The Art of Winning Friends

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou

When I was young and just starting out in business, someone suggested I get the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Now, it is not lost on me that they may have been trying to tell me something. Like most young people, I was full of know-it-all-ness, self-centeredness and youthful bluster. But, I read the book, and it was one of the things that helped me mature in my relationships with people. I realized that it didn’t really matter if I knew it all. If I didn’t have other people, I’d be all alone in my house knowing it all. What was the gift in that? I still have moments of self-centeredness and grandiosity, but I’m much better.

“Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted.

I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream.

Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?”
Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

I took the habits I learned in the book into my training work, and it helped me be successful. When I teach, I don’t assume that I know the content. I let the students teach me. More times than not, they know more about it than I do. They live it everyday. I just try to give them some new framework into which they put their experience. They teach each other. I’m just a guide and a confidence-builder. Even if they didn’t know the material, they are not going to listen to some trainer anyway. They know I only have book knowledge or I only have MY opinion on how it should work. So often I would walk into a training session, and I could tell by the Manager’s faces that they were ready to do battle. Oh yeah…. this HR dame is going to come in here and tell us how to do our job. We’ll tell her how it is. I know they are thinking it, so right off the bat I have them teaching the class. I don’t even presume to tell them anything. And, to everything they say, I tell them that is profound, and, generally, it is. I never falsely flatter, but I do try to find some wisdom in everyone to highlight.

Everybody deserves to be highlighted. That’s my favorite saying. And, we do. If you believe that we are all children of God, there is something beautiful in every person. He doesn’t make junk. My sister reminded me of that yesterday. Of course sometimes we have to look through a lot of flaws to find that one lovely thing that deserves to be highlighted. There are lots of things about me that can be changed. There are lots of things about me that are undesirable. I’m flighty. I’m impulsive. I’m emotional. I’m controlling at times. I run my big mouth when I shouldn’t. I have a fiery short temper. The friends that care about me look through those flaws and see the good things in me. And, the ones I really love, highlight the good things about me. Like Maya Angelou said in the quote above, it’s not about what you say or do, I remember how you made me feel.

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you

can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

I have a lot of really good friends that I love to be around. My friend Elizabeth has the calmest, sweetest presence, and she can calm me down in a heartbeat. She makes me feel safe. And, she does it by asking me how I’ve gotten through similar situations in the past. She reinforces the fact that I’ve done this before, and I’ll do it again. She makes me feel safe. She doesn’t do much but listen and say a few choice words, but it’s the way she makes me feel that keeps her on my bestest friends list. My new friend Jo Ann makes me feel wanted. I don’t really know her that well, but she is so eager to welcome me into her life, it creates this sense that I belong. My friend Sarah makes me feel so loved. She is so kind and gentle. She always reassures me about my feelings even if she may not understand them herself. Every friend I have makes me feel something pleasant, or I wouldn’t stick around.

The book also taught me that people love to talk about themselves. So, if I encourage another person to talk about themselves, they are going to feel good about me. Now, I’ve been on first dates where the guy talks about himself ad nauseum and doesn’t ask one question about me. I’m actually not sure why I’m there. He could talk to a mirror and get the same result. I’m not talking about that situation. It’s important for me to call them by name. And, it’s important that I help them talk about themselves. I have to ask questions. I have to think a little bit about what they are saying and get them to delve a little deeper. I try to ask them about things they are passionate about. That usually gets people really excited. And, you know what, when the other person is excited and passionate in conversation, I get excited and passionate, too. It’s a win-win situation.

 “A barber lathers a man before he shaves him.”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

One of my strengths according to Strengthsfinder 2.0 is WOO. Woo means Winning Others Over. It’s actually not that hard to do. Making new friends and influencing people is really about the art of conversation. A conversation is an exchange of words, sure. But, more importantly, it’s an exchange of energy. I’ve somehow always done this naturally – thus it’s one of my strengths – but it’s just a matter of caring how other people feel and helping them see the good in who they are. Often, I don’t have to say a word to make that happen. Just by talking about themselves and my eager listening, they walk away feeling like they are an interesting person. The flip side is that they walk away thinking I’m pretty interesting, and I may not have said a thing about myself.

The art of conversation seems to be getting lost in this world of technology and virtual interaction.  I see this negative, venomous attitude on Facebook, Twitter and the like, and it pushes people away. They say things to each other and to strangers that they would never say face to face. The problem is that when people read it, it feels the same way as hearing it face to face. I have a block list on Facebook about 25 names long, and I know people who have even longer lists. Most of them got blocked by being negative, insulting to others or just mean-spirited. I’m not sure what the goal is in behaving like that. I let go of my need to be right a long time ago when I realized that sitting home being right is so much less fun than hanging out with great, positive people. I just have no tolerance for meanness in real life or on social networks. Life is too short. Be nice or Leave.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Categories: Uncategorized

2 replies »

  1. I like this blog.i agree be nice or leave never heard that but I will say this if you can not say some thing nice don’t say anything . Now I would like to say something about making friends . Forgive my grammar . Here we go . I love horses and they come in all shape and sizes and they all have different level of spirit as do people Sharon . I prefer what I call performance horses they have your personality Sharon as you described in your early life and if I may add you still have what I would call channeled spirt . Some times these cowboys will bring me one of there cow horses that has been hurt and I get to heel them .they are full of the self plenty of energy .the first thing I have do is get this animal to trust me Sharon .for example if it has a cut on it back ankle you will need to give 10 cc of penacilne twice a day for a week plus flush the wound for 20 min twice a day and each time you do this you wil need to rub salve on the wound to keep fly and dirt out of some times you may have to rap it .they know by my mannerism ,the way I move and talk to them and that I do not try to restrict them by putting a halter on them .i make feel like they are still free in a small round pen . I feed them holding the feed pan I give them fresh water the tone of my voice and I watch there body language that is the tell tell on how far get to go with them . Never yet have I not been able to turn these high sprited animals out into my yard to graze and to approach them at will . I think this is true about people earning there trust ,the tone we have ,how we move around them and are we watch them for tell tell signs . Horses know fake intentions as we do the only diff. Is that 1200 lb can kick the shit out of you . To sum this up trust and no restraint with ever thig I have talk about and as you said Sharon make them feel safe , pleasant and highlighted . Really enjoyed your take on friends

    • What a lovely description and analogy for building trust! One of the popular – and very effective therapy types is working with horses. Some friends of mine have gone, and they learned so much about themselves from working with them. Thanks for the comment.

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