Day 122. By listening respectfully, I won my associate over to my way of thinking.

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles
Day 122. Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It was around 3 pm that Carl arrived at work. He walked into my office rather abruptly. “Here are the changes to my manuscript, Smiling Daffodil.”

I looked at Carl with friendliness hoping to get some positive feedback . Instead, Carl dashed out of my office.

I sat at my desk and thumbed through the manuscript. There were a handful of changes. I couldn’t decipher Carl’s handwritten changes that he wanted me to make.

I decided to race to the front door of the building hoping to catch Carl before he left. I hoped to sit down with him and review the changes.

As I was waiting I was thinking through my approach. Carl and I don’t necessarily get along too well. I have a reputation for lacking interpersonal skills….

I said a quick prayer—because I’m really anxious to see this manuscript go to print. The only way this can happen is if I understand the changes. The only way I can understand the changes is by having a friendly dialogue.

Carl approached the front of the building where I was waiting. I gave Carl a warm smile and said—“hi Carl! Do you have time to go over the changes together? I want to be sure I make the changes correctly.”

Carl’s demeanor was friendlier than when he was in my office.

We flipped through each page… I asked questions and made notes.

We reached one section in the manuscript and Carl said—“these images are pointless. I’m going to send new images.”

He proceeded to explain how much better his images would be.

I listened patiently.

You see—he was insulting images that I took great care in putting together. I even sought the advice of another coworker to make sure these particular images explained a technical concept correctly because the concept was over my head.

After listening to Carl’s explanation—I began, “Carl, understand I don’t know anything about the subject matter in this book…”

Carl interrupted—“nonsense, yes you do!”

I continued, “Well, I’m really not an expert in the least. But in putting the book together, this particular chapter was very technical. For someone who doesn’t understand the subject matter—I thought these images—although they conveyed a basic concept—might be helpful to beginners reading your book. I could be wrong—but it sounds like the images you are going to send are going to demonstrate an entirely different concept that comes up later in the chapter.”

Carl listened and said in a friendly tone, “yes you’re right. Go ahead and leave your images and I’ll send my images that will be used in a different section.”

We continued going through the manuscript and Carl even commented that I did a good job conveying a particular concept in another chapter. I thanked him and admitted it was hard to do but I was pleased with the outcome.

Don’t leave the outcome of meetings up to chance. Implement Dale Carnegie’s principles.

The Dale Carnegie principles I used today are from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

My approach before taking the Dale Carnegie course is to argue or shut down when I disagree. But today I was able to see the value of letting the other person do most of the talking. I let Carl know I deferred to his judgment and insisted on writing down verbatim the text changes he wanted. I did all this sincerely and with a positive attitude. The outcome was a very cooperative author who felt important and was willing to do some work by providing new images in the next few days.

My lesson to you—you probably have similar “Carls” in your life—and in many ways we all behave this way. We all like to feel important. We like to be heard. Give these individuals an opportunity to do a great deal of the talking—even if you disagree with what they are saying or they are insulting your work. Listen to their words instead of thinking of what you are going to argue back. Then when you have an opportunity to speak—don’t attack. Ask more questions to clarify, then give your perspective. This approach will lead to a friendlier dialogue and in my case—progress on the manuscript.

Will this approach work with every Carl? Maybe not—but it’s worth trying instead of beginning a conversation by saying the other person is wrong.

Housekeeping / Notes
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Day 93. A visit to Starbucks reminded me to dust off some Dale Carnegie principles….

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 93.  Monday, June 27, 2011
This morning a friend of mine, “Melanie” announced she was engaged.  This piece of news threw me off—and not for the reasons you might suspect. 

I am a detail-oriented person.  I like to fit puzzle pieces together. 

Instead of jumping up and down or smiling ear to ear—I was struck by the irony.  I had just visited some friends two days ago.  They asked about Melanie and if she was engaged or married yet.  This is not a common topic of discussion so the timing of these events was fascinating to me.  But understand—all of these ponderings were going on in my head. 

