How to Influence Others: The Self-Leader Meets Carnegie

This week’s book is an oldie, but a goodie. You have probable heard of it before. It has been on the top of must-read lists for decades. The author started off as the son of a poor farmer. He didn’t have access to the best education. What he did have was a burning desire to achieve more in life. He went from a poor farmer’s son to best-selling author and lecturer. By 1914, he was earning the equivalent of $11,800 per week!

There is a foundation in his name that is still one of the go-to training provider for leaders in corporate America. Who am I talking about? Dale Carnegie! This week, we will cover his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

Life is all about relationships. Your family and friend relationships strongly influence the happiness in your life. Your relationships with colleagues and clients influence your performance, results, and financial success. The relationships you create and cultivate have the biggest impact on the opportunities that come your way. Are you a relationship person?

The book is broken out into 4 sections:

  1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  2. How to Make People Like You

  3. Winning People Over to Your Way of Thinking

  4. Changing People without Offending or arousing resentment

Why is it important to know these things? In order to be successful in life, you need to interact, influence and work with other people. Knowing some fundamental human psychology goes a long way in ensuring that you can actually connect with people. It enhances your ability to communicate in a manner in which people understand and perceive your message in the way you want it to be understood/perceived.

When dealing with people, it also means you will encounter conflict and misunderstanding. Knowing how to navigate those tense situations, to win people over, and to not stir up other negative emotions helps with long-term team dynamics and achieving results.

One of the tips Carnegie provides is to make the other person feel important. We all want to feel significant. It is deeply embedded in our nature to feel appreciated. That starts with giving them your full attention when they are speaking to you. Start first with your body language; it does comprise 55% of our communication, after all! Set your phone down. Shift your body so that your shoulders are squarely facing them and that your feet are also pointing towards them. Keep your eyes focused on them, not on all the commotion going on in the background. These non-verbal cues give them the subconscious messaging that they have your full attention.

Think back to the last time you wanted to share something important with someone and they were either constantly on their phone or being distracted by other people. How did that make you feel? Did you get the impression that they valued your time? And even if you knew they were busy, didn’t part of you feel slighted or disrespected? That is the power of either giving or withholding our full attention. If you want to make people feel important, start by giving them your full attention.

Another way to make people feel appreciated is to let them know. Verbalize it. Tell them why you appreciate them. Find a way to thank them for it. If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. It will help you identify ways in which you can better tailor your communication to ensure that the person you want to reach will feel the most appreciated.

Never overlook the importance of words such as “please” and “thank you”. There is a reason they are called the magic words. Another important phrase is “you are important”. In a world where 1 out of 3 teenagers and 1 out of 4 adults is dealing anxiety or depression, being told that you are important could be life changing.

“If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can’t radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something of the of other person in return, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve.”

Now, I’m sure most people are eager to know what Carnegie has to say about getting people to change. You cannot change people. People change when they want to change. What you can do is influence their desire for change.

One way to get people to change their mind or their decision is to find a way to make them desire it. This is not about tricking or manipulation. It is about being able to word and frame things so that they can see the win/win scenario. You start by first seeking to understand why the person has made the decisions they made. What do they care about? What are the things that matter to them? Is there a way you can frame your position so that it speaks to those desires?

For example, there was a father who was diabetic and refused to change his eating habits, even though they were detrimental for his health. After much consternation, his adult daughter finally found a way to get through to him. She knew he wanted to be a grandfather, so she told him, “I want you to be alive to see my children”. Once the issue was reframed in this light – live long enough to see my grandchildren – his eating habits changed. He found a reason to be motivated to change a lifetime of eating habits.

And that is where the second part comes in. If you want to influence people to change without them being resentful of you, find a way for them to be able to change because they WANTED to, not because they are forced to. If you can get people to buy into why change is needed and why this is the best thing for them, they are more likely to take ownership of that change. They will perceive it as being something that they chose to do.

This is part of human psychology. We don’t like being forced or duped into anything. We like to feel that we are in control of our lives.

Now, that comes with an important third part. When someone has changed their mind, don’t rub it in their face. Don’t constantly remind them about that one time when you influenced them to change their mind. You will stir up resentment. It will work against you.

Carnegie goes into other topics such as how to handle arguments, earn trust, correct people when they need correcting, get people to remember you, and other useful topics when networking or leading people. You can grab your copy of the book at Amazon.

What are some of your tips for winning friends and influencing people?

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