20. How to Win Friends

June 18, 2010

People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves - morning, noon and after dinner.'

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People
Many years ago, when I returned to work after having my first baby, I learned first hand that most people are not interested in you.  Anyone who has tried to work full time with a baby at home will know that it's tough. You haven't had more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep for months; the young person looking after your baby actually needs more parenting than your baby does; you worry, or feel guilty, or both, all day long;  you have so many balls in the air that you know that any unscheduled event, such as a puncture or washing machine failure, will result in every other ball coming tumbling down and quite possibly your admission to the nearest lunatic asylum.  
 
So here's the scenario:
 
One day you're making coffee in the kitchen at work and somebody comes in.
'Hi, how are you?' they say. 

Now if you say, as you are meant to, 'Fine, how are you?', they will smile and respond similarly, and perhaps make some comment about the weather.  If, on the other hand, you say (as I did on one occasion),  'completely exhausted, to be honest,' something entirely different happens. In my case the person looked at me for one brief, confused, moment. Then their eyes glazed over, they smiled slightly awkwardly, muttered something about a telephone call they had to make, and left.  
 
I think it's safe to say that I did not enhance my relationship with the other person on that occasion. The moral is, if you want to make a friend, do not talk about yourself. If, on the other hand, I'd said, 'Fine, how are you?' and then proceeded to ask them questions about what they were working on, where they were going on holiday that summer, or where they bought that nice jacket that they're wearing, then the chances are that the next time I saw them they would smile and chat, and yes, maybe even ask me how I am with genuine interest. 
 
If, instead of reacting the way they did, they had said, 'oh, I'm sorry to hear that, have you got a lot on at the moment?' and proceeded to listen with genuine interest while I explained that the baby had been up every hour, upon the hour, the night before, they would probably have become my friend for life.
 
As Maya Angelou said,
 
'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' 

 
Dale Carnegie wrote his book, 'How to win friends and influence people' in the sixties, and yet it is still a best-seller. This is just one of many nuggets of wisdom in that book:
 
'You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.'
 
These are his six keys to making friends and influencing people:
1. Become interested in other people
2. Smile
3. Remember that a person's name is to that person 
    the sweetest and most important sound in any 
    language
4.  Be a good listener - encourage others to talk about 
     themselves
5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests
6. Make the other person feel important - and do it 
    sincerely

 
It's important to realise that faking these things doesn't work. People soon pick up on insincerity.  But a conscious shift in focus from yourself to the other person will completely change any interaction. Very often when you're meeting someone for the first time you're focussed on what you want the other person to think of you. The danger of this is that you'll come over to the other person as not at all interested in them, and on the whole we don't like people who aren't interested in us. 
 
Try this:
1. Think of someone, either at work or in your private life, that you would like a better relationship with.

2. Take a moment to become curious about that person - what are they like, what's important to them, what do they do in their private life etc.

3. The next time you see them, try and find out more about them, take an interest in what interests them, really listen.

4. Notice what happens.

 
Do let me know how you get on, and 
have a good week! 

 

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