Κύρια How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age

How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age

AN UP-TO-THE -MINUTE ADAPTATI ON OF DALE CARNEGIE ’S TIMELESS PRESCRIPTIONS FOR THE DIGITAL AGE

DALE CARNEGIE’s commonsense approach to communicating has endured for a century, touching millions and millions of readers. The only diploma that hangs in Warren Buffett’s office is his certificate from Dale Carnegie Training. Lee Iacocca credits Carnegie for giving him the courage to speak in public. Dilbert creator Scott Adams called Carnegie’s teachings “life-changing.”

In today’s world, where more and more of our communication takes place across wires and screens, Carnegie’s lessons have not only lasted but become all the more critical. Though he never could have predicted technology’s trajectory, Carnegie proves a wise and helpful teacher in this digital landscape. To demonstrate the many ways his lessons remain relevant, Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc., has reimagined his prescriptions and his advice for this difficult digital age. We may communicate today with different tools and with greater speed, but Carnegie’s advice on how to communicate, lead, and work efficiently remains priceless across the ages.
Χρόνος:
2011
Έκδοση:
1st
Εκδότης:
Simon & Schuster
Γλώσσα:
english
Σελίδες:
272
ISBN 13:
9781451612578
File:
EPUB, 3.47 MB
Κατεβάστε (epub, 3.47 MB)

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9
Share Your Journey

Peddling ice to Inuits? Selling seawater to a dolphin? Compelling consumers to wear cotton? Today the last of those doesn’t seem like a stretch. Examine the threads of every clothing item you own and chances are high many if not most of them are cotton. But in the 1970s that was probably not the case. Polyester and its synthetic cousins were the rage. They didn’t wrinkle, they resisted stains, and they were formfitting—and as a result, cotton’s market share dwindled to about 33 percent.1

The industry decided to fight back. It needed to make cotton desirable again, so it did what any industry would do: it started a trade association, hired ad firms, and rebranded cotton.

The slogan they settled on to save their industry? “Cotton: The fabric of our lives.”

They had celebrities pitch the slogan. Barbara Walters famously donned a Hawaiian shirt, looked into the camera, and said, “Cotton . . . it’s making my life comfortable today.”2

When the cotton industry was on the line, its members made the strategic decision that the best way to get people to buy their threads was by threading cotton into a personal story. Cotton wasn’t a soft, white, fluffy fiber that was spun into threads that became fabric that became garments; cotton gave life meaning by tying it together into a beautiful story. Today cotton commands about two-thirds of the market.3

People don’t want to be treated as commodities, but more than that, they don’t want to see their lives as ordinary. People want to know that they matter, and the best way to show them that they do is by allowing them to connect with a larger story. People and businesses that understand this principle are unbeatable.

In 2011, Apple topped Fortune’s survey of business people as the world’s most admired company for the fourth year in a row.4 Part of the company’s secret is found in one of the most famous TV ads in history.

In 1984, during the Super Bowl, Apple unveiled its Macintosh personal computer for the first time. The ad was aimed at disting; uishing the radically new and creativity-encouraging Mac from the conformity of the masses (to Apple, that was IBM).

In the ad an athletic young woman carrying a large hammer runs into a room of look-alike, dress-alike pseudo-people. She throws the hammer at a great screen and destroys an Orwellian Big Brother–type figure. It is the dawning of a new day. Treating people as mere Social Security numbers with arms and legs is over. One-on-one business was the wave of the future.

The proof of this concept isn’t found just in Apple’s success; it is also found in some simple shoes.

Blake Mycoskie started TOMS shoes after a story disrupted his life. He was traveling in the developing world when he noticed a simple problem: the kids he saw had no shoes. No shoes meant a lot of other nos in their stories . . . a lot of deprivation. So Blake decided to start a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need.

The first year he had the pleasure of giving away ten thousand shoes. Today that number is over one million. But that’s not where the story ends. One afternoon in an airport waiting area Mycoskie noticed a girl wearing a red pair of his shoes. Without revealing his identity, he asked about them. The girl told him the whole story behind TOMS in such detail that it rivaled his own description of the company. It was a moment that made him realize, “The truth is, what’s inside this box is not nearly as important as what it represents. TOMS is no longer a shoe company; it’s a one-for-one company.”

“In addition to attracting the interest of mainstream media starting with Vogue, Time and People magazine, TOMS Shoes attracted prestigious partners,” explains power blogger Valeria Maltoni. “Ralph Lauren, who had not partnered with anyone for 40 years, joined in with TOMS Shoes for the rugby brand. The ad agency working with AT&T created a commercial to tell the ‘authentic story’ of how Blake used their network to stay in touch and work on the go.”

Maltoni concludes her thoughts on the success of TOMS with an insightful nod to the power of this principle: “People remember. And when a message is a mission, they will tell your story to anyone who will hear it—even a stranger at an airport. And by doing that, they become your strongest advocates in marketing your product. . . . The lesson: influence is given.”5

While larger stories can be inviting, the land of small, personal stories can be intimidating. It is one thing to reveal a cause, cure, or commodity. It is another thing entirely to reveal yourself.

In April 2003, author David Kuo was driving home from a party with his wife. He woke up in the ER, told he had a brain tumor likely to kill him in a matter of months.

At three o’clock on that Palm Sunday morning, David and his wife, Kim, faced a decision: How much of their story did they want people to know? How willing were they to share it?

The tendency was to remain private. But they resisted that impulse, and Kim started calling friends, telling them the story and telling them to tell others so that they could pray. Within hours a page for them was set up on CaringBridge.org, a nonprofit site where people facing serious illness can post updates, needs, and anything else that they would like.

In the weeks and months that followed, the Kuos decided that the more information they could share, the more people they could help—they knew they were hardly alone in their cancer battle. That decision was life-changing for them. They saw their story as part of something far larger than them. It eventually provided a type of opportunity for them with other people facing similar challenges.

Their first bit of advice for everyone? Share your story.

That’s something Ann M. Baker from Seattle, Washington, learned in a Dale Carnegie Training course:

Most people treasure their privacy, as I do. However, when faced with breast cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, I did not want to share the worry and the pain.
But when my cancer news slipped out among family, friends, and coworkers, I was overwhelmed with email encouragement. Even family acquaintances whom I had never met emailed their breast cancer stories, including phone numbers and follow-on get-well cards.

This amazing outpouring of courage and love started a recovery journey that has changed my life. . . . And thanks to email, I know that no one needs or wants to journey the cancer road alone. For life is not about me. It is about us.

There’s nothing wrong if something that is “about us” is also “good for me.” One digital media blogger with more than a million followers put out the word that she was going to have Lasik surgery to correct her eyesight. Not only was she going to have the surgery, she was going to stream it live on her blog for all who were interested in having the surgery themselves. Transparency became her currency. She not only got 20/15 vision, she got better insight into a whole new way of using the digital world to share our personal journeys with others. She cites the live stream of a friend’s recent wedding or a client’s use of live streaming video to watch his son’s football games when he’s away on business as good examples.

“Aside from sports, entertainment and marketing, what else can live video be used for?” she asks. “Will it be adopted as a new communication channel used for functional benefit? . . . What about weddings, graduations, club meetings, religious ceremonies, birthdays, coaching, instructional content, cooking classes, births or even funerals? The opportunities are endless if they are embraced.”6

People trudge through most days with little excitement in their lives. But our digital age provides so many opportunities to give people an authentic view of who you are or what your company strives to be, thus creating touch points of commonality that draw you into closer friendship with others. It is easy to make a video instead of presenting a few drawings. It is easy to create a dynamic website to support a new company or organization. It is easy to use video conferencing instead of a call and to show a compelling presentation to all involved instead of simply telling them. But people have come to expect these things, too.

To really make your idea pop, take a unique approach. Step beyond the bounds of your computer and do something people don’t see every day. Use all of the tools available to you and your imagination to make your ideas vivid, interesting, and dramatic. Share your stories, and others will be willing to share theirs. Together you will create a new and larger story.

More and more common—and commonly effective at building influential relationships—is the authentic intersection of personal and professional life. While this intersection will always have certain judicious boundaries, many of the historically businesslike boundaries have been lowered or removed altogether today because most people have come to remember that the short- and long-term success of all interactions—transactional or otherwise—rides on the depth of the relationship. The more a colleague, friend, or customer shares of your journey, the more you can accomplish together.

When your journey is our journey, we are both compelled to see where it goes.


4
Begin in a Friendly Way

“Successful leaders . . . are always initiators,” writes leadership expert John C. Maxwell in his flagship book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He then recalls an instance where beginning in a friendly way was not only necessary but highly recommended. Still a young man, he had been hired to take over the leadership of a troubled church in Lancaster, Ohio, where he was told a large and intimidating man named Jim Butz, the elected lay leader of the congregation, was the most influential person in the organization. He was also told Jim had a reputation for maverick behavior that at times had led the church down the wrong path.

The first thing Maxwell did was arrange a meeting with Jim in his office. It could have been an awkward or even grossly misperceived moment—a twenty-five-year-old rookie summoning the sixty-five-year-old patriarch to meet with him—but Maxwell dispelled that notion immediately. The second Jim sat down, Maxwell began with a humble acknowledgment of the situation. Jim was the influencer in the church, and Maxwell wanted to work with him, not against him. Maxwell then suggested they meet once a week for lunch to talk through the issues and make decisions together. “While I’m the leader here,” said Maxwell, “I’ll never take any decision to the people without first discussing it with you. I really want to work with you. . . . We can do a lot of great thing together at this church, but the decision is yours.”

