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How To Win
Changing Minds and Influencing People

By: Mitchell Parks

Have you ever tried to convince someone, perhaps a peer, or someone in your organization, of something about which you knew you were right, yet opposition seemed insurmountable? If you're a Mac advocate, most likely, you have.

People are quick to label us "fanatics". In truth, we do everything we can to legitimately earn that title. We get angry, turn colors, make pointed statements, insult their intelligence, become rude, and so on, because we are frustrated and mystified that they are blind to what is obvious to us. Yet, we will seldom win their opinion or favor and will forever be labeled fanatic, unreasonable, etc., if we continue with this behavior.

So it is not about the validity of what we have to say, but rather, our presentation.

It is embarrassing that neither my undergraduate nor graduate school business studies emphasized how to deal with complex human interaction problems. I have no problem with my studies from a scientific point of view. In that, the MBA program did quite well teaching me how to analyze and make strategic corporate decisions. Yet, my inability to effectively deal with the human component, more than anything, prevented me from attaining the corporate ladder progress I desired.

I can aptly illustrate my plight by referring to an article I wrote in the spring of 1998 titled "Corporate Lunacy". If you read that article carefully, you will understand that I "was" the fanatic I speak of today. With my attitude at that time, there was little chance I was going to influence anyone that had a counter opinion to mine. The response to the article was incredible... readers love it. Yet, who were these admiring readers? Certainly no one that had a counter opinion to mine.

Sensing my own inadequacies, over the summer of '98, I sought a book to help me remedy the situation. I picked up a few books, one of which was "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Previously, I had dismissed this book as a book for "salesmen"... and I just was not interested. Boy, was I wrong.

Put simply, the book should be required reading for every human being. Do not die without reading this book. Get it now. Pay the $7.50 it costs and learn. This book has given me direction and revelation second only to the Holy Bible (and I'm no saint [colloq.]). Nearly every page of this book humbled me. It became immediately clear to me why I was unsuccessful convincing my peers and organization of my opinions.

I summarized some of my favorite points and pasted them to a "sticky note" so I can refresh my memory ever so often. I want to share them with you now. Do not consider this summary a substitute for the book. Read the book. The book provides reasoning, examples, and stories that illustrate perfectly why these points work. But more than that, by reading the book, you will gain a depth of "understanding" that is not afforded by these "cliff-notes". In fact, the book recommends rereading several times... and I agree. Further, without the book, these points are incomplete and some may not make sense.

I call them simply, "Carnegies":

