We cannot avoid communication. We communicate in everything we do, was it verbal or nonverbal, was it with friends, at work, at school or in a random event. Even we cannot avoid communicating with others we can choose how we do it and what is the desired outcome we are looking for.
I always thought some people are naturally great communicators and likable. After getting familiar with Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People I realized it is something anyone can learn if they want to. Having good communication skills is vital. For example, in business life in the end of the day we do not do business with numbers we do business with people. Many of the points and advice given in the book felt for me common sense. I felt I had heard most of them elsewhere. No wonder the lessons sounded familiar since Carnegie’s book was published in 1936, after all it is ‘the mother’ to the existing communication books.
The book gives advice on how to communicate and get people to like you. It makes me think of the challenges of the given methods. I study and spend lot of my time in an international environment and sometimes cultural differences create some challenge. This is also in communication. Some things and manners we take as common sense might be different for others. However, the lessons in the book are something everyone can take into practice.
It is said that good conversationalists are great listeners. For us it is easier to talk about ourselves and our achievements. We might forget to stop and listen what the other one has to say and what are his achievements. Carnegie tells how we should talk in terms of other’s interest. It is so easy to start a conversation with a stranger, it only requires smiling, introducing yourself and asking ‘what do you like’. It does not matter if you have nothing in common because you are talking about the other one’s interest. After starting the conversation, it is easy to continue with the follow up questions. Good communicators know how to ask questions. People want to feel they are listened to and the other one cares what do they have to say. At my job this works well. We have a really good atmosphere which is rather rare. Every time someone comes to work the first thing we do is to greet and ask how are you doing. We care for one another and talk about our personal life and interest. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy my work so much; I feel appreciated.
Carnegie tells about the importance of asking questions instead of giving orders. I noticed I have used this with others without acknowledging it. This is more effective than just telling someone to do something. Personally, I do not like if someone just gives me orders and tells me what to do. Especially if there is no ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ added. When it is a question instead of demand it makes the other one feel he has a choice. When the other one can chose if he does it or not, he will be more responsive to the request. Instead of just saying ‘clean the house today’ it is more effective to ask ‘Could you give me a hand in cleaning the house?’ This was a good advice I will take from the book for the future and really pay attention to the way how I ask something from others.
When you open up to others they are more likely to open up to you. They feel you trust them and they will trust you. It is important to have open mind and not to judge. We need to appreciate that we think in different ways and can learn a lot from one another. Therefore, I like to share my stories, the nice ones and the vulnerable ones. We should learn to talk about our own mistakes before starting to criticize others. Something I have found hard is giving constructive feedback without giving the feeling of criticism. We often use the word ‘but’, when doing this everything before it does not matter for the listener. Carnegie gives a simple trick, instead of using the word ‘but’ for example ‘Good job John but you good to better’ use word ‘and’ ‘Good job John and if you continue this you can do even better’.
I feel Carnegie is right when saying that to get best out of argument it is just to avoid it. I never forget the time when my friend got mad because I did not shout back at her when arguing. It is not worth to win an argument when it only gives you short moment of victory. It is not possible to win an argument – even when you win you lose because you made the other person feel furious and hurt their pride. I believe this can cause damage, especially in close relationships. Think of professional relations. Imagine you argue with potential customer or with your boss about who is right. The argue – you won it or not – will affect how they will see you in the future. There is no need to point out if the other one is wrong. Let’s think of customer situation: the customer might think he is right about something, remember the saying customer is always right. Instead of pointing out how wrong the other one might be it is better to ask questions of why the other one thinks the way he does and find the reasons behind it. You will be able to see the attitude changing. Sometimes we make poor judgements without knowing.
One thing that really caught my attention was that it does not matter who takes the credit for. We often feel we need and want the credit. We want to show how great we are and what we have accomplished. Especially in group setting or in leadership we should make others feel the idea is theirs. When you start doing this they will feel they get great ideas when they are with you. When we learn how not to take the credit it makes us step out of our ego. It is amazing what you can accomplish as a team when you do not care who gets the credit for.
The biggest lesson I got out of the book was the importance of remembering names. I have been good with names until the past few years. I meet so much people it has been hard to keep up. After understanding the benefit of remembering names I will focus on it more. People appreciate when you take time to learn their name. It shows you care and respect the other one. The deepest principal in the human nature is the graving to feel important and to feel appreciated that they are worthy. When you take this away from people they are not going to like you. Always try to make time, show appreciation and be present. When you show they are important to you, you become important to them. This connection is easy to start just by remembering their name and 3 things you discussed. Next time you meet the other one will feel so honored that you took the time and effort to remember.
In order to get more friends and built networks we need to like people first to make them like us. Others can notice if you are not being sincere and honest. Being genuinely interested in others makes a big difference. When you talk with others and their interests instead of yours you get to learn new things. You get to see life in their eyes – to see and learn what they have learned. We need people around us and good communication helps us to learn and move forward in life.