When he finished, Maxwell explains, “Jim didn’t say a word. He got up from his seat, walked into the hall, and stopped to take a drink at the water fountain. I followed him out and waited. After a long time, he stood up straight and turned around. . . . I could see that tears were rolling down his cheeks. And then he gave me a great big bear hug and said, ‘You can count on me to be on your side.’”1

Friendliness begets friendliness. We are more inclined to agree with another person or see things from his perspective when we have friendly feelings toward him. If, in contrast, we feel a person is busy or brusque or uninterested in sharing a common courtesy, we tend to mirror the sentiment. This is a difficult obstacle to overcome whether you’ve just met the person or have known him awhile.

Where the initiation of interactions is concerned, no approach sets the tone more effectively than gentleness and affability, even if the other person is a source of pain, frustration, or anger. A friendly greeting says: “You are worth my time. You are valuable.” This subtle message has tremendous power—more than most realize.

In The Seven Arts of Change, author David Shaner shares an incredible experience that taught him the immense power of beginning in a friendly way.2 He had been recruited by a longtime friend to teach Ki-Aikido at the Aspen-Snowmass Academy of Martial Arts, just up the road from Pitkin County, a Colorado locale made famous in 1970 when American journalist Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff on the “Freak Ticket,” promoting the decriminalization of drugs for personal use, turning asphalt streets into grassy meadows, banning buildings that obscured the mountain view, and renaming Aspen “Fat City” to deter investors. Thompson narrowly lost the election that year, but his sentiment set the stage for another, less controversial, but equally unconventional man to become sheriff. His name was Dick Kienast, whose campaign poster had cited Sissela Bok’s vision of societal values: “Trust is a social good to be protected just as much as the air we breathe or the water we drink.”3

Kienast believed civility and compassion should rule all law enforcement interaction whether it involved violent felons or frustrated traffic offenders. “It was a momentous change initiative,” writes Shaner, “and one that many thought foolish and unnecessary. . . . Nevertheless, he moved forward in confidence.” Among Shaner’s first Ki-Aikido students at Aspen-Snowmass Academy were Sheriff Kienast and his deputies. Bob Braudis was one of Kienast’s key deputies and would go on to succeed him as Pitkin County sheriff. Before then Deputy Braudis would establish his legacy with a compelling display of beginning in a friendly way.

Braudis was an imposing presence and fit the stereotype of a brawny, no-nonsense cop. This presence served as a stark and effective contrast to his demeanor with people. He never raised his voice, even in the midst of volatile situations. One event serves as a case in point.

While Deputy Braudis was the patrol director, a dispatch came through that an armed man was holding all the patrons hostage at a local restaurant called the Woody Creek Tavern. Braudis was the first to arrive on the scene, and from outside the building he was apprised of the situation. The man’s estranged wife was prohibiting him from visiting his daughter, whom he had seen in the restaurant. Rather than attempting a peaceful greeting, something clicked inside the man. He yanked out a gun and forced everyone inside to comply with his wishes.

Deputy Braudis assessed the danger and took a different tack. He peacefully approached the window unarmed. Sensing the deputy’s affability, the gunman allowed him to enter the building. Braudis then proceeded to address the man in a civil manner, asking him to consider the consequences of his actions, which could ultimately lead to him never seeing his daughter again.

“Bob’s placid demeanor, his rational discussion of the real issues, and his empathy toward the man’s rage validated the suspect,” writes Shaner. “And the more the man talked with Bob, the more he realized that much of his anger was with himself. He eventually put down his weapon. The man’s whole demeanor then changed. . . . Bob explained that exiting the tavern with cuffs on would put all the law enforcement people outside the tavern at ease so that neither Bob nor the suspect would run the risk of being shot. The man complied, and the conflict was ended peacefully.”4

Consider this story the next time you sit down to write an email to somebody who has made you frustrated or angry. Will you begin with a civil, courteous tone or let your emotions take over and jump into conflict? Will you take a few moments to inquire about the other person’s life or work situation or to create a bond through some shared interest by telling them something about yourself? If you begin in a friendly manner, you are far more likely to get the positive results you seek, especially if you and the other person are currently at odds.

“I do not like that man,” Abraham Lincoln once said. “I must get to know him better.”5

If you believe building a friendly rapport will be critical to achieving a certain outcome, using texts, chats, or other short forms of communication isn’t likely to get you very far. Because of the limited space and the lack of intonation and nonverbal cues to support your sentiment, it’s very difficult to create the level of communication necessary to convey affability. If face-to-face is not possible, at least use a medium that will allow time and space to convey a level of friendliness that in Carnegie’s time ruled human relations. It takes creativity and a bit more time to replicate the effect of a warm smile and a firm handshake, but it can be done.

“Social media requires that business leaders start thinking like small-town shop owners,” concurs entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, who wrote The Thank You Economy.

This means taking the long view and avoiding short-term benchmarks to gauge progress. . . . In short, business leaders are going to have to relearn the ethics and skills our great-grandparents’ generation used in building their own businesses and took for granted. . . . [O]nly the companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way—and do it authentically—are going to have a prayer of competing.6

There was an age when people left their houses in their best attire and said hello to all they passed on the way to work, when a meeting meant meeting and when a call meant paying someone a visit rather than using the phone. While our transactions span the globe today, making such tangible connection more infrequent, it is still key to treat others in the same spirit you would if they were before you. Of his growing wine empire, Vaynerchuk explains, “We talk to every single individual as though we’re going to be sitting next to that person at his or her mother’s house that night for dinner.”7 It’s the proper perspective because it places the burden of accountability squarely where it should be—on the messenger’s shoulders.

The mistake many make today is placing the burden of accountability on the recipient of the message. We use the responses and reactions of others as the only gauge of whether we have taken the right approach or made the right impression. This is a slippery slope on two fronts.

First, it can lead to laziness in considering motive’s role in effective connection. If garnering a great response is the only measure of connection, then we easily become mere entertainers, provocateurs, and product pimps who think only about the next great gimmick to grab people’s interest. Shock value is worth little where true connection is concerned.

Second, responses can be deceptive, especially in the beginning. A tweet may garner many retweets, but this does not mean that those relaying your message to others have become fans or even friends. They may be thinking of someone else who might benefit from the message or might want to consider the product; worse, they may have in mind someone who would laugh alongside the retweeter at your lack of knowledge, sincerity, or tact. An online marketing campaign might generate a spike in site traffic or a print media campaign lots of journalistic buzz, but wise businesspeople know this does not mean relationships are being formed.

There is a big difference between engagement and interest. Interest is piqued in a number of ways, many of which are less than genial. It often begins and ends on a superficial level because the primary emotions tapped are curiosity, surprise, or disgust.

Engagement occurs on a deeper level when a person’s core values are tapped. Common to all core values is the notion of being considered worthy of relationship. When you engage another in a friendly manner, you convey to him he is someone worthy of friendship, someone whom you’d like to call friend. It is for this reason “he who sows courtesy reaps friendship.”8

If you want your voice to reach through the noise and beneath the surface to others’ motives for moving in your direction, begin in a friendly way. The first impression that makes is far more memorable than anything the loudest or most provocative attention-grabber on the planet could come up with.

Years ago, when Carnegie was a barefoot boy walking through the woods to a country school in northwest Missouri, he read a fable about the sun and the wind. It serves as a vivid reminder of the power of this principle of earning others’ trust.

The sun and wind debated about which was the stronger, and the wind said, “I’ll prove I am. See the old man down there with a coat? I bet I can get his coat off him quicker than you can.”

So the sun went behind a cloud, and the wind blew until it was almost a tornado, but the harder it blew, the tighter the old man clutched his coat to him.

Finally the wind calmed down and gave up, and then the sun came out from behind the clouds and smiled kindly on the old man. Presently, the man mopped his brow and pulled off his coat. The sun then reminded the wind that gentleness and friendliness were always stronger than fury and force.

It’s a timely lesson in an age that appears to divvy rewards based on greatest volume, speed, and splash. Such rewards mean little in the long run because engagement that engenders longevity is continually authenticated on mutual benefit and trust. If you don’t establish a foundation for both from the beginning through a friendly sentiment, both become more difficult to secure with each passing day. Wait too long or take too many shallow shots at attention and you’ll be left trying to talk the other into a relationship. It’s never the place you want to be—begging for commitment.

“Engagement has to be heartfelt,” writes Vaynerchuk, “or it won’t work. . . . You cannot underestimate people’s ability to spot a soulless, bureaucratic tactic a million miles away. It’s a big reason why so many companies that have dipped a toe in social media waters have failed miserably.”9

Winning friends begins with friendliness.


7
Give Others a Fine Reputation to Live Up To

Benjamin Zander was tired—tired of watching his conservatory students, so anxious about the grading of their performances in his class, take a safe approach to their music education. In the top tiers of the arts world, bitter competition can define the talent development process. He considered abandoning grades altogether, but that presented a host of challenges, not the least of which was getting the head of the school to approve such a radical move.

Instead, he decided he would give each student an A—on the very first day of class.

Upon meeting his new and nervous students, he would say, “Each student in this class will get an A for the course. However, there is one requirement that you must fulfill to earn this grade: Some time during the next two weeks, you must write me a letter dated next May . . . and in this letter you are to tell, in as much detail as you can, the story of what will have happened to you by next May that is in line with this extraordinary grade.”

