So goes Principle 1 from How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
I’ve never read the book and decided it might be a good way to start 2015. Classics are classics for good reasons, and it’s always easy to see why within just a few pages.
Why Criticism is Counterproductive
Criticism often creates self-defense. Most individuals feel as if they really never do anything all that wrong or have much to learn.
Consequently, if you point out someone’s glaring lapse in judgment, wisdom, or character, he seldom says, “Why thank you for pointing out my blind spot. It is duly noted, and I shall make haste to improve.”
Normally, there’s a bristling and a bit of the fight or flight mechanism kicks in. The individual shuts down and goes to talk about you behind your back, or verbally counter-attacks.
The communication shuts down and nothing improves.
Isn’t Honesty the Best Policy?
Honesty’s one thing. Our attitude and choice of words and tone are completely different.
Halfway through reading the chapter, my 6 year old son came to me to admit to pulling the towel holder off the wall in one of our restrooms. He started with an, “It was an accident. You’re going to be mad.” (This preface stung a bit, admittedly).
Then he told me what happened.
Luckily, reading this book, I considered my options:
- I could assume he was not being careful.
- I could assume that the screw had worn loose and it could have happened to anybody.
I chose option 2 (after all, I’d felt it had worn loose and failed to tighten it). I thanked him for telling me promptly because not telling me might have bristled me a bit.
He gave me a hug and told me where he put the holder so I could fix it. Boys will be boys. We shouldn’t expect stuff like this never to happen (a point driven home by Carnegie’s inclusion of A Father Forgets at the end of his first chapter)
Hopefully, the way I handled this will lay the groundwork for more prompt notifications when other similar accidents happen. And more importantly, hopefully it will be part of my developing a habit of using measured words, and calm tones in all of my communications.
What Does This Have to Do with Sales?
Sales is all about relationships: within the sales organization, with prospects, with current clients, with vendors, with networking resources.
Developing a habit of thinking the best of each person will always lower the temperature in the room and encourage others to rise to those expectations.
If (a) it doesn’t lower the temperature with some people and (b) it doesn’t encourage everyone to up their interpersonal games, but (c) makes others assume you’re a doormat, then (d) that person doesn’t belong in your pipeline.
[Tweet “Life is too short to work with people we don’t get along with.”]
Our job is to make it as easy as possible to get along with us. Not complaining, criticizing, and condemning are great places to start.
Some other notes from today’s reading of How to Win Friends & Influence People (Preface, Opening, Chapter 1)…
“I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody” – Benjamin Franklin
In the opening section “Nine Suggestions on How to Get the Most Out of this Book”, I loved the suggestion to repeated readings. Some books should be on the ‘annual reading list’.
Another good suggestion was to keep a daily log of appointments and interactions. Review these on a weekly basis with an eye toward honest assessment: Where did we drop the interpersonal ball? What did we do well?