On the bright side I did have the decency to smile and congratulate my friend. 

Somehow we got completely off topic and after ten minutes we had covered a variety of topics—none of which had to do with the engagement or the wedding. 

Later that morning I was standing in line at my favorite little coffee shop.  I was thinking about my friend’s engagement.  I realized I probably messed up with my low key reaction. I’m not the type to jump up and down with excitement – yet I felt bad that I didn’t for my friend’s sake.  I didn’t have 101 questions about the wedding—mainly because I was too focused on the irony that she was a recent topic of discussion.

Yummy cake pops from Starbucks.

I tried to see things from my friend’s perspective.  The fact that she told me immediately this morning indicated this was at the top of her list.  I wanted to find a way to make the day special for her. I decided to order a special pastry at Starbucks—something I order only on important occasions or when I really have a bad day….

I returned to the office with a cellophane bag with the special pastry.  My friend looked at me and asked, “what’s this?”

I replied, “this is a cake pop from Starbucks to celebrate your engagement.”

She smiled and thanked me. 

Later that afternoon Melanie said to me, “Wow! This pastry tastes great!”

I said—”so glad you liked it.  I joked with her saying I got the “Birthday Cake” version even though I know you prefer chocolate.  I just couldn’t bear to buy the “Rocky Road” cake pop to celebrate your engagement.  I wouldn’t want to jinx your marriage!”

Melanie smiled and said, “good thinking.”

The Dale Carnegie principles I usually forget to use is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 9.  Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people. 

When I realized my lack of enthusiasm and excitement for my friend I felt really bad.  I’m not a naturally boisterous, outspoken individual—nor am I the touchy, feely, hugging type.  I’m more the over-thinking, detail-oriented, stoic type.  But this engagement is a milestone for my friend and should be celebrated.  I did what I could in a sincere way to celebrate her day.  It wasn’t just a cake pop—it was the right cake pop for the occasion—a cake pop to celebrate my friend entering a new stage in her life—while also leaving rocky roads with challenging relationships where they belong… in the past. 

So my lesson to you—yes, there is one somewhere in this story…

There is a way to be yourself while also becoming interested in other people and making them feel important.  If you are anyone but yourself—neither of these two principles will work because your words and actions won’t be sincere.  When you take this approach you will find people will not only accept you, your quirks and imperfections—they will be drawn to you—because of your sincere interest in them. 

I hope this makes sense. 

Housekeeping / Notes
Mark your calendars!  This Wednesday is Guest Blogger Wednesday! 
If you missed last Wednesday’s guest blog post by Esteban, here’s your chance to catch up.  Click here.

If you’ve been busy or are new to the blog, I have a handy archives section set up for you to catch up on past blog posts.  Click here.

Day 55. A trip to a fabric store uncovered the perfect opportunity to use Dale Carnegie’s principles

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 55.  Thursday, May 19, 2011
I was walking aimlessly at a fabric store this evening.  I needed 1-2 yards of broadcloth fabric. 

I brought some fabric I found at the office thinking it might be broadcloth—I just needed someone at the fabric store to tell me if I was wrong or right.  I just needed a yes or no answer.  I didn’t necessarily need to buy fabric.  I did have a list of other items I needed at this store. 

The area where they were cutting fabric was very busy.  So I wandered the store—trying to find someone that might know the answer to my simple question. 

I ended up in a section of the store where they sell machines.  I asked the woman if she could tell me if the fabric I brought in was broadcloth.  She said yes it was—but she suggested I ask Cheryl in the multi-colored shirt.  So I went over to where Cheryl was standing with a customer.  I waited patiently. She looked at me and asked if I was just there to watch her demo the machine with the customer.  I said no.  I have a question.  She looked at me and said the clerks at the cutting table could help me.

To some of you—you might think of me as a meek, gentle, mild-mannered individual.  But that is not the full picture. 

