Five Powerful Habits to Win Friends and Influence People

In Dale Carnegie’s bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he describes ten skills to develop to deepen both your personal and business relationships. Some people who have applied the concepts contained within its pages have gone on to achieve incredible success.

Having read and reread the book a few times over the past ten years, I’ve come to believe that a few stand out above the others. Here are the five I’ve found to be the most powerful.

Make People Feel Important

Have you ever noticed how you felt when someone forgot your name? You feel unimportant, insignificant. In business class and first class, flight attendants must address each passenger by name, why? The impact it has. You’re no longer “sir” or passenger in seat 51c. You’re Mr. Jones. There is power in knowing people’s names.

Successful people can buy their own books, dinners, and jewelry, and while they’ll gladly accept more when people buy them something small that compliments their interests, it ramps up the emotion. Instead of buying them an iPad, get them a subscription to Amazon Prime to enjoy their favorite books. Steve Sims discusses this point in great depth in his bestselling book, Bluefishing. Why? Because it works!

Show Genuine Interest in Other People

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” So the question becomes, how can we show people we care about them?

Stephen Covey’s bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People gives us one such technique – seek first to understand, then to be understood. We must learn to listen carefully, or as Covey calls it “empathic listening.” He says that most people “do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Applied properly, it’s a powerful concept. Here’s a great article explaining it in more depth.

Take a page out of world leaders’ books: before every meeting, they are given a dossier on who they are meeting and what they discussed last time. Why? It establishes an immediate rapport. For every sales call you make, every business meeting you have, or new person you come in contact with, jot down some notes on your smartphone to look at next time you meet them. Mention something about their family, or a small issue they had, and watch their eyes light up.

Be Quick to Acknowledge Your Mistakes

The first chapter of The Success Principles by Jack Canfield is devoted to the concept of 100% responsibility. The greatest generals and leaders of history understood that success and failure laid at their feet. People don’t want to go to battle for CEOs and managers who take credit for their accomplishments. But they’ll give it their all for a leader who dishes out credit.

I once had a friend who seemed to have the worst luck. His clients were selfish. The landlord was unfair. His partner was stubborn. His employees were stupid. At least, that’s what he said. In talking to some of his clients, his partner, his employees, and even the landlord, I realized where the real problem lay. I’m sure you can guess. It takes a certain level of maturity to admit when you’ve messed up. People respect those who own up to their errors.

Be Friendly

I’ve always believed in the carrot-versus-the-stick approach to everyone in life. The fastest way to defuse anger is with kindness. When people are angry, they are often looking for a fight. They want to prove they are right and you are wrong. If you go into a hostile environment with a hostile attitude, you can expect fireworks. Instead, approach it with a smile. It’s amazing how far a sincere apology will get you. It’s not always possible, but look for ways to defuse the situation.

Praise vs Criticism

The life of an entrepreneur or manager is filled with employee issues, much of the time having to criticize results or practices. Learning how to do this effectively will save you a whole lot of stress. No one likes to receive criticism, just like no one likes to get an injection. However, unless they know how to improve, employees might soon find themselves out of a job, which is worse both for them and the company. I am a big fan of what John Maxwell refers to as bookending; essentially, it’s sandwiching criticism within two praises, thereby making the criticism more palatable.

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