In a recent blog post, colleague Eric Barker, author of the blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree shared the well established fact, that there is a strong correlation between our life satisfaction and the quality of relationships within it.
Given the importance of these relationships, why do we often find ourselves in a situation where we struggle to establish new relationships or maintain or strengthen existing ones. According to Les Giblin, author of How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People:
One of the big reasons so many people lack confidence in dealing with others is that they do not understand what they are dealing with. We are always unsure of ourselves and lack confidence when we are dealing with the unknown. Watch a mechanic try to repair the engine of a strange automobile that he does not understand. He hesitates. His every movement shows lack of confidence. Then watch a master mechanic, who understands the engine he is working with. His every movement exudes confidence. It is the same for anything we are dealing with. The more we know about it—the more confidence we will have in dealing with it.
The key then to develop successful relationships is in understanding the laws of human nature:
The real key to successful human relations is learning as much as we can about human nature as it is, not as we think it ought to be. Only when we understand just what we are dealing with are we in a position to deal with it successfully.
Yet, we have to be careful that when being applied, these principles need to be contextualized to the specific individual we are dealing with:
Skill in human relations is similar to skill in any other field in that success depends upon understanding and mastering certain basic general principles. You must not only know what to do, but why you’re doing it.
Don’t be a Johnny-One-Note, As far as basic principles are concerned, people are all the same. Yet each individual person you meet is different. If you attempted to learn some gimmick to deal successfully with each separate individual you met, you would be faced with a hopeless task, just as a pianist would be up against an impossible task if he had to learn each individual composition as something entirely new and unique.
What the pianist does is to master certain principles. He learns certain basic things about music. He practices certain exercises until he develops skill at the keyboard. When he has mastered these basic things, he can then play any piece of music that is put before him, with some practice and additional learning. For although each individual piece of music is different from every other—there are only 88 keys on the piano, and only eight notes in the scale. Whether you are a pianist or not, you can quickly learn to strike a “pretty chord” on the piano. With more patience you can learn to strike separately all the separate chords that the concert pianist uses. But this does not make you a pianist If you tried to give a concert you would be a flop.
Influencing people is an art, not a gimmick. In much the same way, this is what happens when you try to learn a few gimmicks of “influencing people” and apply them in a superficial, mechanical way. You go through the same motions as the man or woman who “has a way” with people, but somehow they don’t seem to work for you. You hit the same notes but no music comes out. The purpose of this book is not to teach you a few “chords,” but to help you master the keyboard—not to teach you a few gimmicks of dealing with people but to give you “know-how’ based upon an understanding of human nature and why people act the way they do.
Les starts out by explaining some basic laws of human nature that we need to understand in order to influence others:
1. We are all egotists.
2. We are all more interested in ourselves than in anything else in the world.
3. Every person you meet wants to feel important, and to amount to something.
4. There is a hunger in every human being for approval.
5. A hungry ego is a mean ego. mean ego.
6. Satisfy the other person’s hunger for self-esteem and he automatically becomes more friendly and likeable.
7. Jesus said, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Psychologists now tell us that unless you do love yourself in the sense of having some feeling of self-esteem and self-regard, it is impossible for you to feel friendly toward other people.
8. Remember LS/MFT. Low Self-esteem Means Trouble and Friction.
9. Help the other fellow like himself better and you make him easier to get along with.
10. People act, or fail to act, largely to enhance their own egos.
Given the above laws, he goes on to explain that we have a virtually unlimited ability to add to the feeling of personal worth to others that we should leverage:
1. Don’t be stingy in feeding the hunger for a feeling of importance.
2. Don’t underestimate ”small courtesies” such as being on time for an appointment It is by such small things that we acknowledge the importance of the other person. Unfortunately, we are often more courteous to strangers than to home folks. Try treating your family and friends with the same courtesy you show strangers.
3. Remind yourself that other people are important, and your attitude will get across to the other person.
4. Starting today, begin to notice other people more. Pay attention to a man or a child, and you make him feel important.
5. Don’t lord it over other people, or attempt to increase your own feeling of self-importance by making other people feel small.
In more ways than we realize, we control the actions and attitudes of others:
1. Whether you realize it or not, you control the actions and attitudes of others by your own actions and attitudes.
2. Your own attitudes are reflected back to you from the other person almost as if you stood before a mirror.
3. Act or feel hostile and the other fellow reflects this hostility back to you. Shout at him, and he is almost compelled to shout back. Act calmly and unemotionally, and you turn away his anger before it gets started.
