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
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
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.
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.