know that,
I see you, I know you. Your life matters. You are not just a human to me. Your name, your story, matters.
Carnegie just texted me to add:
We should be aware of the magic contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing… and nobody else. The name sets the individual apart; it makes him or her unique among all others. The information we are imparting or the request we are making takes on a special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual. From the waitress to the senior executive, the name will work magic as we deal with others.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
The Dale genius again,
If you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. TO BE INTERESTING, BE INTERESTED. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. Remember that the people you are talking to are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems.
A person’s toothache means no more to that person than a famine in China, which kills a million people. A boil on one’s neck interests one more than 40 earthquakes in Africa. THINK OF THIS THE NEXT TIME YOU START A CONVERSATION.
— Dale Carnegie
Ahh, the ancient art of listening. It’s a beautiful law of nature if you ask me — sowing before you reap, or listening before you talk. (I should have graduated by now.)
There’s a fundamental truth at the core of this principle — a truth that only ATTENTIVE LISTENING can set free:
Most of us don’t have issues to solve, we have stories to tell and be heard.
We tend to go about our problems, needs or demands (or those of others) upside down, by first hacking at the leaves — trying hard to solve “the issues” and making demands of other people to help us or comply to our requests.
But if we go to the core instead, we’ll realize that the solution to even our most tangled issues lies within us. What we actually “need” is not a “solution to our problems” but the space and the time and the people who will hold the mirror, where we can be safe to — not find but BECOME the solution.
And this is why (I think) the gift of undivided presence and attention to someone’s story can unlock doors that none of our most brilliant arguments will ever do.
In fact, I’ve tested this on myself and others. Try it. Out of 50 emails you get, see how many are GENUINELY INTERESTED IN YOU and asking ABOUT YOU vs. asking something FROM YOU. And when you find such an email or person, see if you don’t immediately drop your guard, melt your iceberg heart and open your arms to them — even against all logic.
I couldn’t care less if someone is intentionally using this technique on me to get under my skin. My pores are always open, thank you. The fact is that it’s rather lonely under people’s skin — no matter who or how or where, we’re 99% alike, and “how” or “why” you got to me doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you are genuinely interested in staying.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
So often when we want something, we put our own interest first. We think in terms of what WE want and what WE can get out of the other party.
Almost a century after this was written, even after all our evolution, with all our gadgets and win-win psychology, when we think of making a deal, offering a service, a product, or our own story, we think of US first. Why oh why? And how oh how can we change this mechanism? And doesn’t this sound more like a sales technique than a genuine way of connecting with people?
Yes and no. You can certainly use all these techniques to make a sale — whatever it is you want to do with people after you connect with them, is your business.
Let me just complement my professor here with this humble deduction:
The whole point of seeking first the other person’s interest is to AWAKEN ENTHUSIASM. Passion is a lamp and it lights all of our ways: an association, a business, a friendship, a partnership, a marriage… and every other kind of relationship among humans.
Grandpa Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
Whether you are trying to make a great sales, a great connection, a great relationship or just a great first impression — ENTHUSIASM is THE WAY to get there. And how do we summon it? Whatever brings a person joy — their passions, their most sincere interests and desires, whatever their heart cherishes — TALK TO THEM ABOUT THAT.
The best part of this deal is that by awakening enthusiasm in someone else, you automatically catch the virus too, even if the topic is not particularly interesting to you. Your pupils will also be enlarged, and you will taste a deeper, more authentic and universal form of connection — one that transcends personal hobbies, or interests, or lifestyles, or even humanity alone.
When you connect with your dog, it’s not because you both love barking.
6. Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely.
According to Carnegie, this is the most important law of human conduct.
He cites John Dewey noting that “The desire to be important is the deepest urge in human nature.”
William James high-fives it: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
Benjamin D’Israeli raps it out: “Talk to people about themselves, and they will listen for hours.”
And a P.S. from Emerson: “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”
Does it come as a surprise then that one of the chief reasons why we hurt ourselves and each other is the lack of PRACTICING APPRECIATION? Not just feeling it — that’s the easy part, but practicing it even when we don’t feel it, and furthermore – SHOWING it. Why don’t they teach Appreciation 101 in Kindergarten?
As I have already pointed out,” Carnegie recalls, “it is this urge that differentiates us from animals. It is this urge that has been responsible for civilization itself….It is not new. It is as old as history. Zoroaster taught it to his followers in Persia twenty-five hundred years ago. Confucius preached it in China twenty-four centuries ago. Lao-tse, the founder of Taoism, taught it to his disciples in the Valley of the Han. Buddha preached it on the bank of the Holy Ganges five hundred years before Christ. The sacred books of Hinduism taught it a thousand years before that. Jesus taught it among the stony hills of Judea nineteen centuries ago. Jesus summed it up in one thought — probably the most improtant rule in the world:
DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE OTHERS DO UNTO YOU.”
But as Golden as you get around this rule and as ardently as you may want to practice it, it’s difficult to even rationalize it, when you haven’t yet learned how to love or appreciate yourself.
So I would add a 7th point to Carnegie’s 6 Rules for Making People Like You.
7. Start by LIKING yourself. Move on to LOVE. And don’t forget RESPECT.
When all is said and done, it all begins with you and it comes back to you.
One of the hardest lessons of my life — one I’m still trying to put to practice:
The relationship you have with yourself — in its many dimensions — is the one you will have with your loved ones, friends, acquaintances and ultimately, with the world at large. You accept and receive the love you believe you deserve. And you deserve the love you decide to offer yourself.
You can only meet the world through your own skin. You can only give and receive through your pores.
I am as skeptical and annoyed as you (or more) about all the How-To’s, formulas or shortcuts so typical of our rush-hour life advice topped with fast food wisdom, served at every corner of the Virtual Matrix — unless they are derived from a higher way of BE-ing.
I don’t believe in steps, or doors or paths or diets, unless they are a map to a treasure we already hold inside of us. We didn’t just land on Earth. (Or did we?…)
I believe in a New Way to Be Human — an ancient, synergetic modus operandi that already lives inside us, since the beginning of time, and it waits diligently there, somewhere between our rib cage and our heart, for us to clear our eyes of all the debris we’ve accumulated from not being Us — and once again let there be light.
A RECAP OF DALE CARNEGIE’S 6 ESSENTIALS:
Stay tuned for Part II of this How to Make Friends Saga — Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking — as Mr. Carnegie has now turned into my favorite professor. He lets me talk back to him, throw in my bits & pieces, and even take over the class when he’s not watching. I love him for that.
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