4. Act enthusiastic and you arouse the enthusiasm of the Other person.
5. Act confidently and the other person has confidence in you.
6. Begin today deliberately to cultivate an enthusiastic attitude. Take a tip from Frank Bettger and act as if you were enthusiastic Soon you’ll feel enthusiastic
7. Right now, begin deliberately to cultivate a confident manner. Don’t mumble your words as if you were afraid to express them. Speak out. Watch your posture. A slumped figure signifies that you find the burdens of life too heavy for you to bear. A drooping head signifies that you are defeated by life. Hold your head up. Straighten up your shoulders. Walk with a confident step, as if you had somewhere important to go.
Your ability to influence others, and control the actions and attitudes in others depends in large part to how you start the conversation:
1. In dealing with other people, you yourself sound the keynote for the entire theme, when you begin the interview.
2. If you start off on a note of formality, the meeting will he formal. Start off on a note of friendliness and the meeting will be friendly. Set the stage for a businesslike discussion, and it will be business-like. Start on a note of apology and the other person will force you to play that theme all the way through.
3. When you meet someone for the first time, the impression you make then is very likely to be the keynote that will determine how he regards you for the rest of your life.
4. Other people tend to accept you at your own evaluation. If you think you are a nobody, you are practically asking other people to snub you.
5. One of the best means ever discovered for impressing the other fellow favorably is not to strive too hard to make an impression, but to let him know that he is making a good impression on you.
6. People judge you not only by the opinion you hold of yourself, but also by the opinions you hold on other things: your job, your company, even your competition.
7. Negative opinions create a negative atmosphere. Don’t be a knocker. And don’t be a sorehead.
8. The way, itself, in which you ask things, sets the stage or sounds the keynote for the other person’s answer. Don’t ask “no” questions if you want “yes” answers. Don’t ask questions or issue instructions that imply you expect trouble. Why ask for trouble?
For making and keeping friends, Les shares guidance in two areas, the first on how to attract others:
1. The real secret of an attractive personality is to offer other people the food they are hungry for. People are as hungry for certain things as flies are for honey.
2. Use the Triple-A Formula for attracting people:
Acceptance. Accept people as they are. Allow them to be themselves. Don’t insist on anyone being perfect before you can like him. Don’t fashion a moral strait jacket and expect Others to wear it in order to gain your acceptance. Above all don’t bargain for acceptance. Don’t say, in substance, “I’ll accept you if you’ll do this or that, or change your ways to suit me.”
Approval. Look for something to approve in the other person. It may be something small or insignificant. But let the other person know you approve that, and the number of things you can sincerely approve of will begin to grow. When the other person gets a taste of your genuine approval, he will begin to change his behavior so that he will be approved for other things.
Appreciation. To appreciate means to raise in value, as opposed to depreciate, which means to lower in value. Let Other people know that you value them. Treat other people as if they were valuable to you. Don’t keep them waiting. Thank them. Give them “special”, individual treatment.
The second on how to make others feel friendly:
1. Human relations often become deadlocked because each party is afraid to make the first move.
2. Don’t wait for a sign from the other fellow. Assume that he is going to be friendly, and act accordingly.
3. Don’t wait for a sign from the other fellow. Assume that he is going to be friendly, and act accordingly.
4. Assume the attitude that you wish the other person to take. Act as if you expected him to like you. Take a chance that the other fellow will be friendly. It is always a gamble, but you’ll win 99 times for every time you lose, if you’ll just bet on his being friendly. Refuse to take the chance, and you’ll lose every time.
5. Don’t be an eager-beaver. Don’t be overly anxious. don’t knock yourself out trying to make the other fellow like you. Remember, there is such a thing as being too charming and trying too hard.
6. Just relax and take for granted that other people do like
7. Use the magic of your smile to warm up the other fellow.
8. Starting today, begin to develop a genuine smile by practicing before your bathroom mirror. You know what a real smile looks like when you see one. Your mirror will tell you whether your smile is real or phoney. Also, going through the motions of smiling will get you in the habit, and actually make you fed more like smiling.
To be successful at engaging others, effective speaking techniques are crucial, in particular: skill in using words, empathic listening, and persuasion. Les goes on to discuss each of these areas and offers practical advice within each.