My reaction to Cheryl was indignation—to say the least.  Yes, I was wearing jeans, a Johnny Cash, “San Quentin” t-shirt and my Doc Martins from many, many years ago.  But darn it.  There’s one thing that is sure to get my blood boiling… and that is making assumptions.

I wanted to put her in her place.  Here’s why.  I know people from the corporate office that employs this woman.  I help determine editorial coverage—including exposure for a variety of machines.  The last thing you really want to do—is underestimate me.  I said directly to her—sorry to bother you and I walked off—my heart pounding. 

I walked to the cutting table—but there was still an incredibly long line.  I didn’t need fabric cut.  I just needed to know if the fabric I had was broadcloth.

I circled back to the machine area—and I walked just close enough to make sure I got Cheryl’s name.  I didn’t say anything—my Dale Carnegie principles are drilled enough in my head that I knew better than to get into a fight.  I just wanted to be sure I knew her name.  (Principle 6 from How to Win Friends and Influence People:  Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important….”) Ha.

After verifying her name I walked back to the cutting table area and waited as patiently as I could in line.  The lady in front of me had a backorder but she told the clerk to help me first so that I didn’t have to wait.

Well—this jolted me.  Wait a minute—a considerate human being at a fabric store?

I smiled and insisted I was in no hurry. 

As the clerk, “Janet” went off to find the backorder—the customer said she was trying to make a jacket to wear with a dress.  But she wasn’t sure what type of fabric, what colors, etc.  She said she had the dress in her car.

I smiled and said—oooh go get the dress!  We’ll help you out!

So she did.  She came back, carrying a formal gown that she is planning to wear to her daughter’s debutant ball.  I made suggestions as did Janet.  I quickly scattered about the store looking for the perfect fabric for the dress.

Forget the fact that I was hungry, tired and ready to go home.  I let myself get caught up in the moment of helping this stranger.  Why?  Because she was considerate of my time when she had suggested Janet help me first.  I returned the favor by showing interest in her.  And given my disgust for Cheryl—this served as a pleasant way to diffuse my mood.

When we couldn’t find fabric—I told her of a fabric warehouse that would have plenty of options at more affordable prices.  I wrote the information down and we parted ways. 

Technically it wasn’t my “department” to care about this woman and her need for fabric to match her dress.  I don’t even work at this store.  I wasn’t getting anything in return.  But I did it anyway.  I point this out not to say look at me—I’m great.  I only point it out to contrast it with Cheryl’s behavior.  Cheryl the machine clerk only thought of what she wanted.

If I had spent the remainder of my time standing in line at the cutting table focusing on what I want—I would have spent that time in a grumpy, selfish mood.  I wanted to know about broadcloth fabric.  I wanted dinner.  I wanted rest.  I wanted to get out of that store.

Instead, I focused on someone else’s needs and interests. It made me happy to help her—and she seemed to appreciate having someone to bounce ideas off of and get reassurance from.  So in the end—I got what I wanted—a feeling of importance, respect, happiness in a human connection—and she got what she wanted—an attentive ear, respect, reassurance and happiness in a human connection.  Both of us won. 

(Side note, they messed up on her backorder… so odds are I probably diffused her mood too, thus keeping her from becoming an irate customer with Janet)

The Dale Carnegie principles I used are from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 2.  Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people. 
Principle 9.  Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Remember, it is inevitable that you will encounter foolish, inconsiderate people and annoying circumstances.  Sometimes you’ll feel your heart pounding and you’ll want to tell some fool exactly what you think of them.  Don’t.  Channel your energy into something positive.  When you do this—you are able to exercise self-control and you’ll derive far more pleasure in spending your energy in a positive way than in wasting it on someone’s thoughtless or careless behavior.

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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 14. Try this approach when you’re tempted to bite someone’s head off just because it’s the morning

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 14.  April 8, 2011 
Before taking the Dale Carnegie course, I would have approached this day differently.  To me this day has two tasks that must be completed.  Absolutely everything else is trivial because I don’t go home until these two tasks are finished.  Period.

