On The Better Angels of our Nature

I recently finished reading The Better Angels of our Nature – Why Violence Has Declined – by Steven Pinker.

Below are excerpts from this book that I found particularly insightful:

This book is about what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history…No aspect of life is untouched by the retreat from violence. Daily existence is very different if you always have to worry about being abducted, raped, or killed, and it’s hard to develop sophisticated arts, learning, or commerce if the institutions that support them are looted and burned as quickly as they are built.

Systemic cruelty was far from unique to Europe. Hundreds of methods of torture, applied to millions of victims, have been documented in other civilizations, including the Assyrians, Persians, Seleucids, Romans, Chinese, Hindus, Polynesians, Aztecs, and many African kingdoms and Native American tribes. Brutal killings and punishments were also documented among the Israelites, Greeks, Arabs, and Ottoman Turks. Indeed, as we saw at the end of chapter 2, all of the first complex civilizations were absolutist theocracies which punished victimless crimes with torture and mutilation.

He then outlined his three conditions for perpetual peace. The first is that states should be democratic. Kant himself preferred the term republican, because he associated the word democracy with mob rule; what he had in mind was a government dedicated to freedom, equality, and the rule of law…Kant’s second condition for perpetual peace was that “the law of nations shall be founded on a Federation of Free States”—a “League of Nations,” as he also called it…The third condition for perpetual peace is “universal hospitality” or “world citizenship.”

An interesting question is what inflated the empathy circle. And a good candidate is the expansion of literacy.

The vulnerability to civil war of countries in which control of the government is a winner-take-all jackpot is multiplied when the government controls windfalls like oil, gold, diamonds, and strategic minerals. Far from being a blessing, these bonanzas create the so-called resource curse, also known as the paradox of plenty and fool’s gold. Countries with an abundance of nonrenewable, easily monopolized resources have slower economic growth, crappier governments, and more violence.

Why should the spread of ideas and people result in reforms that lower violence? There are several pathways. The most obvious is a debunking of ignorance and superstition…Another causal pathway is an increase in invitations to adopt the viewpoints of people unlike oneself.

Dangerous ideologies erupt when these faculties fall into toxic combinations. Someone theorizes that infinite good can be attained by eliminating a demonized or dehumanized group. A kernel of like-minded believers spreads the idea by punishing disbelievers. Clusters of people are swayed or intimidated into endorsing it. Skeptics are silenced or isolated. Self-serving rationalizations allow people to carry out the scheme against what should be their better judgment.

On a closing note:

Yet while this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, that species has also found ways to bring the numbers down, and allow a greater and greater proportion of humanity to live in peace and die of natural causes. For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible.

A highly recommended read in the areas of sociology and psychology.

On The Wealth of Nations

I recently finished reading the landmark classic The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. This book has been on my reading list for a long time, but I was discouraged by its length (1200+ pages). Having now read it, I am very glad I did. The breadth and depth of this book is – even after 239 years of publication – a monumental achievement.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

As it is by treaty, by barter, and by purchase, that we obtain from one another the greater part of those mutual good offices which we stand in need of, so it is this same trucking disposition which originally gives occasion to the division of labour.

The value of any commodity, therefore, to the person who possesses it, and who means not to use or consume it himself, but to exchange it for other commodities, is equal to the quantity of labour which it enables him to purchase or command. Labour, therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities.

The five following are the principal circumstances which, so far as I have been able to observe, make up for a small ~ pecuniary gain in some employments, and counter-balance a great one in others: first. the agreeableness or disagreeableness of the — employments themselves; secondly, the easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expence of learning them; thirdly, the constancy or inconstancy of employment in them; fourthly, the small or great trust which must be reposed in those who exercise them; and fifthly, the probability or improbability of success in them.

I shall conclude this very long chapter with observing that every improvement in the circumstances of the society tends either directly or indirectly to raise the real rent of land, to increase the real wealth of the landlord, his power of purchasing the labour, or the produce of the labour of other people.

Political economy considered as a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator, proposes two distinct objects: first, to provide a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people, or more properly to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves; and secondly, to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for the public services. It proposes to enrich both the people and the sovereign.

The importation of gold and silver is not the principal. much less the sole benefit which a nation derives from its foreign trade. Between whatever places foreign trade is carried on, they all of them derive two distinct benefits from it. It carries out that surplus part of the produce of their land and labour for which there is no demand among them, and brings back in return for it something else for which there is a demand. It gives a value to their superfluities, by exchanging them for something else, which may satisfy a part of their wants, and increase their enjoyments. By means of it, the narrowness of the home market does not hinder the division of labour in any particular branch of art or manufacture from being carried to the highest perfection.

We must carefully distinguish between the effects of the colony trade and those of the monopoly of that trade. The former are always and necessarily beneficial; the latter always and necessarily hurtful. But the former are so beneficial, that the colony trade, though subject to a monopoly, and notwithstanding the hurtful effects of that monopoly, is still upon the whole beneficial, and greatly beneficial; though a good deal less so than it otherwise would be.

The discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind. Their consequences have already been very great: but, in the short period of between two and three centuries which has elapsed since these discoveries were made, it is impossible that the whole extent of their consequences can have been seen.

When a landed nation, on the contrary, oppresses either by high duties or by prohibitions the trade of foreign nations, it necessarily hurts its own interest in two different ways. First, by raising the price of all foreign goods and of all sorts of manufactures, it necessarily sinks the real value of the surplus produce of its own land, with which, or, what comes to the same thing. with the price of which, it purchases those foreign goods and manufactures. Secondly, by giving a sort of monopoly of the home market to its own merchants, artificers and manufacturers, it raises the rate of mercantile !e and manufacturing profit in proportion to that of agricultural profit, and consequently either draws from agriculture a part of the capital which had before been employed in it, or hinders from going to it a part of what would otherwise have gone to it. This policy, therefore, discourages agriculture in two different ways; first, by sinking the real value of its produce, and thereby lowering the rate of its profit; and, secondly, by raising the rate of profit in all other employments. Agriculture is rendered less advantageous, and trade and manufactures more advantageous than they otherwise would be; and every man is tempted by his own interest to turn, as much as he can, both his capital and his industry from the former to the latter employments.

According to the system of natural liberty, the sovereign has only three duties to attend to; three duties of great importance, indeed, but plain and intelligible to common understandings: first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice; and, thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions, which it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small number of individuals, to erect and maintain; because the profit could never repay the expence to any individual or small number of individuals, though it may frequently do much more than repay it to a great society.

Commerce and manufactures, in short, can seldom flourish in any state in which there is not a certain degree of confidence in the justice of government. The same confidence which disposes great merchants and manufacturers, upon ordinary occasions, to trust their property to the protection of a particular government; disposes them, upon extraordinary occasions, to trust that government with the use of their property. By lending money to government, they do not even for a moment diminish their ability to carry on their trade and manufactures. On the contrary, they commonly augment it. The necessities of the state render government upon most occasions willing to borrow upon terms extremely advantageous to the lender. The security which it grants to the original creditor, is made transferable to any other creditor, and, from the universal confidence in the justice of the state, generally sells in the market for more than was originally paid for it.

But if the empire can no longer support the expence of keeping up this equipage, it ought certainly to lay it down; and if it cannot raise its revenue in proportion to its expence, it ought, at least, to accommodate its expence to its revenue. If the colonies, notwithstanding their refusal to submit to British taxes, are still to be considered as provinces of the British empire, their defence in some future war may cost Great Britain as great an expence as it ever has done in any former war. The rulers of Great Britain have, for more than a century past, amused the people with the imagination that they possessed a great empire on the west side of the Atlantic. This empire, however, has hitherto existed in imagination only. It has hitherto been, not an empire, but the project of an empire; not a gold mine, but the project of a gold mine; a project which has cost, which continues to cost, and which, if pursued in the “”same way as it has been hitherto, is likely to cost, immense expence, without being likely to bring any profit; for the effects of the monopoly of the colony trade, it has been shewn, are, to the great body of the people, mere loss instead of profit. It is surely now time that our rulers should either realize this golden dream, in which they have been indulging themselves, perhaps, as well as the people; or, that they should awake from it themselves, and endeavour to awaken the people. If the project cannot be completed, it ought to be given up. If any of the provinces of the British empire cannot be made to contribute towards the support of the whole empire, it is surely time that Great Britain should free herself from the expence of defending those provinces in time of war. and of supporting any part of their civil or military establishments in time of peace, and endeavour to accommodate her future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her circumstances.

A must read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of economics.


On The Law

I have recently finished reading the classic The Law by Frederic Bastiat, translated by Patrick James Stirling. While short in terms of length, this book is filled with wisdom and guidance on the fundamentals principles of law, and the role of governments.

The main premise of the book:

The law perverted! The law and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation. The law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law becomes the tool of every kind of avarice. instead of being its check! The law guilty of that very iniquity which it was its mission to punish! Truly, this is a serious fact, if it exists. and one to which I feel bound to call the attention of my fellow citizens.

On What Is Law?

What, then, is law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Nature, or rather God, has bestowed upon every one of us the right to defend his person. his liberty, and his property, since these are e three constituent or preserving elements of life; elements, each of which is rendered complete by the others, and cannot be understood without them. For what are our faculties, but the extension of our personality? and what is property, but an extension of our faculties? If every man has the right of defending. even by force, his person, his liberty, and his property, a number of men have the right to combine together, to extend, to organize a common force, to provide regularly for this defense. Collective right, then, has its principle, its reason for existing, its lawfulness, in individual right; and the common force cannot rationally have any other end, or any other mission, than that of the isolated forces for which it is substituted. Thus, as the force of an individual cannot lawfully touch the person, the liberty, or the property of another individual – for the same reason, the common force cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, the liberty, or the property of individuals or of classes.

On A Just and Enduring Government

So long as personal safety was ensured, so long as labor was free, and the fruits of labor secured against all unjust attacks, no one would have any difficulties to contend with in the State. When prosperous. we should not, it is true, have to thank the State for our success; but when unfortunate, we should no more think of taxing it with our disasters, than our peasants think of attributing to it the arrival of hail or of frost. We should know it only by the inestimable blessing of Safety.

On Perverted Law Causes Conflict

Yes, as long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true mission, that it may violate property instead of securing it. everybody will be wanting to manufacture law, either to defend himself against plunder. or to organize it for his own profit. The political question will always be prejudicial, predominant, and absorbing; in a word there will be fighting around the door of the Legislative Palace.

Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder

That of slavery and that of tariffs; that is. precisely the only two questions in which. contrary to the general spirit of this republic. law has taken the character of a plunderer. Slavery is a violation, sanctioned by law of the rights of the person. Protection is a violation perpetrated by the law upon the rights of property; and certainly it is very remarkable that, in the midst of so many other debates, this double legal scourge, the sorrowful inheritance of the Old World, should be the only one which can, and perhaps will, cause the rupture of the Union.

On Legal Plunder Has Many Names

Now, legal plunder may be exercised in an infinite multitude of ways. Hence come an infinite multitude of plans for organization; tariffs, protection, perquisites, gratuities. encouragements, progressive taxation. gratuitous instruction, right to labor, right to profit, right to wages, right to assistance, right to instruments of labor, gratuity of credit, etc.. etc. And it is all these plans, taken as a whole, with what they have in common, legal plunder, which takes the name of socialism.

On Law Is a Negative Concept

They fulfill a mission whose harmlessness is evident, whose utility is palpable, and whose legitimacy is not to be disputed. This is so true that, as a friend of mine once remarked to me, to say that the aim of the law is to cause justice to reign, is to use an expression which is not rigorously exact. It ought to be said, the aim of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning. In fact, it is not justice which has an existence of its own, it is injustice. The one results from the absence of the other.

On Socialists Fear All Liberties

What sort of liberty should be allowed to men? Liberty of conscience? — But we should them all profiting by the permission to become atheists. Liberty of education?…Liberty of labor?…The liberty of trade?…Liberty of association?…You must see, then, that the socialist democrats cannot in conscience allow men liberty, because, by their own nature, they tend in every instance to all kinds of degradation and demoralization.

On Politics and Economics

It is not true that the mission of the law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our will, our education, our sentiments, our works, our exchanges, our gifts, our enjoyments. Its mission is to prevent the rights of one from interfering with those of another, in any one of these things. Law, because it has force for its necessary sanction, can only have as its lawful domain the domain of force, which is justice. And as every individual has a right to have recourse to force only in cases of lawful defense, so collective force, which is only the union of individual forces, cannot be rationally used for any other end. The law, then, is solely the organization of individual rights, which existed before legitimate defense. Law is justice.

On Proof of an Idea

And have I not experience on my side? Cast your eye over the globe. Which are the happiest, the most moral, and the most peaceable nations? Those where the law interferes the least with private activity; where the Government is the least felt; where individuality has the most scope, and public opinion the most influence: where the machinery of the administration is the least important and the least complicated; where taxation is lightest and least unequal, popular discontent the least excited and the least justifiable; where the responsibility of individuals and classes is the most active, and where, consequently, if morals are not in a perfect state, at any rate they tend incessantly to correct themselves: where transactions. meetings, and associations are the least fettered: where labor, capital and production suffer the least from artificial displacements; where mankind follows most completely its own natural course; where the thought of God prevails the most over the inventions of men; those, in short, who realize the most nearly this idea — That within the limits of right, all should flow from the free, perfectible, and voluntary action of man; nothing be attempted by the law or by force. except the administration of universal justice.

On Now Let Us Try Liberty

God has implanted in mankind, also, all that is necessary to enable it to accomplish its destinies. There is a providential social physiology, as well as a providential human physiology. The social organs are constituted so as to enable them to develop harmoniously in the grand air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! Away with their rings, and their chains, and their hooks, and their pincers! Away with their artificial methods! Away with their social workshops. their governmental whims, their centralization, their tariffs, their universities. their State religions, their gratuitous or monopolizing banks, their limitations, their restrictions, their moralizations, and their equalization by taxation! And now, after having vainly inflicted upon the social body so many systems, let them end where they ought to have begun – reject all systems, and make trial of liberty — of liberty, which is an act of faith in God and in His work.

A must read in the areas of law, government and business/economics.


Dealing with People: Your Key to Success and Happiness

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.

On cooperation:

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.

On praise:

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.