One of the top selling books of all time, translated into virtually every language was written by Dale Carnegie in 1936. Since that time, his homespun philosophy has helped millions in their day to day interactions.
For years, it was the title that put me off reading the book. I thought this was another collection of gimmicks like many other self help books. When I finally did read it my only regret was not having read it much sooner. How many of my past relationships might have been saved? How much further might I have gotten if I had known some of the things written in this classic best seller, How To Win Friends and Influence People? For example, these Five Things to Consider in an Argument:
- You can't win an argument. There is no winner in an argument. Mr. Carnegie explains this in his quote, "You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why?...If you triumph over the other (hu)man and shoot their argument full of holes and prove that they are non compos mentis1 then what? You will feel fine. But what about him/her? You have made him/her feel inferior. You have hurt their pride. They will resent your triumph."
- "There is only one way to get the best of an argument - that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes. Nine times of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he/she is absolutely right."
- "Will my reaction drive my opponents further away or draw them closer to me? Will my reaction elevate the estimation good people have of me?...What price will I have to pay if I win?"
- "You will never get into trouble by admitting that you may be wrong. That will stop all argument and inspire your opponent to be just as fair and open and broadminded as you are."
- Begin and end in a friendly way. "Scolding parents and domineering bosses and husbands and nagging wives ought to realize that people don't want to change their minds. They can't be forced or driven to agree with you or me. But they may possibly be led to, if we are gentle and friendly, ever so gentle and ever so friendly."
Carl Rogers, a psychologist, wrote in his book On Becoming a Person, "When someone expresses some feeling, attitude or belief, our tendency is almost immediately to feel 'that's right,' or 'that's stupid,' or 'that's abnormal,' or 'that's incorrect..." He further says it is of "enormous value to permit ourselves to understand the other person" rather than give in to our first reaction which is to evaluate or judge."
Though this may be something that everyone else already knew, it had never occurred to me. The idea of giving in on smaller stuff was a foreign concept to me.To that point, I had traveled through life believing that I must correct wrongs and prove myself right in every instance. The words should and ought to came into my thoughts so often that I lost sight of the forest for the trees.
Sheryl Crow says it well in this song, "The Difficult Kind."
"One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing." Socrates to his followers in Athens
In his youth, Ben Franklin was known for his habit of constant argument. He was once told by a friend, "Your opinions have a slap in them for everyone who differs with you...You know so much that no one can tell you anything".
After hearing this, Ben learned to deny himself the pleasure of contradicting everyone he thought to be in error. He said, "I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiment of others and all positive assertion of my own." He changed to become one of the most diplomatic men in American history.
"If you will only change, everything will change for you." Jim Rohn
This book provides the guidelines for change that will lead to a happier and more productive life with a whole less conflict; a valuable read.
1 Non compos mentis - when one is in a confused state, intoxicated, or not of sound mind