A Formula That Will Work Wonders for You

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Remember that the other man may be totally wrong. But he doesn’t think so. Don’t condemn him. Any fool can do that. Try to understand him. Only wise, tolerant, exceptional men even try to do that.

There is a reason why the other man thinks and acts as he does. Ferret out that hidden reason—and you have the key to his actions, perhaps to his personality,

Try honestly to put yourself in his place.

If you say to yourself : “How would I feel, how would I react if I were in his shoes?” you will save a lot of time and irritation, for “by becoming interested in the cause, we are less likely to dislike the effect”. And, in addition, you will sharply increase your skill in human relationships.

“Stop a minute [says Kenneth M. Goode, in his book, How to Turn People into Gold] stop a minute to contrast your keen interest in your own affairs with your mild concern about anything else. Realize then, that everybody else in the world feels exactly the same way! Then, along with Lincoln and Roosevelt, you will have grasped the only solid foundation for any job other than warden in a penitentiary: namely, that success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other man’s viewpoint.”

For years, I have taken a great deal of my recreation by walking and riding in a park near my own home. Like the Druids of ancient Gaul, I all but worship an oak-tree, so I was distressed season after season to see the young trees and shrubs killed off by needless fires. These fires weren’t caused by careless smokers. They were almost all caused by boys who went out to the park to go native and cook a frankfurter or an egg under the trees. Sometimes, these fires raged so fiercely that the fire department had to be called out to fight the conflagration.

There was a sign on the edge of the park saying that anyone who started a fire was liable to fine and imprisonment; but the sign stood in an unfrequented part of the park, and few boys ever saw it. A mounted policeman was supposed to look after the park; but he didn’t take his duties too seriously, and the fires continued to spread season after season. On one occasion I rushed up to a policeman and told him about a fire spreading rapidly through the park and wanted him to notify the fire department; and he nonchalantly replied that it was none of his business because it wasn’t in his precinct! I was desperate, so after that when I went riding, I acted as a self-appointed committee of one to protect the public domain. In the beginning, I am afraid I didn’t even attempt to see the boys’ point of view. When I saw a fire blazing under the trees, I was unhappy about it, so eager to do the right thing, that I did the wrong thing. I could ride up to the boys, warn them that they could be gaoled for starting a fire, order it put out with a tone of authority; and, if they refused, I would threaten to have them arrested. I was merely unloading my feelings without thinking of their point of view.

The result? The boys obeyed — obeyed sullenly and with resentment. After I rode on over the hill, they probably rebuilt the fire; and longed to burn up the whole park.

With the passing of the years, I hope I acquired a trifle more knowledge of human relations, a little more tact, a little greater tendency to see things from the other person’s point of view. Then, instead of giving orders, I would ride up to a blazing fire and begin something like this:

“Having a good time, boys? What are you going to cook for supper?…  I loved to build fires myself when I was a boy—and I still love to. But you know they are very dangerous here in the park. I know you boys don’t mean to do any harm; but other boys aren’t so careful. They come along and see that you have built a fire; so they build one and don’t put it out when they go home, and it spreads among the dry leaves and kills the trees. We won’t have any trees here at all if we aren’t more careful. You could be put in gaol for building this fire. But I don’t want to be bossy and interfere with your pleasure. I like to see you enjoy yourselves; but won’t you please rake all the leaves away from the fire right now—and you’ll be careful to cover it with dirt, a lot of dirt, before you leave, won’t you? And the next time you want to have some fun, won’t you please build your fire over the hill there in the sand pit? It can’t do any danger there. . .. Thanks so much, boys. Have a good time.”

What a difference that kind of talk made! That made the boys want to co-operate. No sullenness, no resentment, They hadn’t been forced to obey orders. They had saved their faces. They felt better and I felt better because I had handled the situation with consideration for their point of View.

Tomorrow, before asking anyone to put out a fire or buy a can of Afta cleaning fluid or give fifty dollars to the Red Cross, why not pause and close your eyes and try to think the whole thing through from the other person’s point of view? Ask yourself: ‘‘Why should he want to do it?” True, that will take time; but it will make friends and get better results and get them with less friction and less shoe leather.

“I should rather walk the sidewalk in front of a man’s office for two hours before an interview,” said Dean Donham of the Harvard business school, “than step into his office without a perfectly clear idea of what I am going to say and what he — from my knowledge of his interests and ‘motives — is likely to answer.”

That is so important that I am going to repeat it in italics for the sake of emphasis.

“I should rather walk the sidewalk in front of a man’s office for two hours before an interview, than step into his office without a perfectly clear idea of what I am going to say and what he—from my knowledge of his interests and motives — is likely to answer.”

If, as a result of reading this book, you get only one thing — an increased tendency to think always in terms of the other person’s point of view, and see things from his angle as well as your own — if you get only that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be one of the milestones of your career.

Therefore, if you want to change people without giving offence or arousing resentment, Rule 8 is: