Winning Friends & Influencing People: Win People to Your Way of Thinking

If you have not read the previous installments of this series you can easily catch up here, here, & here.

 

There…are you up to speed now?? Cool deal. I’ll spare you a loquacious and cut to the chase. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

First & foremost, we must understand that “the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it”. There is only one way to get the best of an argument: avoid it. You can’t win an argument…if you lose it you lose, and if you win it you lose. Making another person feel inferior & hurting their pride will only cause resentment. Benjamin Franklin…I think we can all agree a rather intelligent dude…said that “if you argue & rankle & contradict you may achieve victory, but it will be an empty victory because you will never receive your opponent’s good will”. Why prove to a person that they are wrong?? Is that going to make them like you?? Why not let them save face?? They didn’t ask for or want your opinion. Why argue?? Always avoid the acute angle. 9 times out of 10 an argument ends with each party more convinced than ever that they are absolutely right. Which wouldyou rather have…an academic, theatrical victory, or a person’s good will?? You can rarely have both. You may be absolutely right in your argument, but trying to change another’s mind is just as futile as if you were wrong. A misunderstanding is never ended by an argument. It is ended by diplomacy, tact, conciliation, & a sympathetic desire to see the other viewpoint. Abraham Lincoln once offered that “No man who is resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take the consequences, including the vitiation of his temper and the loss of self-control. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.” When two people yell there is no communication…just noise & bad vibrations. Contrary to arguing we should welcome disagreement. Perhaps it is an opportunity to be corrected before a serious mistake is made. Distrust your instinct to be defensive. It may be you at your worst, not your best. Control your temper. You can measure the size of a person by what makes them angry. Listen first. Let the other person finish their thought. Don’t resist, defend, or debate…it raises barriers. Build bridges of understanding. Seek areas of agreement. Apologize for errors, which will reduce defensiveness in the other person. Sincerely promise to consider the other person’s ideas. Thank the other person for their interest. Anyone who takes time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Postpone action in order to give proper time to think about the issue.

 

We should “never say ‘you’re wrong’”. Galileo advised that “you cannot teach a man anything…you can only help him find it within himself”. Nothing good is accomplished when telling a person that they are wrong. You only succeed in stripping them of their dignity. Show respect for the opinions of others. If you can’t be sure of being right atleast 55% of the time why should you tell other people they are wrong?? You can tell someone they are wrong by a look, an intonation, or a gesture just as eloquently as you can with words. If you tell someone they are wrong you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgment, pride, & self-respect and they’ll want to strike back instead of changing their mind. We like to continue believing what we have previously accepted as truth. When others cast doubt on our assumptions it causes resentment and we seek excuses to cling to what we believe. Few people are logical. Most of us are biased and blighted with preconceived notions, jealousy, suspicion, fear, envy, & pride. If we are told we are wrong we resent the allegation and harden our hearts. We can be incredibly reckless in the formation of our beliefs yet become filled with illicit passion for them when someone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is difficult in even the best conditions to change peoples’ minds, and a challenge arouses opposition, prompting the other person to want to go to battle. The word humility springs to mind.  “My” is an important word in human affairs. Reckoning properly with it is the beginning of wisdom. Socrates humbly said that “one thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing”, an admission many have a hard time making. Nobody will ever object to you saying “I may be wrong…let’s examine the facts.” Begin that way even if you know for sure that you are right. It will stop an argument and inspire the other party to be just as fair & broad-minded as you are being. When we are wrong we may admit it to ourselves, but if others are trying to ram that fact down our throats we dig in. Only if we are handled gently and with tact might we eventually admit our error to others. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wisely opined that “I judge people by their own principles, not my own”.

 

Though it goes against our very nature one absolutely has to “admit when you are wrong”. If you are wrong admit it quickly & emphatically. Have the courage not to seek alibis. There is a degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit when you’re wrong. It clears the air of guilt & defensiveness and oftentimes helps solve the original problem created by the error. When you condemn yourself the other person will nourish their self-esteem by taking the magnanimous attitude of showing mercy. If we know we face rebuke anyway, isn’t it better beat others to the punch and do it ourselves?? It is easier to listen to self-criticism than the condemnation of others. Eagerness to criticize yourself will take all the fight out of others. Any fool can try to defend their mistakes, but it gives one a feeling of exultation to admit their mistakes. When we are right we should try to win people gently & tactfully to our way of thinking, and when we are wrong we must be honest with ourselves. By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected.