He instructed the students to think of themselves in the future, looking back on all that they had done to earn such an illustrious grade. They were to discuss insights, milestones, and even competitions won. But Zander wanted more than a surface analysis. “I am especially interested in the person you will have become by next May. I am interested in the attitude, feelings, and worldview of that person who will have done all she wished to do or become everything he wanted to be,” he would say to them.1

What did he get from his students? Consider the following letter from a young trombonist:

Dear Mr. Z:

Today the world knows me. That drive of energy and intense emotion that you saw twisting and dormant inside me, yet, alas, I could not show in performance or conversation, was freed tonight in a program of new music composed for me. . . . The concert ended and no one stirred. A pregnant quiet. Sighs: and then applause that drowned my heart’s throbbing.

I might have bowed—I cannot remember now. The clapping sustained such that I thought I might make my debut complete and celebrate the shedding of

the mask and skin
that I had constructed
to hide within
by improvising on my own melody as an
encore—unaccompanied. What followed is
something of a blur. I forgot technique,
pretension, tradition, schooling, history—
truly even the audience.
What came from my trombone
I wholly believe, was my own
Voice.
Laughter, smiles,
a frown, weeping
Tuckerspirit
did sing.

—Tucker Dulin

Over the ten months of his course, Zander watched his students transform themselves in astounding ways. He calls his approach “giving an A.” In his book The Art of Possibility, coauthored with his wife, Rosamund Stone Zander, he has this to say about its potential to foster greatness in an individual:

An A can be given to anyone in any walk of life—to a waitress, to your employer, to your mother-in-law, to the members of the opposite team, and to the other drivers in traffic. When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves. . . . This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.2

What a magical perspective to assume in an often cynical world.

Coaches, mentors, leaders, and parents often find that people live up to our expectations of them, no matter how diminished those expectations are. If a man feels unimportant or disrespected, he will have little motivation for improving himself. So why not create a vision of him that embodies everything you know he is capable of achieving, as well as everything you don’t know about his possibilities? You will rarely be disappointed.

Paige Ann Michelle McCabe’s mother described her own adventures in creating a big-girl reputation for her daughter:

Four-year-old Paige Ann Michelle McCabe was sitting on one of our kitchen stools when she heard me tell her six-year-old brother, Brandon, that it was now his responsibility to set the table each night before dinner. Paige looked hopeful and almost teary. “What am I big enough to do now, Mummy? What can I do ’cause I’m big too?” Not wanting to break her little heart or deflate her ego, I searched quickly for something that she could take responsibility for.

An idea crept into my head just in time. “Paige Ann Michelle,” I announced triumphantly, “now that you are four years old, and old enough to make proper choices, you are responsible for choosing your clothes for the next day. Each night before you take a bath, you should get your clothes out of your drawer, and put them on the bed ready to wear in the morning when you wake up.”

The house was a flurry of activity. Brandon was zooming around setting the table, and Paige ran straight to her room, where I could hear drawers and cupboards hurriedly opening and closing. About ten seconds later she ran out to report her success. “Look, Mummy, I did it, I got them out! Come and see, come and see!” Sure enough, the clothes were laid out on the bed, ready to go. I told her how proud I was, now that she was growing up and had her very own job to do, and she beamed.

The next morning, a miracle occurred in the McCabe house.

Usually, Mummy has to coax a grumpy Paige out of bed, and getting her dressed is difficult, to say the least. If I choose a blue skirt, she wants to wear red pants. If I choose a white shirt with butterflies, she wants to wear the purple shirt with flowers on it. Finally when I give in and tell her to choose, she takes forever. Paige stays grumpy and I end up frustrated.

But not that morning. “Look what I am wearing, Mummy!” she said. She had got herself dressed before I had asked her to! I kissed her proudly and told her how happy I was with her choices. It was morning and Paige Ann Michelle McCabe was happy. What a difference that made!

Paige Ann Michelle McCabe had lived up to the fine reputation of a grown-up four-year-old that had been bestowed upon her.

To change somebody’s behavior, change the level of respect she receives by giving her a fine reputation to live up to. Act as though the trait you are trying to influence is already one of the person’s outstanding characteristics.


Why Carnegie’s Advice Still Matters

In 1936, Dale Carnegie made a compelling statement to his readers: “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face.” This is the foundation of How to Win Friends and Influence People, and it is still true today. However, developing strategies for dealing with people is more complex.

Messaging speed is instantaneous. Communication media have multiplied. Networks have expanded beyond borders, industries, and ideologies. Yet rather than making the principles in this book obsolete, these major changes have made Carnegie’s principles more relevant than ever. They represent the foundation of every sound strategy, whether you are marketing a brand, apologizing to your spouse, or pitching to investors. And if you don’t begin with the right foundation, it is easy to send the wrong message, to offend, or to fall embarrassingly short of your objective. “Precision of communication,” insisted American writer James Thurber, “is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false, or misunderstood, word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.”1

Consider the era of hair-trigger balances in which we live today, more than fifty years after Thurber penned the phrase. The stakes are higher. Amid the amalgam of media, distinction is more difficult. Every word, every nonverbal cue, every silent stare is scrutinized as it has never been before. One wrong move can have far greater implications. Still, every interaction from your first good morning to your last goodnight is an opportunity to win friends and influence others in a positive way. Those who succeed daily lead quite successful lives. But this sort of success comes at a philanthropic price some aren’t willing to pay. It is not as simple as being ad-wise or savvy about social media.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership,” said the presidential speechwriter James Humes.2 In other words, people skills that lead to influence have as much to do with the messenger—a leader in some right—as with the medium. This book will show you how and why this is true, just as it has shown more than fifty million readers around the globe, including world leaders, media luminaries, business icons, and bestselling authors. What all come to understand is that there is no such thing as a neutral exchange. You leave someone either a little better or a little worse.3 The best among us leave others a little better with every nod, every inflection, every interface. This one idea embodied daily has significant results.

It will improve your relationships and expand your influence with others, yes. But it will do so because the daily exercise elicits greater character and compassion from you. Aren’t we all moved by altruism?

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” Carnegie’s assertion remains relevant, albeit counterintuitive, because it reminds us the secret to progress with people is a measure of selflessness swept under the drift of the digital age.

We live in an unprecedented era of self-help and self-promotion. We watch YouTube videos like the Double Rainbow go viral in a matter of weeks and garner the sort of global attention people used to break their backs for years, even decades, to obtain. We witness allegedly leaked sex videos create overnight celebrities. We watch talking heads and political pundits tear down their competition and elevate their ratings. We are daily tempted to believe that the best publicity strategy is a mix of gimmick and parody run through the most virally proficient medium. The temptation is too much for many. But for those who understand the basics of human relations, there is a far better, far more reputable, far more sustainable way to operate.

While self-help and self-promotion are not inherently deficient pursuits, problems always arise when the stream of self-actualization is dammed within us. You are one in seven billion—your progress is not meant for you alone.

The sooner you allow this truth to shape your communication decisions, the sooner you will see that the quickest path to personal or professional growth is not in hyping yourself to others but in sharing yourself with them. No author has presented the path as clearly as Dale Carnegie. Yet perhaps even he could not have imagined how the path to meaningful collaboration would become an autobahn of lasting, lucrative influence today.

More Than Clever Communication

While the hyperfrequency of our interactions has made proficient people skills more advantageous than ever, influential people must be more than savvy communicators.

Communication is simply an outward manifestation of our thoughts, our intentions, and our conclusions about the people around us. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”4 These internal drivers are the primary differentiator between today’s leader and today’s relational leech.

The two highest levels of influence are achieved when (1) people follow you because of what you’ve done for them and (2) people follow you because of who you are. In other words, the highest levels of influence are reached when generosity and trustworthiness surround your behavior. This is the price of great, sustainable impact, whether two or two million people are involved. Yet it is only when generosity and trust are communicated artfully and authentically that the benefits are mutual.

Because we live in an age when celebrity influence can be borrowed like credit lines and media coverage can be won by squeaky wheels, it is all the more critical that every communication opportunity matter—that every medium you use be filled with messages that build trust, convey gratitude, and add value to the recipients. The one thing that has not changed since Carnegie’s time is that there is still a clear distinction between influence that is borrowed (and is difficult to sustain) and influence that is earned (and is as steady as earth’s axis). Carnegie was the master of influence that is earned.

Consider a few of his foundational principles—don’t criticize, condemn, or complain; talk about others’ interests; if you’re wrong, admit it; let others save face. Such principles don’t make you a clever conversationalist or a resourceful raconteur. They remind you to consider others’ needs before you speak. They encourage you to address difficult subjects honestly and graciously. They prod you to become a kinder, humbler manager, spouse, colleague, salesperson, and parent. Ultimately, they challenge you to gain influence in others’ lives not through showmanship or manipulation but through a genuine habit of expressing greater respect, empathy, and grace.

Your reward? Rich, enduring friendships. Trustworthy transactions. Compelling leadership. And amid today’s mass of me-isms, a very distinguishing trademark.

The original book has been called the bestselling self-help book of all time. From a modern standpoint this is a misnomer. “Self-help” was not a phrase Carnegie used. It was the moniker assigned to the genre created by the blockbuster success of How to Win Friends. The irony is that Carnegie would not endorse all of today’s self-help advice. He extolled action that sprang from genuine interest in others. He taught principles that flowed from an underlying delight in helping others succeed. Were the book recategorized, How to Win Friends would be more appropriately deemed the bestselling soul-help book in the world. For it is the soulish underpinning of the Golden Rule that Carnegie extracted so well.