  1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. The only way to influence people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.
  4. Ask yourself, "How can I make this person want to do it."
  5. Secret to success: "get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as your own".
  6. Show how your service will solve their problems.
  7. Unselfishly try to serve others.
  8. Arouse in others an eager want.
  9. You can win the attention, time, and consideration of the busiest people by becoming genuinely interested in them.
  10. Let us put ourselves out to do things for other people.
  11. Chinese proverb: "A man without a smiling face must not open a shop".
  12. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  13. Give exclusive attention to the person speaking to you.
  14. Encourage others to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.
  15. Talk in terms of the other person's interests. Roosevelt, when expecting a visitor, set up late the night before and studied the subject in which he knew the visitor had a particular interest.
  16. Emerson said, "Every man I meet is superior to me in some way. In that, I learn of him."
  17. The unvarnished truth is that every man you meet feels superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to show them that you recognize their importance, and do so sincerely.
  18. Simply, make the person feel important.
  19. As far as changing another's mind is concerned, you will probably be just as futile as if you were wrong.
  20. Ben Franklin said, "If you argue and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent's good will."
  21. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  22. You can tell people they are wrong by a look or an intonation or a gesture just as eloquently as you can in words--and if you tell them they are wrong, do you make them want to agree with you? Never! For you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgment, pride and self-respect. That will make them want to strike back. But it will never make them want to change their minds.
  23. Never begin by announcing "I am going to prove so-and-so to you." That is tantamount to saying: "I'm smarter than you." That is a challenge and arouses opposition.
  24. If you are going to prove anything, don't let anybody know it. Do it so subtly, so adroitly, that no one would feel you are doing so.
  25. Men must be taught as if you taught them not... and things proposed as things forgot.
  26. Begin with, "I could be wrong...".
  27. Forbid yourself to speak terms of fixed opinion, such as: certainly, undoubtedly.
  28. Propose your opinions in a modest and humble manner.
  29. Never say, "You are wrong."
  30. If you are wrong, admit it.
  31. Say about yourself all the derogatory things you know the other person is thinking or wants to say or intends to say--and say them before that person has a chance to say them.
  32. Begin in a friendly way.
  33. In talking to people, don't begin by discussing the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasizing and keep on emphasizing--the things on which you agree. Keep emphasizing, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose.
  34. When a person has said "no", all their pride demands that they be consistent with themselves.
  35. "Yes" responses propel in one direction, and takes some force to deflect it.
  36. When one says, "no"... his entire neuromuscular system sets itself on guard against acceptance.
  37. Urge the person to give you their ideas. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  38. A good way to convert people is to casually plant the thought in their mind and let them take credit.
  39. The success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person's viewpoint.
  40. Govern what you say by what you would want to hear if your were the listener, and accepting his viewpoint will encourage the listener to have an open mind to your ideas.
  41. Tomorrow, before asking anyone to put out a fire or buy your product or contribute to your favorite charity, pause and try to think the whole thing through from another person's viewpoint. Ask yourself: "Why should he want to do it?"
  42. I would rather walk the sidewalk in front of a person's office for two hours before an interview than step into that office without a perfectly clear idea of what I was going to say and what that person--from my knowledge of his or her interests and motives--was likely to answer.
  43. When people are upset, say "I don't blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you I would undoubtedly feel just as you do."
  44. Whoever you meet, bigoted, unreasoning, etc., say to yourself: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
  45. Three-fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them and they will love you.
  46. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  47. When no information can be secured about the customer, the only sound basis on which to proceed is to assume that he is sincere, honest, truthful, and willing and anxious to pay the charges, once convinced they are correct.
  48. Dramatize your ideas.
  49. Merely stating a truth isn't enough. The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, dramatic. You have to use showmanship. The movies do it. Television does it. And you will have to do it if you want attention.
  50. When nothing else works, throw down a challenge! The desire to excel appeals to people of spirit. (Schwab).
  51. The one major factor that motivated people was the work itself. If the work was exciting and interesting, the worker looked forward to doing it and was motivated to do a good job. To win produces a feeling of self-importance.
  52. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  53. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
  54. Use 'and' instead of 'but'.
  55. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing another person.
  56. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders, "Is there anything we can do to handle this shipment?"
  57. Let the other person save face... Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime.
  58. Everyone likes to be praised, but when praise is specific, it comes across as sincere.
  59. If you and I inspire the people with whom we come in contact to a realization of the hidden treasures they possess, we can do far more than change people. We can literally transform them.
  60. If you wish to improve a characteristic of a person, act as though that characteristic is theirs already.
  61. Give a person a fine reputation to live up to.
  62. Be liberal in your encouragement and make the thing seem easy to do.
  63. Let the person know that you have faith in their ability to do it and that they have a flair for it.

There they are, some of my favorite "Carnegies". Now these Carnegies will not change your life -- YOU have to change your life -- and it won't be easy. It takes time, discipline, and hard knocks. I find myself wanting to do and doing the very things that Carnegie teaches not to... still! It is so much easier to criticize and insult rather than reason and appreciate. No doubt, should you continue to read my articles, you may find me guilty on occasion.

And if I may add my own "Carnegie" which I do not remember Dale including in his book (nor do I claim this idea, many authors before me have said the same). Anything you write... an opinion, letter, suggestion... anything... the higher the emotional content, the longer you should let it set... days... even weeks, if particularly emotional. This gives you time to cool down, inject more reasoning, temper your own harshness, and see the other person's point of view. Good advice...

One final note. If there is anything I have learned about changing opinions, it is that the ensconced ones are more likely to be changed with small, subtle seeds, and large doses of time... years even, than large doses of impatience and beating people over the head.

Created: 11/16/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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