365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles
Day 83. Thursday, June 16, 2011
I was working with some associates on a big presentation today. My role was minimal—I was the director / team leader / advisor, of sorts. I describe my role as minimal because the bulk of the preparation and work for the presentation was technically impossible for me to handle. Instead the work was the responsibility of one individual—named “Evelyn.”
Evelyn was stressed today. In fact, she was stressed all day yesterday trying to prepare for today. Evelyn and I didn’t talk much yesterday. My perception of things—it wasn’t my role to be involved—there was technically no “work” that I could help her with. It was her vision that she had to bring to life.
When Evelyn and I met this morning I did my best to break the ice and begin in a friendly way. Understand that I am not exactly a perky individual in the morning. And I could feel tension and stress between us—even though I felt there was no logical reason for it.
Evelyn began to go through each step in the presentation. She was nervous and stressed—and as a result she didn’t seem quite as polished or prepared as she would have liked to have been.
It was at this point I learned something about myself. I can intimidate. For those of you who know me, surely this surprises you! I think I’m a lovable, soft spoken, kind hearted individual. But today I realized I inadvertently come off as a bear who is never happy and I can make people feel inadequate.
Realizing I was causing Evelyn to be stressed and intimidated… I softened my approach. I listened to her presentation with interest. I gave encouragement. I gave gentle guidance and suggestions. Once I did this—it was as if the weight of the world was lifted from Evelyn. Instead, this became more of a team effort. She looked at me for guidance and help and in fact, it was at this point that she became her normal self. Her words flowed a lot better because she was at ease.
I guess the best way to describe what happened is that the burden—the yoke of responsibility that was absolutely all hers—now was being shared. I helped to carry her burden.
I recognized the value of praising her here and there—with words of encouragement like “that was good”. Or “this was a good choice of colors for this project.” “Maybe you should also mention the following key points.”
It was an exhausting day for Evelyn but she seemed to really become enthusiastic. She even suggested doing extra work to make the presentation better. I encouraged her to go for it—and she did.
The filming of this project took the entire day and by the time we finished the entire team was ready to go home.
I said to Evelyn, “while this was a lot of work—I think the extra effort paid off.”
Evelyn: “I completely agree. This was one of our best.”
The Dale Carnegie principles that I used today were subtle yet very challenging for me. From How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Principle 18. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
Principle 26. Let the other person save face.
From How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself.
I work very hard and the standards I place on myself are very high. I think others see this and they get intimidated because they think they don’t measure up in my eyes. One problem is—I think my eyes were betraying me. I was criticizing and condemning Evelyn with the look in my eyes. My eyes were sending the message: this is not my responsibility so I’m going to let you carry the burden Evelyn. While technically it was a fact that this wasn’t my burden, Evelyn also needed encouragement. Encouragement really is a very sweet nectar that absolutely everyone craves more than the finest foods. Everyone is capable of serving it up in a sincere way.
The method I took to encourage—I listened with interest while being sympathetic to Evelyn’s feelings and ideas. I helped carry the burden of this task so that it was more of a team effort. Once I did this—the presentation and workflow went a lot smoother. There was no longer tension between Evelyn and me.
I learned a humbling lesson today about my eyes and I got to see firsthand the positive effects of softening my approach. So remember, if there is tension between you and someone else that you cannot explain—stop and consider that your eyes may be criticizing and condemning the other person. Soften your approach with some encouragement and you’ll discover the positive effect it will have on the other person.