Day 83. My eyes betrayed me….

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.

My eyes have been betraying me for years....

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.

Day 19. Learn a proven method for dealing with a grumpy ill-mannered woman

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.

A feast better than prime rib, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and asparagus is proving Dale Carnegie's principles work!

Day 16. A trip to the nail salon is a great place to apply the Dale Carnegie principles…

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 16.  April 10, 2011 
I was at the nail salon today getting a manicure and pedicure.  The challenge is—I feel the same way about getting my nails done as I do about getting teeth pulled.  It’s a mild form of torture—and how I wish they would just sedate me for the entire process.

Using the Dale Carnegie principles... one step at a time

I wondered if I could swing the application of Dale Carnegie principles while I was there.  I smiled as I walked through the salon seeing the other customers.  I grinned as I showed the manicurist my accidental mishap with the nail polish I spilled all over my hands.  The other customers looked amused at least.   As the mild mannered gentleman clipped, sanded and used all sorts of horrifying implements on my feet I sat cringing, with my hands on the arm rests in a death grip.  Oh, I put on a good show.

Suddenly one of the manicurists got up and dismissed herself.  Apparently she wasn’t feeling well—and her two clients were left with half finished manicures and pedicures. 

These two clients started to complain – they had been there for an hour and a half, etc, etc.  One of the manicurists—a junior in high school— did her best to shuffle from one client to the next. 

Somewhere along the way light conversation began among all of us.  Nothing profound—just friendly, small talk.  It was a nice human connection and a great way to diffuse the stress levels.  The woman next to me was getting her nails done because she was going to a musical tonight.  The other two complaining ladies admitted they were enjoying the massaging chairs and they were happy to be away from their husbands and kids.

Find opportunities to smile

I enjoyed watching and being an active participant in this process.  Another customer came and started to complain that she had an appointment and she’s been waiting 20 minutes.  The staff apologized. 

I informed the complaining customer that they were short staffed—an employee went home sick.  The look on the customer’s face completely changed.  Oh—I understand.  Her demeanor turned to pleasant and accommodating. 

Armed with confidence that the Carnegie principles were working—I decided to turn my attention to the high school student who was now painting my toenails.  I told her I admired her patience and skill with the task.  That I have no ability to do what she does—and besides—my own feet scare me.  She thanked me and laughed.  I learned she wants to go into medical school but she’s worried her grades aren’t good enough.  I asked questions here and there and she continued to talk about herself.

When it was time to pay she thanked me for my patience.  They had been short not one—but two employees that day and that it was especially hectic for her and the others to pick up the slack. 

I smiled, thanked her and gave her a good tip.

The Dale Carnegie principles I used today:
From How to Win Friends and Influence People
Principle 1.  Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Principle 2.  Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 5.  Smile.
Principle 7.  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Principle 8.  Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. 

Remember, the next time you’re in a setting where the service isn’t what you are accustomed to—take a moment to remember the employees are human.  A kind word, patience and understanding can go a long way in making sure you get good service and you also diffuse a stressful situation.

Day 11. A fork in the road

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 11.  April 5, 2011
 I was at work with some associates when a discussion arose regarding another employee—named ‘McKinley Jones’.  The discussion was whether McKinley would be the appropriate person to take on a new responsibility at work. 

Now, before I took the Dale Carnegie course, I would have said something like this:
McKinley does a good job BUT…. McKinley doesn’t tend to come up with new ideas… if you remember, McKinley had a difficult time completing the last task… etc etc….

But now that I’m a Dale Carnegie graduate, I responded to my associates with these words:
It’s been my experience and I’m sure you’ll agree that McKinley is very good at following through on specific goals.  I think McKinley is up to the challenge of this new responsibility and will do well.  I am certain that if we clearly define the goals and tasks we expect McKinley to accomplish we will not be disappointed.

Now, to be clear—the second response did require some mental acrobatics on my part.  I had to take a deep breath and think hard about my decision.  I reached that fork in the road—where I could take the easy route of criticizing, condemning and complaining about an individual—or I could try a new, unworn path of finding the positive in an individual.  I chose the unworn path.    

Take a deep breath as you approach the fork in the road. Choose not to criticize, condemn or complain.

The effect—I did not damage the perception of McKinley Jones – I pointed out the positive attributes that McKinley contributes to the company.  Odds are high that when people think of McKinley they will think—that person is goal oriented.  Give McKinley a task and it gets done.  Period.

Imagine what the perception would be if I took the negative route to describe McKinley.  People would walk away thinking, gosh, you can’t rely on McKinley to come up with ideas.  Why is McKinley still here—or I sure hope I don’t get assigned to a project with McKinley.  This perception would not only affect the office but it would affect McKinley in a negative way.  McKinley would live down to the expectations. 

The principle I used today (and was really proud of this huge accomplishment) is from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 1.  Do not criticize, condemn or complain.

So remember, your words are powerful.  They can affect the perception that people have of another person.  Choose your words carefully and avoid criticizing, condemning or complaining about an individual. Focus on the positive characteristics of a person and that person will live up to the perception and expectations you have set forth.  You will also demonstrate a higher level of maturity and discipline.