Influencing People is Hard Work
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to have forward momentum in business without destroying everyone and everything in your path. I’ve always been known as “the nice guy” around the office; I don’t take that as a criticism but rather as a complement. I’d much rather be known as a nice guy that people want to partner with than as the jerk that no one wants to be on a team with. I feel like there’s such a disconnect these days translates the idea that being a “nice guy” means you can’t motivate a team or accomplish goals. That is just not the case.
With that in mind, I set out to attempt to finds ways to influence people and their decisions without railroading the conversation or deteriorating the relationship. As I was researching this idea, I came across a book by Dale Carnegie that was written in 1936. I already know what you’re thinking: seriously, you can find something written on this topic from that is a bit more recent and perhaps more relevant? I found the answer to that to be “no”. The book I’m referencing is called “How to win friends and influence people“.
As I began to read this book, I became fascinated with Dale Carnegie’s life. He was born in the mid-west and had a relatively simple childhood. After graduating from a small teacher’s university, he began working as a salesman, selling small household items like lard, bacon, and soap. While successful at selling, this was not his passion; he had the desire to move to New York and be a lecturer. After saving enough money, he took the plunge and moved to NYC. There he had several failed attempts as an actor and ultimately ended up broke, living in the YMCA. This is where the story gets so fascinating to me; he convinced the YMCA to let him teach public speaking. After teaching for only a short time, he realized that he had found a way to help businessmen grow in their self-confidence. After only a couple of years doing this, he was earning a significant amount of money and helping people to be better and have more confidence.
Why do I tell you the story of Carnegie? His approach to success and influencing people was through genuine kindness. He had several tactics that he used to connect with people. My favorite tactic he used was making the other person feel important and do it with sincerity. Carnegie referred to this as the law of human conduct (also referred to as the Golden Rule). He named several individuals throughout history who successfully leveraged this tactic: Confucius, Lae-tse, and even Jesus Christ. Look at how Matthew quoted Christ: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them …” (Matthew 7:12a).
My point with all this: we can often become so focused on an end-goal that we forget that we need every team member working in unison to help achieve the goal. By adhering to the law of human conduct, we can still achieve our goals but we do so with respect and gratitude of those who helped to achieve those goals. So, next time you’re exchanging emails or conversing in a meeting, think about how you’re applying the law of human conduct.