The principles herein are more than self-help or self-promotion handles. They are soulful strategies for lasting, lucrative progress in your conversations, your collaborations, your company. The implications are significant.

By applying the principles you will not only become a more compelling person with more influence in others’ lives; you will fulfill a philanthropic purpose every day. Imagine this effect compounded over the dozens of daily interactions the digital age affords you. Imagine the effect if dozens of people throughout an organization followed suit. Winning friends and influencing people today is no small matter. On the continuum of opportunities, it is your greatest and most constant occasion to make sustainable progress with others. And what success does not begin with relationships?

Starting Soft

The business community tends to patronize soft skills, as Carnegie’s principles have been called, as if to conclude they are complementary to hard skills at best. This is backward. A permanent paradigm shift is necessary if you want to make the most of your interactions, let alone this book.

Soft skills such as compassion and empathy drive hard skills such as programming, operations, and design to a rare effectiveness. How? Soft skills link hard skills to operational productivity, organizational synergy, and commercial relevance because all require sound human commitment. Does the hard-skilled manager who sits in lofty obscurity lording over his reports trump the hard-skilled manager who walks among his people, who is known, seen, and respected by his people? While the former might win some success by forcing his hand for a time, his influence is fatally flawed because his power is not bestowed on him by his people. His influence is only a veneer of leverage with a short shelf life.

In his book Derailed, corporate psychologist Tim Irwin details the downfall of six high-profile CEOs over the last decade. Every downfall was triggered by the executive’s inability to connect with employees on a tangible, meaningful level. In other words, every derailment was the result of a hard skill surplus coupled with a soft skill deficit—corporate savvy minus compelling influence. And such failings are no less our own. Theirs were public, but ours are often as palpable.

We lose the faith of friends, family members, and others when we follow the steps of relational success without feeding the essence of the relationships—the measuring and meeting of human needs.

What makes so many well-meaning people get this wrong? Perhaps the ethereal nature of soft skills leads us astray. We can lean unilaterally on what is measurable.

Hard skills can be tested, taught, and transferred. Most business books are written with this in mind because we can pinpoint hard skill progress—individually and corporately—with charts, metrics, and reports.

Not so of soft skills. They can be difficult to reduce to steps. They are often messy and only crudely quantifiable through better responses and improved relationships. Yet aren’t these the best measurements of all? What good is a list of accomplishments if they have led to relational regress? When any progress is bookended by self-promotion and self-indulgence, it will not last.

On a small scale, do we keep friends whose actions regularly demonstrate the relationship is about them? When we learn a person’s behavior has an ulterior motive, he has less influence with us than someone we’ve met only once. The relationship is doomed unless he confesses and makes a change. Even then, a residue of skepticism will remain.

On a large scale, do we remain loyal to brands that regularly demonstrate either an inability or an unwillingness to embrace our needs and desires? Gone are the days when the majority of companies tell consumers what they need. We live in a day when consumers hold the majority on design, manufacturing, and marketing decisions. “Going green” was once a small, well-meaning ad campaign for a handful of products. The collective consumer voice has made it a mandatory marketing mantra.

Individuals and companies insensitive to soft skill success miss the mark today.

Some insist you can’t teach soft skill instincts. It is true if you approach soft skills with a hard skill methodology. Carnegie didn’t make this mistake. He discovered that altruistic instincts rise to the surface not from shrewd step-by-step strategy but from the exercising of core desires. When we behave in ways that befriend and positively influence others, we tap a deeper well of inspiration, meaning, and resourcefulness.

Hardwired into all of us is the desire for honest communication—to understand and be understood. Beyond that, for authentic connection—to be known, accepted, and valued. Beyond that still, for successful collaboration—to work together toward meaningful achievement be it commercial success, corporate victory, or relational longevity. The crowning essence of success lies along a spectrum between authentic human connection (winning friends) and meaningful, progressive impact (influencing people). “There is no hope of joy,” concluded the French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “except in human relations.”5

How does one access these soulful skills that power effective communication, meaningful connection, and progressive collaboration?

We must first remember that today’s relational successes are not measured on the scale of media—which ones to use and how many friends, fans, or followers one can accumulate. They are measured on the scale of meaning. Become meaningful in your interactions and the path to success in any endeavor is simpler and far more sustainable. The reason? People notice. People remember. People are moved when their interactions with you always leave them a little better.

Meaning rules the effectiveness of every medium. Once you have something meaningful to offer, you can then choose the most proficient media for your endeavor. However, when you put the medium before the meaning, your message is in danger of becoming, in the words of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”6 The advent of tweets and status updates, while providing convenient ways to keep friends, family, and colleagues in the loop, have created an onslaught of such sound and fury. But it is not only the messages going out at 140 characters or less that are at risk of signifying nothing. Any medium carrying a message that lacks meaning will fall short of its intention: a television ad, a department memo, a client email, a birthday card.

With so few media in his day, Carnegie didn’t need to thoroughly address both sides of this equation. He could focus on how to be meaningful in person, on the phone, and in letters. Today, we must thoroughly consider both the meanings and the media of our messages.

Straightforward Advice for Succeeding with People Today

“Simple truths,” wrote the French essayist Vauvenargues, “are a relief from grand speculations.”7 The reason How to Win Friends and Influence People remains a top seller to this day, moving more than 250,000 units in the United States alone in 2010, is that the principles within it are simple yet timeless. The underlying wisdom is straightforward yet transcendent. Since the inception of Carnegie’s first course on the subject in 1912, his simple truths have illuminated the most effective ways to become a person others look to for opinions, advice, and leadership.

If there is therefore any opportunity in rewriting the classic tome, it is not in the context of supplanting its advice. The prose threaded through the pages before you is in a different context: reframing Carnegie’s advice for a wholly different era—the same timeless principles viewed through a modern lens and applied with digital, global mind-set. The opportunities to win friends and influence people today are exponentially greater than they were in Dale Carnegie’s time. Yet when you break the opportunities down the numbers matter little because “the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is [still] composed of others.”8

It is true, writes 50 Self-Help Classics author Tom Butler-Bowdon of How to Win Friends, that “there is a strange inconsistency between the brazenness of the title and much of what is actually in the book.”9 View this book’s title through today’s skeptical lens and you might miss its magic. The book is above all a treatise on applying the unmatched combination of authentic empathy, strategic connection, and generous leadership.

It is important to remember that in Carnegie’s time the many media of veneered identities (websites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and gimmick-laden persuasion (pop-up ads, celebrity endorsements, televangelism) were not around. The idea of winning friends had not been reduced to an “accept” button. The idea of influencing people did not include the baggage of a half century’s worth of inflated ad campaigns, corporate deception, and double-living luminaries. Carnegie had an intuitive reason for identifying his title the way he did.

Back then, if you didn’t foster a friendship, influencing a person was nearly impossible. Social media didn’t exist. Digital connections were not available. In fact, you rarely did business with a person you did not know in a tangible way. The average person had only three ways to connect with another: face-to-face, by letter, or by telephone. Face-to-face was the expectation. Today it is the exception.

While indirect influence via celebrity or social status existed in Carnegie’s time, it was neither instant nor viral like it is today. Friendship was once the bridge to everyday sway. You earned friends with the firm shake of a hand, a warm smile, and an altruistic body of activity. You were worthy of the influence that resulted. The cause and effect are not so tidy today.

Consider the 2010 issue of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” With more than six million Twitter followers, Lady Gaga made the list.10 There is no need to discuss whether she has influence over her massive fan base, which has since climbed over 10 million. If she nods to a certain brand of shoes or a certain bottle of water, the products move. The real discussion surrounds the value she ascribes to her relationships and to what end her influence leads. Should she seek the highest measure of both, her influence is a significant force. Should she seek only to increase the numbers, she will make more money but have no more impact than a crack Polaroid campaign.

The inherent, relational value of influence has not changed. It is still the currency of interpersonal progress. Yet the plethora of communication media has made it possible to acquire dime-store versions. And you get what you pay for.

While we live in an era when “noise plus naked equals celebrity,” this is not a book about soliciting friendships and exploiting influence, a path Carnegie described as originating “from the teeth out.”11 This is a human relations handbook that originates “from the heart out.” It is about winning friends the way your good grandfather won your wise grandmother’s heart—through sincere interest, heartfelt empathy, and honest appreciation. And it is about guiding the lasting influence that arises toward mutual progress and benefit.

There is a right and effective way to do this, and Carnegie depicted it superbly. Seventy-five years later, the principles remain true, but some definitions have changed and ramifications have expanded. The trajectory of this book will thus be toward new explanation and application. How do we understand and utilize Carnegie’s principles in a digitized world? Certain clues can be derived from lists that didn’t exist in Carnegie’s time, such as Forbes magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies,” the Harvard Business Review’s “Best-Performing CEOs in the World,” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list, already mentioned. These clues, or at times warnings, have served as occasional guides for the context in which interpersonal success is achieved today. In the spirit of the original book, the pages that follow will also serve as a constant reminder that the reasons we do things are more important than the things we do.

While the journey to applying Carnegie principles today is not as complicated as unplugging and returning to a reliance on telegrams, telephones, and tangible interface, it is also not as trite as injecting a little humanity into every aspect of your digital space. In general, the best practice is a judicious blend of personal touch and digital presence.

