About a month ago I wrote a post about creating a habit to improve charisma because it seems to be an underappreciated and under-worked trait in the Game community. I promised to read a chapter of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People each day for 30 days – in fact, it’s perfectly suited to this task since the book has 30 chapters, one for each day of the month – and report back.
I have noticed the habit changing me, if only slightly, though if this is what can happen after only 30 days, I can imagine how it will be after 90, 180 or even 360 days. Sometimes as I’m talking to someone a lesson from the book will flash into my head. Most of the time it stops me from interrupting someone, which is part of one of the book’s key lessons.
Perhaps the golden rule of HTWFAIF is to make the other person feel important. And to do that, let them talk about themselves (the most important thing in their lives). As Carnegie says throughout the book: where he sat and gave someone his undivided attention, they felt important, and ended up valuing the conversation twice as much. It’s not about the content of the conversation, or having a back and forth, it’s about how the other person feels after the fact.
Maybe the best way to get people to feel good about talking to you is, then, to just listen, rather than only thinking of what you’ll say in response, because if you talk only with your response in mind, then you’ll just have arguments. And you can never win an argument, only make the other person feel bad, and convince them further of their own position. In fact, one of the best ways to get someone to take their own side even more, and to reason their position further, is to criticise them. That’s why the first principle of HTWFAIF is “never criticise, condemn or complain” (and I’m proud to have recalled that from memory).
The book itself is split up into four sections. The first is on fundamental techniques such as having a positive attitude towards others and understanding what actually drives them. The second goes deeper into what drives people – their self-interests and desire to feel important – and how to use that to encourage them to have a positive opinion of you. The third then takes that positive opinion/momentum and teaches you ways to turn it towards your own goals. The final section deals mainly with conflict and how to influence people when you are not getting your way, and/or the other techniques do not work. Though, don’t construe this book to be machiavellian. It is not about manipulating people. If anything it’s about finding out where your common ground is and using that, plus an understanding of human nature, to move forward.
I promised to review my reading habit after 30 days and choose whether to renew it for another 60, bringing the total to 90. I decided that it would be a good idea to continue, and so I did. Such a tiny cost (less than ten minutes reading each day) for such a massive potential. I’m concurrently reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and this could easily be described as “Quadrant Two” work, i.e. important but not urgent. I’ll report back again at the end of this 60 day period.
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