365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles
Day 19. April 13, 2011
I was standing in line at a bookstore waiting to purchase two books for my friend Beatrice. There was just one cashier working at the counter. A sloppy dressed mother and daughter were standing in line behind me for about a minute when the mother began to complain about having to wait in line.
The mother said, “this is taking forever. I hate waiting. I can’t believe they only have one cashier….”
I didn’t want to listen to this customer’s endless complaints for something so trivial as standing in line for a few minutes. In all honesty I felt she was an ill-mannered fool.
I turned around to the mother and daughter and with a calm voice said, “would you like to go ahead of me? I’m in no hurry.”
The mother replied, “no that’s ok.”
I replied, “no I insist—knock yourself out—please go ahead of me.”
So we switched places in line.
The mother continued to complain about the cashier—saying “I wish she would hurry up and stop talking.”
I gently told the woman, “You know—I bet she’s had a long day just like you and me.”
The scowl on this mother’s face completely softened. She said, “yes, you’re probably right.”
She paused and said, we’ve been shopping all day trying to find these school books….”
It was now the mother and daughter’s turn to go to the cashier. As they approached the cashier the mother turned to me and said politely “thanks again.”
They paid and left. It was my turn to pay for my books. I approached the cashier with a smile—knowing full well the cashier had no idea I probably saved her from a grumpy customer.
The cashier greeted me and I commented that I liked her hair. It was the kind of hair I’ve always wanted. It was a nice dark brown, long and curly. We began to discuss hairstyles and how she always wanted straight hair but now she likes her curly hair.
The transaction probably lasted a minute. But I am certain in a small way I made that cashier feel admired for having such nice hair.
The Dale Carnegie principles I used this evening are from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Principle 5. Smile.
Principle 8. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Principle 9. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
I could have told the customer to shut her vey large mouth and quit complaining. I could have criticized the customer for not dressing in a presentable manner in public or for being an overall belligerent human being. But instead, I spoke to her in a civil manner that interested her. She wanted to be served next and I was happy to accommodate.
The next time you encounter an individual who won’t stop complaining and is encroaching on your peace—rather than escalate the problem by telling the person off—diffuse the situation. Talk in terms of that person’s interests in a calm, friendly way. It won’t cost you a dime and it will give you a sense of peace knowing you controlled the situation.
Incidentally, the two books I purchased this evening for my friend Beatrice were How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.