But having taken the Dale Carnegie course, I am more aware of my surroundings and the effect my attitude and behavior has on the people in it.  Grumble.  This is a horse pill to swallow and without water.  You see, having focus gets the job done—but it doesn’t often endear you to other people if you come off cold.  Plus people tend to fear their heads will get bitten off as they tip-toe around you.

I prepared myself for this day by skipping the gym the night before and trying to get to bed a bit earlier than usual.  On the drive to work I prayed then I listened to a CD on personal development.  You would think given these precautions it’s easy for me to be a ray of sunshine in the morning.  Ha.

Cautiously my coworker—Marcella suggested I go get my Java Chip Frappuccino before we begin working on a project together.  (That’s code for you’re probably going to be crabby until you have your precious drink).  I smile and say I’m ready to begin the project without the drink.

As we begin to work on the project together I decided to try to see things from Marcella’s perspective.  I decided to point out specific elements of Marcella’s work that I really liked.  I was sincere in my words—I really cannot swing flattery and I’d rather say nothing at all if it comes off fake or insincere.

The result of my actions towards Marcella created a positive, relaxed and dare I say it—fun atmosphere—and it was done without the help of a Java Chip Frappuccino—which I have to say probably startled us both.  All it took was a firm resolve to change.

The Dale Carnegie principles I used this morning:
From Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 1.  Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.

Principle 13.  Begin in a friendly way.

From Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Do the very best you can.
Protect your health and appearance by relaxing at home.

I rested the night before, mentally prepared myself this morning by praying.  By putting myself in Marcella’s shoes of being stuck with a grouch (me) I was more willing to surprise her and me by choosing to be a friendlier individual.  I even found reasons to praise her sincerely.

Not only did I get my two main tasks complete today but no one’s heads were bitten off.

So, remember, as stressful as a day might be—try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to see what it would be like to have to work with a cold, head-biting individual (even if that individual is a hard worker).  Instead of biting their heads off, surprise them by beginning in a friendly way.  I guarantee you’ll enjoy the reaction.

Day 7. Perspective

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 7.  April 1, 2011 

I was talking to a friend named Harold.  Harold is very experienced and skilled in his career.  While we were both taking a break, Harold felt it was important to give me advice on how to do my job.  The thing is—our job responsibilities couldn’t be more different. 

I didn’t ask for the advice and frankly I wouldn’t seek it from Harold.  He doesn’t have the experience to give me the advice. 

I’ve often been told my eyes give me away—that you can tell what I think of a person just by looking at my eyes. 

Well today being Day 7 of my 365 day challenge of living the Dale Carnegie principles, I wasn’t going to go down without a fight (a different sort of fight).  So, instead of calling Harold a misguided fool or an idiot (with my eyes of course)… I decided to take a different approach. I took a deep breath.  I focused on the prize.  The prize is changing my behaviors and attitudes. 

I remembered a passage from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  The passage is about Abraham Lincoln:
“And when Mrs. Lincoln and others spoke harshly of the southern people, Lincoln replied:  ‘Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.’”  (Part I, Chapter 1)

Harold is behaving the way he knows how to behave.  I tried to put myself in Harold’s shoes.   Harold likes to feel important – and in fact, all of us do.  I took another deep breath before responding to Harold.

I thanked Harold for his kindness in giving me advice.  Harold went back to work happily and ironically… I did too. 

There are multiple principles I used in this situation.  Among them are:

From Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Don’t fuss about trifles.

From Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 9.  Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. 
Principle 10.  The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
Principle 17.  Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.

The next time someone frustrates you—take a deep breath and think about Abraham Lincoln’s words:  “they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

When you do this, you will be reminded that this frustrating individual is human, makes mistakes just like you and me and craves the need to feel important—just like you and me.  If you can sincerely find a way to make the individual feel important—you will grow as a person and you’ll be much happier.