Employing this blend begins with an honest assessment of your current situation. From here your path to progress with others is clear.

What is your ratio of face-to-face versus digital interactions? For most people, email, texts, blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts are the primary ways they correspond with others. This presents new hurdles and new opportunities.

By relying so heavily on digital communication, we lose a critical aspect of human interactions: nonverbal cues. When delivering bad news, it is difficult to show compassion and support without putting your hand on another’s shoulder. When explaining a new idea, it is difficult to convey the same level of enthusiasm through a phone call as you would if standing before your audience in person. How many times have you sent an email and had the recipient call you to clear the air when the air was already clear?

Emotion is difficult to convey without nonverbal cues. The advent of video communication has knocked down some barriers, but video is only a small fraction of digital communication. And still it does not shepherd the highest standard of human dignity the way a face-to-face meeting can. The award-winning film Up in the Air makes this point.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate downsizer flown around the country to fire people for companies who won’t do it themselves. Bingham excels at his job, which requires him to lay people off in a dignified, even inspiring manner. He has mastered a speech in which he encourages each person to embrace the new freedom. He even fights against his boss, who requires him to begin delivering layoffs via videoconference to decrease expenses. The great paradox, however, is that Bingham is a loner without one authentic relationship in his life, not even with his baby sister, whose wedding he may not attend. What appears to be an uncanny ability to empathize and connect with those he is firing is actually a confirmation of profound detachment. It is not until a personal experience shows him the raw significance of real human connection that he finally sees the truth. Then even he cannot follow his advice.

We live in a driven, digital world where the full value of human connection is often traded for transactional proficiency. Many have mastered the ironic art of increasing touch points while simultaneously losing touch. The remedy is found neither in self-preservation (à la Ryan Bingham) nor in stimulating connection through stirring but shallow salesmanship. The former is a philosophical blunder. The latter is a strategic one.

There is a threshold to today’s productivity, found at the very point where progress with people is supplanted by progress. Often it’s the sheer speed of communication that affects our judgment. Because we believe others expect immediate responses (as we do ourselves), we often don’t take the time to craft meaningful responses; we ignore the niceties of common courtesy; we say, “I can’t possibly apply these principles to a blog comment, to an email, at a virtual conference where I’m not even sure I can be heard.” But these interactions are when Carnegie’s principles are most valuable. It is in the common, everyday moments where altruistic actions most clearly stand out.

We expect courtesy on first dates and follow-up meetings; we are impacted when the same courtesy shows up in a weekly progress report or a shared ride in the elevator. We expect humble eloquence in an ad campaign or a wedding speech; we are inspired when the same humble eloquence shows up in an email update or a text reply on a trivial matter. The difference, as they say, is in the details—the often subtle details of your daily interactions.

Why do such details still matter in this digital age? Because “the person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership and to arouse enthusiasm among people—that person is headed for higher earning power.” It is remarkable how much more relevant Carnegie’s words are today.


2
Affirm What’s Good

The Academy Award–winning film The King’s Speech tells the story of how a common man with an uncommon touch helped a stuttering prince become a king who would rally a nation.

Prince Albert, Duke of York, had a stammering problem that hindered every part of his life. He had trouble telling stories to his children, trouble communicating in public speeches, and trouble speaking on the radio, the latest technology of the day. In searching out a cure for his ailment, the prince met with an Australian-born speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Logue’s methods were unconventional, in no small part because he believed stammering was as much a psychological problem as it was a physical one.

The film shows how the prince, known as Bertie to his family, resists Logue’s entreaties, and the rest of the film recounts the rising tension between the men as the stakes are raised and Prince Albert, Duke of York, becomes King George VI, rex imperator, and world war looms.

Finally, in a breakthrough moment as they prepare for his coronation, the soon-to-be king snaps and lets loose with all of his fears—that he will fail his nation and become a laughingstock for all of history.

“Bertie,” Logue interjects, “you’re the bravest man that I know.”

Bertie stops and considers the weight of those words. They portend life-changing impact.

If Emerson was right when he remarked, “The ancestor of every action is a thought,” then what Logue had done was that most brilliant of influence strategies.1 He had introduced a thought that had theretofore never been considered. Bertie, the stammering prince, wasn’t weak. He wasn’t a loser or a laughingstock. The lifetime of teasing he’d endured and the very picture he had of himself weren’t telling the full story. There was something in him that was more fundamentally true, something that was good . . . maybe even great.

Bertie embraced it. And ultimately he would become a different man because one person had the discernment to affirm in him something others had let his shortcomings obscure.2

Contrast Logue’s actions with those of dismissed NPR executive vice president Ron Schiller, who was caught on video articulating his disparagement of those political parties with which he did not associate. The primary difference between the two approaches is ultimately a matter of choice.

Neither Bertie nor any political party is without its share of faults. It is not as though Lionel Logue had a more righteous subject with which to deal than did Ron Schiller. Both could find reasons to denounce their subjects. Logue simply took the more influential path, the path that held human dignity in the highest regard. Schiller took a path in which he forgot himself and his fellow humans. It isn’t difficult to see which path is wiser.

One ancient and powerful Jewish parable involves a shepherd guarding one hundred sheep. They are under his care and he will not let them down. However, at roundup one evening he notices one is gone. Just one. Ninety-nine are safe and secure. What does the shepherd do? Does he say a prayer and hope the sheep shows up before a wolf nabs him? No, he pens the ninety-nine and goes looking. That one sheep is of such magnificent importance the shepherd cannot bear to see him left alone.3

Consider the message this sends to the sheep, not just the one but also the other ninety-nine who look to the shepherd for provision and protection. Now consider sending that same message to those you’d like to influence. Have you let them know just how valuable you think they are? There is great power in this simple principle, embodied regularly.

We all have an innate, unquenchable desire to know we are valued, to know we matter. Yet affirming this in each other is among the most challenging things to do in our day and age.

How obsessed we can be with the least important, most superficial things around. Weeks of life spent bantering about some celebrity’s latest style or some athlete’s latest sin. Hours observing the sociology of a household of clamoring college students. Even if we aren’t caught up in the often maniacal musings of pop culture, the demands on our time can still be so intense it seems difficult to dig down deep on anything. When we have a torrent of text messages, email bins that are overflowing, and networks offering ceaseless socializing, even that spouse we courted so passionately can become an inconvenience. Then there are the kids and grandparents and neighbors and so on. Who has time to affirm the good about anything save perhaps a neighbor’s new car or kitchen? That’s quick and painless.

The problem is that quick and painless can also be mundane and meaningless. It is for these reasons that employing this principle matters so much today.

Affirming the good in others should not however be confused with flattery.

The difference? Genuine concern.

A young, unkempt college student once asked Muhammad Ali what he should do with his life. He could not decide whether to continue his education or go out into the world to seek his fortune. It was clear he was leaning toward the latter. “Stay in college, get the education,” advised Ali. “If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can make something out of you!”4

Ali was clearly making light of the situation. Ultimately he understood what the kid had likely been told his whole life, and he used a bit of levity to make a significant point: “Don’t give up so easily. Stay the course. Despite what you’ve been told, you matter and you can accomplish something great.”

Affirmation, in contrast to flattery, requires seeing someone well enough to sense what to affirm, knowing someone well enough to be aware of what really matters. Flattery is usually an admittance of insensibility, a betrayal of trust. We say things we think we should say, but in reality we aren’t thinking at all. What message does flattery send? “You don’t matter enough for me to pay you much mind.”

We have to overcome the temptation to live on autopilot. Bestselling author Rick Warren writes:

We rush out the door and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Nice to see you.” We don’t even look people in the eye. We’re not really talking to them. If you do that, you’re going to miss a lot of potential in other people. . . . People aren’t things to be molded, like clay. That’s not your job. That’s manipulation—not leadership. People aren’t things to be molded; they’re lives to be unfolded. And that’s what true leaders do. They unfold the lives of others and help them reach their God-given potential.5

It is unreasonable to expect any of us to be on our A-game all of the time. Certainly we all miss opportunities we should have taken. But we can all measure our own scales over time. Do the messages you send with your written words, your spoken words, your presence, tip the scales toward affirmation or aloofness? The more they lean toward affirmation, the more influence you will gain with others.

Emerson wrote, “Every man is entitled to be valued for his best moments.”6 Think about that for a moment. Which relationship is most strained in your life right now? What would it look like if you began focusing on that person’s best moments and sought to affirm them? This doesn’t presuppose the person doesn’t have his faults. It doesn’t even presume he has fewer faults than fine qualities. He might be a broken man with years of waste and wrongdoing in his wake. But one thing you can be sure of: if you aim to influence him to change, repeatedly pointing out his rap sheet will do you little good. If instead you begin to remind him of what he could be—not with hypothetical hype, but with his own history of goodness, of success, of insight, even if only a brief history—something inside him would have cause to awaken. He could begin to see what he can still be, despite what he has been. “When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.”7

Few in history have understood the power of affirming the good in others better than the sixteenth president of the United States. With this one idea Abraham Lincoln kept the nation together. When he took the oath of office in March 1861 it was far from certain that there would ever be another inaugural address for a U.S. president.

The same day he was sworn in, the Stars and Bars, the Confederacy’s new flag, was first raised over Montgomery, Alabama. In the months since Lincoln had been elected, seven states seceded from the Union. Everyone, friend and foe alike, wanted to know what this man had to say about the breakaway states.

