iStock_000016556393XSmallEver notice that when you go outside for a couple of minutes and come back in your dog loses its mind as if you just been gone for an eternity? (Carnegie & Cole 39) This is also something little kids do for their parents when they are still to young to argue and be difficult – you know, before they’re teenagers. But dogs are different. Most dogs smile (as a dog does in their own way), they get excited, they wag their tales, and unless you’re going after their bone, most dogs will do just about anything for their owners and rarely expect anything in return.

There are lessons to be learned here.

Tony Robbins has a great exercise he does in his seminars where he asks people to greet each other as if they could care less about the other person. Then he does the exercise again where you great other people like they are a long lost good friend. Everyone immediately notes the contrast in body language, tone of voice and facial expression. What if you were to greet everyone in a similar manner? Maybe not going so far as to bearhug a complete stranger, but if you used an enthusiastic tone of voice and put a genuine smile on your face, do you think that initial greeting would be off to a better start? At least the first impression would be better and we all know that first impressions are often lasting impressions.

Part of our challenge is that we are selfish by nature. And before you start getting also self-righteous or saying “that’s not me,” consider that our interest in our self is innate (Carnegie & Cole 40). We are genetically wired with fight or flight tendencies and we naturally gravitate towards self-preservation (Carnegie & Cole 40). But, as Carnegie and Cole point out in the book  How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age, selfishness has led to some of humanities greatest failures, including the killing fields of Cambodia and the collapse of Lehman Brothers (Carnegie and Cole 40). When it’s all about you, you’re in for a very rough ride. We don’t have to learn to override our self-preservation instincts, we just need to retrain them to recognize that being selfless, rather than selfish, is in our best interest and offers the best chances of survival. 

I just saw the outstanding movie Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, last week. There is a scene early in the movie when the pirates are assessing commercial ships that they are identifying on the radar, to determine which one they want to try to hijack. One of them notes that there are several ships together and says “we cannot attack a herd.” They then proceed to look for a ship by itself, which turns out to be the Maersk Alabama.

If we’re walking to our car late at night, we tend to herd together because it is in our best interest. If you want to win friends and influence people, you need to do the same thing. Ever notice that dogs will also gather together in a herd? What do dogs know that we don’t? Or do we know the same things, but we’re just not good at doing them?

One of the basic tenants of rapport building is that we are attracted to people who care about our interests. Rapport is really a feeling of commonality with another (where do you think LinkedIn groups come from, or any community of individuals who share a common interest – maybe we actually are like dogs in that way).

If two people are talking and they suddenly realize they have a mutual acquaintance or a mutual interest, their level of connection just increased significantly. So, one way to genuinely influence another is to take interest in their interests (Carnegie & Cole 43), but you also must do it sincerely.

We move away from underhanded people and approaches, but we move towards what feels real (Carnegie & Cole 41).

We all know when we are being sold. Well, maybe some of us don’t so we will continue to pay a lot of money as we we learn that lesson over and over, but I digress. I recall a particular time when an individual was trying to sell me a program of some sort, but I’m not sure he realized that both of us had just come from a seminar which discussed how to use mirroring and matching to build rapport. It wasn’t the mirroring and matching technique he was using that bothered me – I know when people are mirroring or matching me and often times I feel flattered that they are trying to build rapport, but this guy was just giving off some sort of bad vibe that made the technique feel so completely disingenuous.

There is an interesting dynamic I see in many industries between company managers and consultants. Managers are in a position of power as they get to pick and choose which consultants they want to use. Some managers actually look at consultants with distain, and I will confess that I used to be one of them. But God has an incredible sense of humor and one day I found myself on the other side of the fence. I went from being an airport manager to a consultant in the blink of an eye (okay, really about two weeks, but whatever).

But my newfound perspective allowed me to gain insight. I have seen many government officials either retire of their own accord or the “assisted” out the door, I’m talking federal, state and local government officials, including managers of various companies. Within weeks they are looking for a job and often they are banging on the door of a consulting firm, asking to be let in. How they treated consultants in the past, when they were in the position of power, may determine whether that door is answered. I know one manager who actually refuses to even talk to consultants (or maybe he just doesn’t like me – his loss). He better hope he never loses that job because he’s going to be shoved into some pretty cold.

What I learned, and what this individual will likely learn, is that, according to author John Maxwell, all things being equal people do business with people they like, and all things not being equal, they still do (Carnegie and Cole 48). This guy is not making a lot of friends which will likely leave him not being able to influence too many people to hire him one day. Maybe he should smile more often, because a key part of winning friends and influencing people is to put a smile on your face.

  • We have already talked about the power of the smile and while 25-percent of the people in the U.K. don’t believe we ever walked on the Moon, and nearly 16-percent of the U.S. citizens still believe that 9/11 was an inside job, we nearly universally believe in the power of the smile (Carnegie and Cole 51). In fact, court room judges are just as likely to find smilers and non-smilers guilty, they actually give smilers lighter penalties (Carnegie and Cole 52). So the next time you find yourself saying “yes your honor,” make sure you have a smile on your face.
  • Don’t worry be happy. The research has shown that happy people tend to be located in the center of their social networks and around other clusters of happy people. And smiling is a great way to let people know that you’re happy with them, happy to meet them, and happy to be interacting with them (Carnegie and Cole 54). We also know from research that emotions can spread like a virus so you may as well spread a good one. In contrast, depressed, sad and even angry people also tend to cluster. Sometimes you have to drain the swamp instead of pouring in more water.
  • In the digital world you must carefully select the words you use in order to set the right tone (Carnegie and Cole 56-57). Emoticons may even be helpful in certain circumstances, but they are kind of an easy way out. And in some circumstances emoticons would be completely unprofessional, so focus a little bit on your written communication skills and find the right words to convey the right meeting.

In the end, business is still about one person relating to another, whether that is face-to-face or digitally (Carnegie and Cole 65). People who smile are better able to relate to others – a smile says, ‘hi, I won’t kill you, and transversely, please don’t kill me.” A smile makes you approachable. Find out what other people are interested in and become interested yourself. It may not be your ‘thing,’ but it may help open a door to other commonalities.

Just like a dog, be enthusiastic about meeting new people and connecting with them. I’m not a guy that enjoys the company receptions, but I have to go so I decided that I would just be enthusiastic and smile and meet as many people as I could. It’s interesting how I ended up having a good time – maybe that’s the secret our dogs are keeping from us – their happiness to see us is actually making them happy.

Carnegie, Dale, and Cole, Brent. How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2012. Print.

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