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.

Day 10. Weather forecast for Monday: Storms

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 10.  April 4, 2011
About midday today I realized I needed to start writing down all the possible blog topics for today’s Carnegie entry.  It really was an authentic Monday.

If I hadn’t taken the Dale Carnegie course, today would have been the perfect storm.  I think everyone and their brother, sister, mother and neighbor and dog decided to wait until today to need a piece of my time the moment I walked into the office. 

Instead of reacting or thinking everyone had lost their minds—I took a deep breath.  I focused on prioritizing the tasks that were thrown at me and I began to chip away with earnestness and enthusiasm. 

Picture me sitting in my chair—completely relaxed, whistling to my favorite songs on the radio as I worked diligently at my computer.  So much for the perfect storm! 

A productive, pleasant day at work

I could have sat in my office, reacting to the snippy emails and urgent requests.  I could have worried about the mountain of work that is accruing – but instead I reminded myself of Dale Carnegie’s principles from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Don’t fuss about trifles.
Use the law of averages to outlaw your worries.
Learn to relax at work.

I didn’t let anyone get under my skin today.  Period.  I controlled my happiness by relaxing and focusing on doing my job with enthusiasm.   I also reminded myself of the law of averages—I have completed mountains of work in the past, I can certainly do it again.

So, the next time you feel stressed, try to relax—even if it’s just by taking a deep breath.  Remind yourself that the law of averages proves you’ll get past this moment just as you have in the past.  And do everything you can to not let your energy get wasted on trifles.  And if all else fails, do what I do… whistle while you work.

Day 9. Electric towers, bluebonnets and creating happiness

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 9.  April 3, 2011 

I had a long list of chores to do today—pull the weeds from my backyard, do three loads of laundry, clean the house, write a letter to a friend…

Despite my list of chores I decided to try something new. 

I suggested to some family members that we take a drive into Plano to see the bluebonnets.  We lived in Plano for 10+ years and we have always talked about going to the park to see the bluebonnets but never got around to it.  Guess we’ve always been too busy or had other concerns or interests. 

But today was the day to admire the bluebonnets.  I suggested that all family members go and despite some grumblings from some members, everyone went.

The bluebonnets did not disappoint—picture a huge field covered in blue flowers.  We took quite a few photos—and everyone agreed that it was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

I also managed to get my list of chores finished—including pulling all the weeds that I had been avoiding in my backyard.

The Dale Carnegie principle I used today is from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Create happiness for others.

One other detail about this field of bluebonnets—is that it’s the location of huge electric towers.  Someone had the vision to transform an area that is normally perceived as unsightly— into a park with little hills, green grass and of course, a sea of bluebonnets every Spring that attracts a lot of people.  Looks like this ‘someone’ also shared in Carnegie’s goal of ‘creating happiness for others.’

So remember, despite a busy day at work or at home—if you spend a moment creating happiness for others you will also reap the benefits because you will approach your day with an improved perspective and odds are you too will be happier.

Day 8. Ode to the rotting fish and my name sure sounds sweet to the ear…

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 8.  April 2, 2011 
Preface:  I was concerned I wouldn’t find an opportunity to exercise the principles.  By the day’s end I have two stories to share.

Story 1.
I was at Chick-fil-A, ordering a chicken sandwich combo meal.  The cashier asked my name which I thought was odd—because they serve the food immediately after you pay.  I handed her the money and she said, “’Smiling Daffodil’, here’s your meal.  Thank you.” 

Admittedly, they are trained to add this personal touch, but I have to say, I was reminded of Dale Carnegie’s principle from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 6.  Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

The effect of calling someone by their name humanizes the relationship—no matter how brief or seemingly insignificant the moment.  Yes, this was just a meal at a fast food restaurant.  But as I sat eating, I was also observing the manager:  Cody Northern, working hard—talking to the customers, cleaning the tables, asking customers if they want refills on their drinks.  I heard him gently advising a young employee to train his eye to make sure the tables are in order… etc, etc.  You could really see that the manager takes great pride in his restaurant—as he should.  He was creating a very friendly atmosphere with a focus on serving his customers. 

I would never have bothered to observe any of this had the cashier not called me by name to humanize my visit to Chick-fil-A. 

So, next time you meet a stranger—take the time to learn their name. It makes the person feel important and it indicates to that person that you value human relationships. 

In my case—odds are very high I will be loyal to this particular Chick-fil-A restaurant by visiting again and again—because they proved they value my business.

Story 2.
Preface:  I remember with strange fondness the foul odor of a rotting fish in my backyard a week ago today.  That rotting fish was the inspiration for me to begin this blog.  Thank goodness for that fish. 

Swedish Fish to celebrate 1 week anniversary of this blog

I was returning home, about to drive up my driveway into the garage.  Except I couldn’t because there was a car parked horizontally, blocking most of my driveway. 

This was the last straw for me.  First the mysterious rotting fish in my backyard last week.  Now this?  I got out of the car, refused to take a deep breath and approached the neighbor’s house, pretty steamed.  I thought about Dale Carnegie’s Principle 10:  The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.  (From How to Win Friends and Influence People) But that principle went out the window—because I was knocking at the neighbor’s door and I wasn’t leaving until I confronted the neighbors.

I had no idea what I was going to say and despite being steamed I knew I needed to use the Dale Carnegie principles.  Somehow I managed to come up with:

Hi—I’m your neighbor next door.  I’m afraid I’m not a very good driver and I don’t want to hit your car as I try to squeeze through up my driveway.  Is there anyway you could move the car?

They apologized profusely.  I said—oh no problem.  And I’m sorry to interrupt your Saturday night movie.  We ended up talking for a few minutes—catching up on each other’s lives—it turned out to be a very pleasant experience. 

There are multiple principles I used from Dale Carnegie. 

From How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 8.  Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. 
Principle 13.  Begin in a friendly way.
Principle 20.  Dramatize your ideas.

From How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Don’t worry about the past.

I began in a friendly way, dramatizing the idea that given my poor driving skills I will likely hit their car—so they probably want to move it out of harm’s way.  By having a friendly conversation—the moment was humanized—these are people just like me.  They have faces and names.  There was no need to worry about last week’s mysterious rotting fish that was at the side of my house.  It could have been anyone that tossed it into my yard.

So remember—if you find yourself in a position that you need to confront someone—take a deep breath, remember they are human and approach them in the same courteous way you would like to be treated.  Most people will respond in a reasonable way with this approach and you will avoid an unnecessary battle or feud.