History now views this as one of the greatest speeches ever given, precisely because Lincoln wrote with a spirit of reconciliation. He wasn’t weak—he warned about the consequences of any attack on the Union. But he had the vision to affirm what was good at a moment when almost no one else could: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.”

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What audacity this took. Seven states had already broken away and declared independence. War loomed. Friends? How could they possibly be seen as friends?

Consider the last time a coworker betrayed you, a client lied to you, or a vendor failed to deliver on a promise. Was your first reaction to remember what he had done that was still good and true?

Being disappointed, let down, or betrayed are among our most frustrating, maddening moments. Yet they also afford us rare moments to make a supreme impression.

Do you recall a time someone surprised you with undeserved grace or unconditional forgiveness? The occurrence might have taken place many years ago, even during your childhood. Yet the person is likely a permanent part of your memory, with the emotion you felt still tangible.

Ultimately, gaining influence is about setting yourself apart, stepping to a higher plane in the mind and heart of another. If all you do is act and react like anyone would, you will never be set apart. The reasons are simple.

Competition for attention is constant. Communications are often a blur. It is challenging enough to become influential in today’s express-lane rat race. You need moments to show yourself altruistic and trustworthy, and seconds are all you are typically afforded. Were we all perfect individuals without a shortcoming in our lives, gaining influence through differentiation would fall solely on your ability to display a greater measure of trustworthiness than the others in a person’s sphere of influence. That’s a hard line to follow if your competition were all mistake-free individuals like yourself. In this scenario, competing for influence would look more like a beauty pageant (and some still treat it as such).

That’s not the case. We are all imperfect beings full of shortcomings, and this affords us perhaps as many opportunities to affirm others after disagreement or disappointment as in the midst of affability. The key is to allow yourself no claim on circumstantial exemptions—use a spirit of affirmation to convey your thoughts about others whenever you can.

Lest you make the mistake some do, a spirit of affirmation despite another’s faults is not a show of weakness or passivity. It is not a denial of justice, either, for mercy without justice is meaningless. Lincoln saw beyond the obvious and saw what might happen, and he pursued it.

Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union.

Sometimes affirming the good in others will mean reminding ourselves of that very good that exists in another. Yes, Lincoln said, things are strained, but the bonds of amity are stronger still. There was an American history the South and the North both shared. They’d declared independence together, built a nation together, endured war together, and all needed to be reminded of it: “When again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Those final words are the summation of all that needed to be affirmed. There was something bigger than discord hidden deep within, a better and truer reality that needed permission to breathe.

From a British monarch to a divided young nation, an appeal to the good in others turned a tense situation into a compelling challenge to change. This is not, as some might be tempted to think, an action that ignores the problems between you and another. Rather, it addresses them head-on but in a respectful, dignifying manner that is far more successful at propelling another toward repentance, reconciliation, or improvement.

In You Can’t Lead with Your Feet on the Desk, Ed Fuller, president and managing director at Marriott International, asserts, “No worthwhile business relationship, whether with your own people or customers and partners, can endure without mutual respect. And as I’ve learned firsthand, showing adversaries that you regard them with admiration can resolve even violent conflicts.”

Fuller then tells the story of a brawl that broke out between a Marriott attorney and a hotel owner in South America when the renegotiation of a management agreement escalated into a shouting match, and the two grown men began wrestling in a hotel conference room. The struggle continued without the intervention of bystanders until the hotel owner’s revolver hopped out of its holster and bumped across the floor. The wrestlers were immediately pried apart with damaged egos and no resolution.

A few months passed without progress on the matter until a corporate lawyer and two company executives suggested the Marriott president pay the hotel owner a visit. Fuller describes the events that followed:

I flew to his hometown and spent two days traveling with him, visiting his businesses, dining at his club, and mingling with his friends. As we got to know each other apart from our business dealings, our mutual respect grew. Seeing him in a different light allowed me to understand the strength of his commitment to his employees, family, and community. The differences at the heart of the conflict weren’t resolved, but I realized that he deserved my respect for who he was and what he had accomplished. A week after I left, we reached an agreement with the owner.8

Affirming what’s good, as with every principle in this book, is not just for grandly titled people at massive moments in human history. It is for this time and this age, where the spirit of communication is often less than dignifying. From the political podium to the digital medium to the boardroom table, the one who speaks in a spirit of respectful, unhyperbolic affirmation will always win more friends and influence more people to positive progress than the one who communicates in criticism, condemnation, and condescension.

The beauty of this principle today is that our affirmation of others is not limited to tangible interface. “While nothing can replace the effectiveness of your face-to-face interactions,” explained TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie in a recent interview, “it’s important to remember that the digital world can enhance relationship building.”9 At any moment of our day we can spread messages that affirm our friends, fans, and followers in numerous ways over email, Twitter, text, and blogs. Don’t, however, make the mistake of separating the scalability of a message from the individual significance of the message. They are inextricably linked. As big as a business gets, as large a following as one accumulates, messages are still given and received on an individual level.

What builds a bridge of influence between a king and his speech therapist is the same principle that builds a bridge of influence between a company and its customers or an executive and her reports or a father and his child.

We are all united by one single desire: to be valued by another. Whether this message is conveyed is not a group decision. Each individual to whom a message was directed—whether the individual sits alone across a table or in a crowd of three thousand—determines it.

In Carnegie’s original book he offered a story that has, perhaps more than any other story in its pages, struck a chord with millions of readers the world over. It was not his story. It belonged to a man named W. Livingston Larned, who called it “Father Forgets.”

Carnegie included it as an encouragement to all of us who can so easily forget ourselves and spend days critiquing and criticizing others. It is included here with a different perspective—not of the father who finally sees his mistakes but of the young son who with an unconditional spirit of affirmation wields a level of influence that changes his father forever.

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

These are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive—and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding—this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy—a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Isn’t it profound the influence one is afforded—even the smallest among us—when affirmation comes clean off our tongue and clear from our hearts? All great progress and problem solving with others begins when at least one party is willing to place what is already good on the table. From there it is much easier to know where to begin and how to lead the interaction to a mutually beneficial end.


3
Admit Faults Quickly and Emphatically

Only slightly less of a cliché than “The check is in the mail” is this: “The ref blew the call.” While the sport and circumstances vary, referees regularly make mistakes. Occasionally the consequences are significant. Around the world some are so famous they have their own monikers.

Take the “hand of God” goal, for instance. In the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals, Argentina and England were locked in a scoreless tie when Argentina’s captain, Diego Maradona, leapt high in the air over goalie Peter Shilton and punched the ball into the net. The referee, Ali Bin Nasser, didn’t see the handball and ruled the goal legal.

Then there was Jeffrey Maier. In the 1996 American League Championship Series, the Orioles led the Yankees 4–3 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter hit a long fly ball into right field. The twelve-year-old Maier reached over the wall and caught the ball, preventing Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco from making the play. Umpire Rich Garcia improperly called a home run instead of an out or automatic double. The Yankees went on to win the game.

Add to these incidents ten thousand other blown calls, and fan exasperation at referee errors can be faintly understood. Certainly we are passionate about our teams. But referees are human, after all, and we can understand making mistakes. What makes exasperation linger, however, is the inability or unwillingness of the referees to admit their mistakes.

That is what makes one of the worst examples of referee error so extraordinary—and ultimately redeeming.

It’s been called the “perfect game robbery.” Since 1900—the generally recognized start of baseball’s modern era—nearly four hundred thousand games have been played in the United States. During this span only eighteen times has a pitcher delivered perfection, retiring every opposing batter in order without giving up a walk or a hit and without his teammates putting a runner on base with an error. To put this in perspective, the odds of a perfect game being thrown in baseball (one in twenty thousand) are far smaller than the chance you will be struck by lightning in your lifetime.1

But a perfect game is precisely what Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had happening one early June evening in 2010. He’d recorded twenty-six consecutive outs and had gotten the twenty-seventh batter to tap a weak ground ball to the first baseman. Galarraga ran from the mound, took the throw from the first baseman, tagged the bag ahead of the runner and got ready to celebrate. There was only one problem: the umpire, Jim Joyce, swung his arms wide and shouted, “Safe!”

Galarraga’s perfect game had been lost in one of the most egregious blown calls in sports history.

But here is where things took an equally unexpected turn. It is perhaps the most significant and memorable detail of the story.

When he got back to the umpire’s locker room, Joyce immediately cued the game video and watched the play—only once. He saw how badly he’d blown the call. But instead of letting the dust settle in silence like so many of his colleagues, Joyce chose a different path. He walked straight to the Detroit Tigers locker room and requested an audience with Galarraga.

Face red as a tomato, tears in his eyes, he hugged Galarraga and managed to get out two words before dissolving into tears: “Lo siento.”

He apologized boldly and unreservedly. In doing so he changed sports history. There had been previous perfect games in baseball, but this was the first redemption game.

There are many things that are common to us all—birth, death, and a lifetime full of mistakes, errors, and gaffes. We all know this, and the vast majority of our mistakes, while temporarily frustrating and even maddening to others, are forgivable.

Why, then, do we have such a hard time admitting them?

Take Tiger Woods, for example. His Thanksgiving-night car crash outside his home quickly triggered seemingly endless accusations and allegations of extramarital affairs. Where once rumors of affairs would be passed around town as unsubstantiated gossip, our digital age can broadcast, accuse, and convict almost overnight.