 

It helps to start out any interaction by learning to “begin in a friendly way”. Woodrow Wilson warned “if you come at me with your fists doubled I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours”. Lincoln suggested “if you would win a man to your cause first convince him that you are his sincere friend”. People don’t want to change their minds. They can’t be forced or driven to agree. However, they may possibly be led to it by those who are ever so gentle & friendly. Friendliness always begets friendliness. Bulldozing, high pressure methods, and attempts to force opinions on others will not work. Gentleness & friendliness are always stronger than fury & force. Kindness, appreciation, and a friendly approach will make people change their minds more readily than all the bluster in the world.

 

An interesting technique is to “get the other person saying ‘yes, yes’ immediately”. Keep them from saying no. Don’t begin a conversation by discussing the things about which you differ…emphasize the things about which you agree. When a person has said no pride demands they remain consistent, so getting a number of yes responses right off the bat psychologically points the listener in a positive direction. People get a sense of their own importance by antagonizing others, but it doesn’t pay to argue. It is much more interesting & profitable to look at things from the other person’s point of view. Use the Socratic method – ask questions with which others have to agree. Keep on winning one yes after another. Keep on asking questions until others find themselves embracing a conclusion they might not have at the outset.

 

Remember what we said about being a good listener?? “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking”. Don’t do too much talking. Let the other person talk themselves out. Don’t interrupt. People won’t pay attention to you while they still have ideas they wish to express. Listen patiently and with an open mind. Even our friends would rather talk about their achievements than listen to us boast about ours. If you want enemies, outshine your friends, but if you want friends let your friends outshine you. When our friends excel us they feel important, but when we outdo them they will feel inferior & envious.

 

It may be difficult, but “let the other person feel that an idea is theirs”. You have much more faith in ideas you discover for yourself than in ideas that are handed to you on a silver platter. The best way to convert someone to an idea is to plant it in their mind casually. It is bad judgment to ram your opinions down the throats of others. It is wiser to make suggestions and let others figure out the proper conclusion. No one likes feeling like they are being sold something or being told to do something. We prefer to feel like we are doing things of our own accord. We like being consulted about our wishes & wants. Emerson acknowledged that “in every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts…they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty”. Lao-tse put it another way, saying that “The reason why rivers & seas receive the homage of a hundred mountain streams is that they keep below them, thus they are able to reign over all the streams. So the sage wishing to be above men puts himself below them. Wishing to be before them he puts himself behind them, thus, though his place be above men they do not feel his weight, though his place be before them they do not count it an injury.”

 

Some great advice is to “try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view”. Conversational cooperation is achieved when you show that you consider another person’s feelings & ideas as important as your own. Increase your tendency to think in terms of another’s point of view & see things from their angle as well as your own. People might be totally wrong…but they don’t think so. Any fool can condemn them, but only wise, tolerant, exceptional people will try to understand them. By becoming more interested in the cause we are less likely to dislike the effect. Contrast your interest in your own affairs with your mild concern about anything else and realize that everyone else feels the same way.

 

Closely related is “being sympathetic to the ideas and desires of others”.  An answer such as “I don’t blame you one iota for feeling like you do. If I were you I’d feel the exact same way” will soften even the most hardhearted, cantankerous person. People who come to you feeling irritated deserve very little dishonor for their feelings. Pity them. Sympathize with them. Most everyone you meet is hungering & thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them and they will love you. Try to turn hostility into friendliness. Self-pity for misfortunes real or imagined is a universal practice, but controlling one’s temper and returning kindness in answer to an insult is very satisfying. You’ll have much more fun getting another person to like you than you get from telling them off. There is enormous value in sympathy as a way of neutralizing hard feelings. Sympathy is something human beings universally crave.

 

We should always attempt to “appeal to nobler motives”. Most of us are idealists at heart and prefer motives that sound good. Everyone you meet has a high regard for themselves and enjoys thinking of themselves as unselfish. A person usually has two reasons for doing something…one that sounds good and the real reason. The only sound basis on which to proceed is to assume that a person is being sincere, honest, and truthful. Most people are basically honest and want to live up to their obligations. They will react favorably if you make them feel like you consider them to be honest, upright, and fair.

 

An interesting piece of advice is to “dramatize your ideas”. Merely stating a truth isn’t enough. The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, & dramatic. You need to use showmanship.

 

And finally, we are also advised to “throw down a challenge”. Charles Schwab observed that “the way to get things done is to stimulate competition”.  The desire to excel by meeting a challenge is an infallible way of appealing to a person’s spirit. All men have fears, but the brave put them aside and move forward. What greater challenge can be offered than the opportunity to overcome fear?? Being paid by itself does not bring together or hold good people. It is the game!! Money, benefits, and good working conditions are rarely the most motivating factors of a job. The prime motivator is usually the work itself. If it is exciting and interesting workers will look forward to doing it and doing it well. Every successful person loves the game…the chance for self-expression, the opportunity to prove their worth, the desire to excel, win, & feel important.

 

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