Yea, okay, whatever

iStock_000000899310XSmallAre you hearing the world, “really?” a lot when you talk to someone? That may be a sign that they aren’t listening and are just being polite. You think they are engaged and hanging on your every word, meanwhile they are silently hoping for an easy out, like an earthquake or a fissure in the Earth to swallow them whole thus sparing them another second of your mind-numbing monologue. By the same token, a person may have 10 million Twitter followers but followers doesn’t necessarily mean influence. Even the court jester of old was watched by many, but it didn’t mean that they followed his political or business advice. Don’t mistake politeness for influence.

I once met a man who embodies everything that Carnegie’s book offers in the way of winning friends and influencing people – he runs one of the nations largest general aviation airports, located here in Colorado. In every instance where I’ve had the pleasure to be in his company, and in all of my observations with the way he deals with people, he’s focused on what matters to the other person, first. He’s focused on leaving them better than when he found them – both of these are key principles promoted by Carnegie and Cole (p 81, 87).  In fact, I look forward to seeing him at industry conferences and events just because I know I’ll feel better after our interactions – can you say that about yourself? How do people feel when they depart your presence.

Carnegie says that the goal of all interactions should be to convey value as soon and as often as possible (Carnegie/Cole 81) but how do we do that without sounding like a living, breathing pop-up ad campaign? The key is to focus on their wants and interests rather than your rap. Cole tells the story of the Macy’s Department Store new sales manager who was making a big push to double sales – but it backfired when the sales force being to just focus on getting the sale and not on the customers needs (Carnegie/Cole 89).

But, when the same manager took a new approach and asked his team to look for every opportunity to serve their customers whether that was walking them to the bathroom or holding their babies, to being mindful of their time and budget limitations. When the focus became meeting the customers needs and making their day a little bit better, sales jumped by 40% the first month and 50% the second month (Carnegie/Cole 89).

Here we see a common theme resurfacing in the 50 books in 50 weeks series – small acts of service and adding value, rather than pushing to make the big sale, gather the followership every business and person desires (Carnegie/Cole 91).

In the 1980s Janet Jackson asked the question “what have you done for me lately?” (Carnegie/Cole 92). This phrase from her song still guides the minds of the masses. It does not matter what you did for me it’s what are you doing for me now, but the secret to all progress with others is adding value in doing so regularly (Carnegie/Cole 92).

The digital age allows us to add value in a variety of ways. Many people are so busy just trying to manage their job that they do not have time to keep up with what is going on in their own industry. Learn how to manage news feeds and Google Alerts to stay up with what’s happening in the industries of those you care about. Then, a way you can add value is to filter and pass this useful information to them, in an easily digestible format. You can also add value by helping to solve a problem or in some cases, presenting them with a pending problem they may not even knew was coming, and posing solutions.

  • Peak performance coach Tony Robbins says there are two ways to be significant, do something really well or do something really poorly (Carnegie/Cole 92). Infamy is the easiest way to get known today (p92)
  • There are no neutral exchanges – you’re either leaving someone better or worse than when you found them (Carnegie/Cole 93)
  • We all have bad days and make mistakes – still, the best way to overcome a mistake is with what I call the Dr. Randy Pausch Apology Formula: ‘I’m sorry. It was my fault. What can I do to make it better?” You’d be amazed how often that works – ends a lot of arguments around my house too. This formula even works for corporations. A good friend of mine used to be an investigative reporter and she once told me that the quickest way to kill a bad story about you or your company, is to do the right thing, even if you’ve been doing the wrong thing.

There is another way to turn people off and that is to play the game of one upmanship (Carnegie/Cole 100). When someone’s telling you about their bad day avoid the urge to tell him that yours was worse, even if it was. There are a few exceptions of course, such as with good friends and you need a shoulder to lean on, but we are talking about in general. If you want to make someone else feel significant and make the encounter be about them, don’t start  arguing or one-upping them, because then you are making the conversation about you. Really? Yes, really.

In both teaching and training I find it hard to tell someone that their answer is wrong. This can embarrass some people and pushes away the connection that all trainers or teachers try to maintain with their audience. Instead, we say things like “good try,” or “you’re headed in the right direction but that’s not what I’m looking for just yet.” If you’re attempting to win friends and influence people you want to avoid the term “you’re wrong.” No one enjoys hearing that and it will likely put them even more on the defensive. Pretty soon you’re arguing, and when you are arguing you’re not influencing.

One evening at an industry conference I caught someone blatantly taking credit for a publication I had written. He did serve on the reviewing committee so he did have a genuine involvement, but he was holding forth like he had done it all, when I was the one that actually typed every word, did the research and fielded left-field questions from the reviewers. I had an opportunity, as he held court with his newfound group of friends at this reception, to slam the door on him and slam it hard. But what would that accomplish? Some people will argue that he deserved to be slammed, particularly in the hopes that he would learn a lesson and not do that again. While that might be true, keep in mind that we want to win friends and influence people not knock someone in the dirt and kick sand in their face for making a mistake.

He did not know I was standing behind him, so I quietly stepped up and said something to the effect that I very much appreciated his hard work on the project and thought that it was a good body of work. While he did not immediately confess to his misrepresentation, through the next several minutes of the conversation he eventually leaked out some of the truth, but with his ego still kept intact. Later we had dinner with some other friends – relationship built, face saved, and the wine was more than fine – I believe the phrase is duh, WINNING!

But what about when we screw up? Let’s go back to public relations 101. As any PR expert will tell you nothing spreads faster than bad news and negative publicity (Carnegie/Cole 119).

Any fool can defend a mistake and most fools do (Carnegie/Cole 122).

When I make a mistake in front of an audience its hard to admit it. But, I have learned that admitting the mistake is the path of least resistance. Rapidly admit the mistake, apologize for it and make the correction. It is amazing how quickly you can move on at that point. I find that if I am trying to argue in defense of my mistake the other person never really buys it, others in the audience pick up on it, and my credibility and trust is badly damaged.

Just look at what happened to Tiger Woods when his scandal broke a few years back. I would love to have known who was advising him on how to handle the publicity, so I know not to ever hire them to be my publicist! First of all, nobody believed him and then nobody felt he was truly sorry. Eventually, he managed to turn it all around with the help of some great advice and more than a few sincere apologies.

Remember, friendliness, honesty, sincerity, begets those same qualities from others  (Carnegie/Cole 126). A friendly greeting says: “you are worth my time.”  (Carnegie/Cole 126). An apology says, it’s not all about me and I’m not perfect either, but I’m willing to admit that. And a focus on the other person in a conversation, rather than making it all about you, wins friends and influences people. Really.

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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