Woods’s response? A prepared, vague admission of his “transgressions” and a request for privacy. His professional and personal world soon collapsed around him. Sponsors dropped him, his wife left him, and his golf skills suffered greatly.

Could he have taken a different road? Of course.

In the first weeks of the breaking news, before the fallout of endorsement deals being cancelled or Woods’s wife’s departure, PR experts pointed to a different approach that could have stopped the bleeding much sooner. In a Phoenix Business Journal article, journalist Mike Sunnucks cited Abbie Fink of HMA Public Relations:

Fink said Woods and his camp chose silence over getting in front of a story that ended up being driven by TMZ and the National Enquirer. “In the absence of anything coming from Tiger, the media will go find the sources elsewhere. And after today’s news, it would appear that there are plenty of people willing to share their side of the story,” Fink said.

Troy Corder, a principal with Critical Public Relations in Phoenix, said the Woods camp made numerous mistakes including essentially lying, hunkering down with a bunker mentality and not being ready to respond to tabloid reports, which have been true in part.2

A sincere and swift apology, publicly made, would have brought him to earth in the right sort of way. He had been an untouchable icon. A quick and emphatic admission not only would have cleared the air but also would have confirmed to people he was like all of us, human, mistake-prone, and messy—something we all knew anyway. That would have only helped him return to others’ good graces much sooner.

Digital Royalty CEO Amy Martin observed at the time:

Tiger should humanize his brand via social media outlets, specifically with Twitter and real-time raw video. His Facebook presence has a polished and promotional tonality leaving fans wanting a glimpse behind-the-scenes. . . . If he had allowed people to see the person behind the superstar personality, perceptions and expectations could have been different in recent events.3

Unfortunately, it was not the road Tiger’s team chose after the events that changed the course of his career. And the dust took much longer to settle. Such is the effect of ignoring this principle in the digital age. Negative news spreads faster than ever. If you’ve made a mistake, it is far better that you control the news being spread. Come clean quickly and convincingly.

One reason we find it so difficult to admit our faults is that we are inclined to forget the messages that apologies bear. This forgetfulness is all the more dangerous today. If we admit our faults immediately and emphatically, it is like shooting a full-page press release across the wires that confirms we genuinely care about the people we hurt, that we are humbled, and that we want to make things right. People rarely hold on to anger and disappointment when they can see that we view ourselves and the situation properly. We are much more forgiving of those who are willing to come clean right away.

Contrast the public’s view today of baseball slugger Jason Giambi, who immediately and tearfully admitted steroid use as the scandal was coming to light, against former slugger Mark McGwire, who waited five years to clear the air. Giambi had his life back rather quickly. The public was gracious and quick to forgive. While McGwire certainly had his reasons for delaying his explanation, in many baseball fans’ minds he forever wears a scarlet S on his chest. A half decade after his stellar career ended, he still remained a long way off from receiving the Hall of Fame induction that was once a foregone conclusion.

If we are aloof and ambiguous about our mistakes, we also shoot out a full-page press release, but one that reads: “I would like my life back.” While we’d all like our pre-mistake lives back after a mistake has been made, we have to remember that no one changed the circumstances but us. It is not others’ duty to give us back the life we took from ourselves. Only we can get our life back. That always begins with admitting our faults quickly and emphatically.

What all of us at one time or another forget is that there is a certain degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit one’s errors. It not only clears the air of guilt and defensiveness but also often helps solve the problem created by the error much quicker.

Ronald Reagan was known as the “Great Communicator” because, to the joy of his supporters and the consternation of his critics, he could move from a place of defensive weakness to undeniable strength with a simple quip.

One of his tried-and-true methods? An easy familiarity with the apology. During one particularly rocky patch of his presidency, he poked fun at his own White House, conceding, “Our right hand doesn’t know what our far right hand is doing.”4

Reagan knew it was easier to bear self-condemnation than condemnation from others. If we know we are going to be rebuked anyhow, isn’t it better to beat the other person to the punch?

When we recognize and admit our errors, the response from others is typically forgiveness and generosity. Quickly the error is diminished in their eyes. It is only when we shirk responsibility or refuse to admit our errors immediately that we raise the ire of those around us and the original misjudgment seems to grow in importance and negative effect.

Today we have the opportunity to broadcast our apologies, to let everyone involved know we made an error and are sorry for it. We nip negative opinions in the bud when we take that action. And we gain people’s respect, because it takes courage to admit our faults publicly.

It also takes courage to admit our faults privately. Consider our families. How hard is it for husbands and wives to admit their mistakes to each other? It’s akin to stabbing yourself in the gut. But no matter what that mistake may have been, it is crucial to choose the path of humility and rely on the power of forgiveness.

Anne was a successful finance executive and mother of three. Honors graduate of an Ivy League school, she’d never really failed at anything. She married the man of her dreams and then one night found herself hanging out with some of her buddies from work while at an out-of-town convention. One drink led to two, and two to four, and the group of buddies got smaller until it was just a male coworker and her.

They decided to leave the bar, and in the elevator they kissed. A few more floors and footsteps later and they stood outside her hotel room door. She opened it. They kissed again. Then they stopped. He backed away and so did she.

Each was married; they loved their spouses. They kissed again. And then they stopped, and he left and the door closed behind him. Anne went to bed alone . . . and then woke up to the nightmare that she’d betrayed the man of her dreams.

She went home two days later and said nothing for six years. It was a mistake. A one-time mistake with only one witness, who wasn’t going to say anything either.

The years passed with the memory locked away in a mental and emotional safe. She knew that if this secret got out, it would be the end of her life as the one who had it all together, the one who made no mistakes.

But one evening, while on vacation, she told her husband everything. He looked at her and started crying. Of all the reactions she’d considered, that hadn’t been one of them.

Over the next several weeks, they talked to each other, to their friends, and to their pastor. Her husband grieved, and with every minute of his grief her own heart broke. But something else broke as well—her mask of perfectionism. As friends learned of her mistake, she was overwhelmed by the very thing she never considered possible—grace and forgiveness.

She discovered that the truth did indeed have the power to set her free. Anne’s mistake was not without consequence, but in admitting the mistake and seeking forgiveness, she allowed room for a different perspective on her life, a perspective in which she was safe being imperfect. If only she had given herself room six years sooner.

The same perspective exists for us all if we are brave enough to own it. Any fool can defend a mistake—and most fools do—but admitting your mistake raises you above the pack and gives you a feeling of exultation.

At the end of 2010, people in the sports world engaged in that casual end-of-year discussion about whom Sports Illustrated would name as its “Sportsman of the Year.” The honor ended up going to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for leading the once hapless Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl victory. It was a fitting selection.

But Chris Harry of AOLnews.com believed two different men should have shared the prize instead. “As far as sheer sportsmanship, to me, nothing compared to the fallout from the night of June 3.” Harry goes on to recount the now-famous story of the blown perfect game and concludes:

About 16 hours later, the Tigers and Indians played again, but the meeting that mattered came before the game when Galarraga was tabbed for the trip to home plate to turn in the lineup card. Joyce was waiting for him. The two exchanged handshakes and hugs in one of the most inspiring, emotional and moving displays of sportsmanship any sport had ever seen. It was a moment worthy of being relived and helped us learn a lesson about invoking class and dignity when circumstances very easily—especially in this day and age—could have brought about a very different reaction.5

Oh, the power of two words to change everything: “Lo siento. I’m sorry.”


6
Surrender the Credit

A Dale Carnegie Training student in Australia relayed the following story, which serves as a good lesson for what can happen when we ignore this principle.

My business partner and I operated one of the largest IT retailers in Brisbane. We had eight stores, employed more than sixty staff members, and had a turnover of more than $10m per year. Although my business partner had helped me a lot and he was a reasonably easygoing person, I believed all the success was contributed by me. There was only one way to run the company and it was my way. When there was a likelihood of an argument, I made sure it became an argument and tried to win it regardless of the cost. I never began our meetings in friendly fashion and often talked down to him. I never considered his feelings and even wondered why he wasn’t more like me.

In the end I won all the arguments and had my way, but I lost the partnership and subsequently the company. After I learned this principle I started looking back and now understand how wrong I was. I often think if I had known these things sooner, how different my business would be today. I know I can’t change the past now, but I can see the mistakes I made and try to not repeat them.

Today this gentleman is a different person. “Now I always ask my partners about their goals before I set my own,” he writes. “Then I ask myself, ‘What can I do to help this relationship lead to their goals?’”

While it’s easy to see why we want credit for successes for which we labored, claiming the credit will never win you friends. It will also diminish your influence quicker than just about any other action.

What is the worst quality in a leader? Ask the followers and they would tell you it is the quality of taking credit when things go well and dishing out blame when things go wrong. Few postures send a clearer “It’s all about me” message. Few messages send people scurrying in the other direction faster.

Who wants a friend who thinks it’s all about them? Who wants a leader who doesn’t see your contributions? The answers to those questions are easy.

Answering the opposite questions is just as easy: Who wants a friend who doesn’t care who gets the credit? Who wants a leader who sees the full value of your contribution?

“Giving away credit is a magical multiplier,” writes Forbes blogger August Turak, a former founding employee at MTV.

It works equally well in business and in our personal lives. But harnessing this magic requires an attitude of gratitude. Without a sincere sense of gratitude, sharing credit is just another manipulative trick bound to backfire. . . . None of this is rocket science. It’s common sense. So why is credit stolen far more often than shared? The usual suspect is fear.1

But fear, in this case, should be reserved for the possibility of becoming a person who is afraid to share the spoils of success.

