|Kiwi Morado, Flickr|
My friend A, in a surge of honesty, recently declared that "there is only one person I hate in Nova Scotia". We were instantly intrigued, for if there's a person who likes EVERYONE, it's A. I've never heard her say anything mildly negative about anyone. She loves all human beings. It's as if she wears special glasses that allow her to see people's qualities and magnify them, all the while completely overlooking any flaw they might have. Her using the "H-word" about someone was unusual to say the least.
Curious, I asked: "What makes you hate that person?"
The reasons proved to be rather simple. According to A, that unpleasant person is guilty of the following:
- She talks way too much
- She talks solely about herself
- If someone tries to add their grain of salt, she interrupts to keep talking about herself
- She fails to notice the non-verbal cues people show as they lose interest. E.g. if you start looking away, turn your feet or even slowly back up or walk away, she just keeps on talking (she might talk louder or follow you to force you to keep listening)
- If she feels cranky, you can be sure you will pay the price (even if you have nothing to do with it)
Ensued a discussion about "those people who don't know when to shut it" and "those people who think only their own stories are worth telling".
This all reminded me of Dale Carnegie's advice on "How to Win Friends and Influence People", one the first popular self-help books to be published (in 1936). It was probably the first self-help book I read, too. I stumbled upon it at my great-aunt's cottage. That great-aunt arguably being the most pleasant and kind person I had ever met, I figured her owning this book was no accident. I picked the book. I read it. I was 15. It had a bigger impact on my interpersonal relationships than I could ever have imagined.
As it turns out, my friend A's insight, my great-aunt D's attitude in life, and the contents of that book have a lot of things in common. In fact, the rules of pleasant human interactions are both simple and effective... that is, once we know them and, more importantly, once we apply them to everyday life. I feel that most adults eventually master most of those rules spontaneously, although following them can be a challenge even on a good day. In any case, a reminder is a never bad thing.
Here's a sample of the "rules" put forward by Carnegie. They work for everything: friendship, love, family ties, the workplace, adults, children,... name it. Once we know those rules, the main challenge might be to be consistent, genuine and sincere in their application:
- Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener.
- Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
- Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say "You're Wrong."
- If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Begin in a friendly way.
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
- Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
- Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Let the other person save face.
- Praise every improvement.
- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Use encouragement.
- Make the fault seem easy to correct.
- Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.
Does any of this particularly talk to you? Do you find any of them to be a challenge? Is any one of them your "specialty"? Do you have your own "tricks of the trade" that make human interaction easier and more rewarding? Share in the comments!