On the importance of developing skill is using words, and how we can improve ourselves within that area:
1. Both success and happiness depend in large measure on our ability to express ourselves. Therefore, start today to study ways to improve your talk. Keep at it day after day.
2. Practice starting conversations with strangers by using the warm-up technique of asking simple questions or making obvious observations.
3. To be a good conversationalist, stop trying to be perfect, and don’t be afraid to be trite. Nuggets and gems in conversation come only after you have dug a lot of low-grade ore.
4. Ask questions to bring out interesting talk from others. 5. Encourage the other person to talk about himself. Talk about the other person’s interests.
6. Use the “me-too” technique to identify yourself with the speaker and his interests.
7. Talk about yourself only when you are invited to do so by the other person. If he wants to know about you, he’ll ask.
8. Use “‘Happy Talk.” Remember, nobody likes a Gloomy Gus or a prophet of doom. Keep your troubles to yourself.
9. Eliminate kidding, teasing, and sarcasm from your conversation.
On the importance of empathic listening:
When Oliver Wendell Holmes for advice on how to get elected to office, Justice Holmes wrote him: “To be able to listen to others in a sympathetic and understanding manner is perhaps the most effective mechanism in the world for getting along with people and tying up their friendship for good. Too few people practice the “white magic” of being good listeners.”
And some practical tips on how we can practice it:
Seven Ways to Practice Listening:
1. Look at the person who is talking.
2. Appear deeply interested in what he is saying.
3. Lean toward the person who is talking.
4. Ask questions.
5. Don’t interrupt; instead, ask him to tell more.
6. Stick to the speaker’s subject.
7. Use the speaker’s words to get your own point across.
On persuasion, Les cautions us about being fixated about winning the argument:
When you have a difference of opinion with someone, your object should not be to “win an argument,” but to get the other person to change his own mind and see things your way. Thus, you must avoid bringing his ego into play. You must slip your “logical reasons” past his ego, then clinch it by leaving him a loophole through which he can escape from his previous position.
The following six rules will help you accomplish this:
1. Let him State his case.
2. Pause momentarily before you answer.
3. Don’t insist on winning 100 per cent.
4. State your case moderately and accurately.
5.Speak through third persons
6. Let the other fellow save face.
In the last section of the book, Les covers three areas, which are particularly relevant for leaders and managers: cooperation, praise and constructive criticism.
1. If you want other people to help you, and go all out. you must ask for then: ideas as well as for their brawn.
2. Make the other fellow feel that your problem is his problem.
3. Use the principle of multiple management, giving each member of the team a voice in how the team is to Operate.
4. When you want someone to do you a favor, make him a member of your team. Don’t just say, “How about putting in a good word for me.” Say, “If you were in my shoes and wanted to get favorable attention, how would you go about it?”
5. Set up your own brain trust, and make use of the ideas. suggestions, and advice of other people.
6. Be sure when you ask for advice you actually want advice. Don’t ask for advice if all you want is sympathy or a pat on the back.
1. Sincere praise miraculously releases energy in the other person, perks him up physically, as well as giving his spirits a lift.
2. The person who is discouraged, doing sloppy work, or just hard to get along with is probably suffering from low self-esteem. Praise can act as a wonder drug to give his self-esteem a healthy shot in the arm, change his behavior for the better.
3. Give others credit for what they do. Show your appreciation of what they have done by saying “thank you.”
4. Be generous with kind statements. Gratitude is not a common thing. By being generous with gratitude, you make yourself a stand-out.
5. Increase your own happiness and peace of mind by paying three sincere compliments each day.
On constructive criticism:
Remember that criticism, to be successful, most be for <he purpose of accomplishing some worthwhile goal for both yourself and the person you’re criticizing. Don’t criticize just to bolster your own ego. And steer dear of the other fellow’s ego when you must correct him.
Memorize these Seven Musts and begin to put them into practice:
1. Criticism must be made in absolute privacy.
2. Preface criticism with a kind word or compliment
3. Make the criticism impersonal Criticize the act, not the person.
4. Supply the answer.
5.Ask for cooperation-don’t demand it
6. One criticism to an offense.
7. Finish in a friendly fashion.
On a closing note, remember:
Human relations can bring you both success and happiness. You should regard it as a skill that you are going to learn — a very rewarding skill. You should look forward to getting a real sense of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment by improving your human relations. This positive outlook gives you an incentive to reach definite goals.
How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People is a must read, and a great complement to Dale Carnegie‘s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.