Turak shares a homily he once heard that makes this point well:

“The Sea of Galilee is teeming with fish and life,” the priest began. “The Dead Sea is dead and devoid of life. They are both fed by the sparkling water of the River Jordan, so what’s the difference? The Sea of Galilee gives all its water away. The Dead Sea keeps it all for itself. Like the Dead Sea, when we keep all that is fresh and good for ourselves, we turn our lives into a briny soup of salty tears.”

Surrendering the credit for a job or project can’t be a false humility, a covert approach to seeking the spotlight. This is a form of the martyr syndrome. The principle suggested here is born not of attention-seeking activity but rather of a supreme confidence that you are a far better person when those around you know they play an important role not only in a collaborative success but also in your personal success.

Watch any film or music awards show and you will see this dynamic in action, especially in the more magnanimous participants. What is the first gesture expected of the winner of an award? An acceptance speech. And what are acceptance speeches but a list of thank-yous to those who were responsible for the winner’s success? Some would argue this is merely standard show script, but those faces behind the names would have something else to say.

As the camera swings to show these faces, all are beaming—some even crying joyful tears, sharing in the success, and reciprocating the gratitude.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Greer Garson, the woman credited with the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history at five and a half minutes, is also the co–record holder with Bette Davis for the most consecutive Best Actress Oscar nominations at five. Could it be that all that gratitude was a big part of the reason she was so successful?

It’s often said that to be successful you must surround yourself with successful people. While there is truth to the statement, few see that there are two ways to approach this positioning. Either you can seek friendships with those who are already successful, or you can seek success for those who are already friends. Whichever way you choose, one thing is certain: your success is always commensurate with the number of people who want to see you successful. But one way provides better numbers.

When you seek friendships with those who are successful, there is no guarantee they will want success for you too. You might have to work to overcome being perceived as a relational leech. On the other hand, when you seek success for those who are already friends, you can just about guarantee that these same people will want success for you.

Surrendering the credit is a way of life you cultivate in your relationships because you are grateful for them and for what they give to you. It is nothing more than putting the success and betterment of others first—and putting your confidence in both who you are and in the rubberlike power of reciprocity.

Mark Twain certainly possessed the former; and Henry Irving could not accuse him of at least trying to put confidence in the latter. There’s an amusing anecdote about a conversation between the two literary contemporaries that neatly demonstrates this principle.

Henry Irving was telling Mark Twain a story. “You haven’t heard this, have you?” he inquired after the preamble. Twain assured him he had not. A little later Irving again paused and asked the same question. Twain made the same answer. Irving then got almost to the climax of the tale before breaking off again: “Are you quite sure you haven’t heard this?”

The third time was too much for the listener.

“I can lie twice for courtesy’s sake, but I draw the line there. I can’t lie the third time at any price. I not only heard the story, I invented it.”2

Twain would have been happy to let the awkward irony pass without a word of the actual truth. Did it really matter to him that it was his story all along? No. He was happy to have the story play well for the good of the conversation. While Twain gave in at the end—and who could blame him?—the funny story illustrates that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit for a thing so long as that thing benefits all the parties involved.

Inherent in the principle of surrendering the credit to someone else is this word we’ve already used: “reciprocity.” We don’t give in order to get in a transactional sense. But we do give in order to foster relationships—and by doing so we know there will be rewards. Reciprocity is a natural by-product of a relationship where two people share in joys and pains. “Double the joy, half the sorrow,” goes the saying. In true relationships friends look for ways to repay friends. What would happen if this spirit of relating spread throughout a company or a particular niche in the marketplace, or even across an entire value chain?

Two things are certain: (1) everyone involved would enjoy life a lot more, and (2) success would be more probable as collaboration occurred naturally. We have more power to spread this spirit of relating today than ever.

In the long run, no one but the originator remembers things such as whose idea it was, who spoke first, or who took the first risk. What people remember is magnanimity. It is an interesting paradox that the more you surrender the credit for something you’ve done, the more memorable you become, and the more you actually end up receiving credit.

President Ronald Reagan was once quoted as saying, “What I would really like to do is to go down in history as the president who made Americans believe in themselves again.” From this quote alone we can establish a fairly accurate character analysis of the man. He was in the game so that others could win. His political goals centered on the uplifting and success of those he served in the office of president.

Perhaps what best typifies Reagan is the quote on the plaque that sat above his Oval Office desk. It read: “There is no limit to what a man can do, or where he can go, if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”3

So often this is the case for influential people. They pursue a higher calling, something that transcends whatever political, bureaucratic, or success-oriented motivations stifle others. Reagan dismissed comments about his legacy with the quip that he wouldn’t be around to hear what the scholars and historians would say of him. This is what endeared him to so many as a person and leader. He lived and led with a constant surrender to the greater good of a country and did so with starkly unconventional methods. This is the mark of a person who seeks to elevate others despite himself. It is the unconventional mind that understands success isn’t about attention and accolades. It’s about partnerships and progress.


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2
Never Say, “You’re Wrong”

The best solution, wisest decision, and brightest idea nearly always exist outside of what one party brings to the table. Yet we find it quite easy to declare another person wrong, often before we’ve taken the time to consider what he or she is saying.

Even when we believe another is wrong, there is only one way to guarantee an unenviable end to an interaction and all chance of connection or meaningful collaboration, and that is to tell the other person we think so.

“Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Those who learn the wrong lessons from the past may be equally doomed,” writes Harvard Business School professor and coauthor of Negotiation Genius, Deepak Malhotra, in the opening of a Forbes.com article comparing the 2011 NFL revenue share dispute with a similar dispute between the owners and players of the National Hockey League in 2004–5.

In both disputes, the owners, concerned about rising costs, asked the players to accept a smaller share of league revenues. In both disputes, the players rejected the owners’ request and asked to see proof of the rising costs. In both disputes, the owners initially refused to substantiate their claims. In the NHL the situation turned dire because neither would back down. “Accusations of greed were rampant,” explains Malhotra. “Unable to bridge the divide even months after the collective bargaining agreement . . . had expired, the NHL eventually canceled the season. Two billion dollars in revenues were lost.”

Was the result a foregone conclusion? According to Malhotra, it was avoidable if only the sides had understood the basic human relations problem at the heart of the matter. “Both sides lost the season because the owners refused to acknowledge that players had legitimate concerns. By seeing them as greedy rather than mistrusting, the owners adopted the wrong strategy—intransigence rather than transparency—for too long.”

The dispute fell into the trap of “I’m right, you’re wrong” because neither would consider the alternative: that perhaps both were right. There is a critical lesson here. “Negotiations become more productive,” concludes Malhotra, “when each party acknowledges that the other may have legitimate concerns. In the NFL dispute, both the owners and the players need to bring a more nuanced perspective to the bargaining table—or fans across America may be doing something other than watching pro football games next fall.”1

Nuance, or subtle difference, is a critical concept to remember in the midst of disagreement. In most disputes, our differences with others are far subtler than we allow ourselves to see. We so easily treat dissonance like a chasm that cannot be crossed—the only resolution being one party taking a dive (or being shoved) off the cliff, so that only one party remains. It’s far from the truth. “Friendship that insists upon agreement on all matters is not worth the name,” exhorted Mahatma Gandhi. “Friendship to be real must ever sustain the weight of honest differences, however sharp they be.”2 The truth is that disagreement is more often a small crack in the sidewalk that can easily be negotiated if we come to the discussion table with a more open mind.

“We talk because we know something,” explained corporate behavioral specialist Esther Jeles in a recent interview. “Or we think we know something. Or, in the workplace, because there is an expectation that we ‘should’ know something.”3 This expectation of knowledge tends to work against us in interactions because it closes off our minds to the possibilities that exist outside the knowledge we bring to the table. We enter interactions with corroboration in mind, and if that corroboration does not come, we spend the remainder of the interaction attempting to either rebut the other’s assessment or rebuke the other’s right to make an assessment in the first place. The result is that collaboration—or the possibility of it—is forfeited. If that’s your approach, you will rarely progress far in relationships.

All effective problem solving, collaboration, and dispute resolution, said Jeles, begins with an emptying of the mind—of what we know or what we think we should know.

“This can feel incredibly unnatural,” she admitted, “because we have been trained to demonstrate what we think, to show our knowledge, our smarts—we think therefore we talk.” Yet by approaching a conversation with a blank slate, we take a humbler and more honest approach. We acknowledge the possibility that we may not know all the facts and that we may not in fact be the only one who is right. Better yet, we create the possibility for meaningful collaboration—the melting of thoughts, ideas, and experiences into something greater than the sum of two parties.

The notion that we might not be the only one who is right and that we may in fact also be wrong is of course nearly always the case, but we seem so averse to admitting it. Why is that?

More often than not it is because we value personal victory over collaborative possibility. Yet in doing so, we not only stunt the relationship, we also punt the probability of greater progress than we originally considered. We expect too little if in the midst of disagreement we only seek a winner.

Jeles shared the following story from her experience with a well-known media conglomerate whose swift response to a national disaster caused an aftermath of in-house conflict.

Her cell rang at midnight—it was the president of a media conglomerate that had retained her. The man needed Jeles to facilitate a meeting first thing in the morning to deal with an assembly line of catastrophes.

The president was referring to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. In the wake of one of the United State