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Why read this book to find out how to win friends? Why not study the technique of the greatest winner of friends the world has ever known? Who is he? You may meet him tomorrow coming down the street. When you get within ten feet of him, he will begin to wag his tail. If you stop and pat him, he will almost jump out of his skin to show you how much he likes you. And you know that behind this show of affection on his part, there are no ulterior motives: he doesn’t want to sell you any real estate, and he doesn’t want to marry you.
Did you ever stop to think that a dog is the only animal that doesn’t have to work for a living? A hen has to lay eggs; a cow has to give milk; and a canary has to sing. But a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love.
When I was five years old, my father bought a little yellow-haired pup for fifty cents. He was the light and joy of my childhood. Every afternoon about four-thirty, he would sit in the front yard with his beautiful eyes staring steadfastly at the path, and as soon as he heard my voice or saw me swinging my dinner pail through the buck brush, he was off like a shot, racing breathlessly up the hill to greet me with leaps of joy and barks of sheer ecstasy.
Tippy was my constant companion for five years. Then one tragic night—I shall never forget it—he was killed within ten feet of my head, killed by lightning. Tippy’s death was the tragedy of my boyhood.
You never read a book on psychology, Tippy. You didn’t need to. You knew by some divine instinct that one can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than one can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Let me repeat that. 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.
Yet I know and you know people who blunder through life trying to wigwag other people into becoming interested in them.
Of course, it doesn’t work. People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves—morning, noon, and after dinner.
The New York Telephone Company made a detailed study of telephone conversations to find out which word is the most frequently used. You have guessed it: it is the personal pronoun “I.” “I.” I.” It was used 3,990 times in 500 telephone conversations. “I.” “I.” “I.” “I.” “I.”
When you see a group photograph that you are in, whose picture do you look for first?
If you think people are interested in you, answer this question: If you died tonight, how many people would come to your funeral?
Why should people be interested in you unless you are first interested in them? Reach for your pencil now and write your reply here:
If we merely try to impress people and get people interested in us, we will never have many true, sincere friends. Friends, real friends, are not made that way.
Napoleon tried it, and in his last meeting with Josephine he said: “Josephine, I have been as fortunate as any man ever was on this earth; and yet, at this hour, you are the only person in the world on whom I can rely.” And historians doubt whether he could rely even on her.
The late Alfred Adler, the famous Viennese psychologist, wrote a book entitled What Life Should Mean to You. In that book he says: “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”
You may read scores of erudite tomes on psychology without coming across a statement more significant for you and for me. I dislike repetition, but Adler’s statement is so rich with meaning that I am going to repeat it in italics:
“It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”
I once took a course in short-story writing in New York University, and during that course the editor of Collier’s talked to our class. He said he could pick up any one of the dozens of stories that drifted across his desk every day, and after reading a few paragraphs he could feel whether or not the author liked people. “If the author doesn’t like people,” he said, “people won’t like his stories.”
This hard-boiled editor stopped twice in the course of his talk on fiction writing, and apologized for preaching a sermon. “I am telling you”, he said, “the same things your preacher would tell you. But, remember, you have to be interested in people if you want to be a successful writer of stories.”
If that is true of writing fiction, you can be sure it is trebly true of dealing with people face to face.
I spent an evening in the dressing-room of Howard Thurston, the last time he appeared on Broadway—Thurston the acknowledged dean of magicians, Thurston the king of legerdemain. For forty years he travelled all over the world, time and again, creating illusions, mystifying audiences, and making people gasp with astonishment. More than 60 million people paid admission to his show, and he made almost $2 million in profit.
I asked Mr. Thurston to tell me the secret of his success. His schooling certainly had nothing to do with it, for he ran away from home as a small boy, became a hobo, rode in box cars, slept in haystacks, begged his food from door to door, and learned to read by looking out of boxcars at signs along the railway.
Did he have a superior knowledge of magic? No, he told me hundreds of books had been written about legerdemain, and scores of people knew as much about it as he did. But he had two things that the others didn’t have. First, he had the ability to put his personality across the footlights. He was a master showman. He knew human nature. Everything he did, every gesture, every intonation of his voice, every lifting of an eyebrow had been carefully rehearsed in advance, and his actions were timed to split seconds. But, in addition to that, Thurston had a genuine interest in people. He told me that many magicians would look at the audience and say to themselves: “Well, there is a bunch of suckers out there, a bunch of hicks; I’ll fool them all right.” But Thurston’s method was totally different. He told me every time he entered the stage he said to himself: “I am grateful because these people come to see me. They make it possible for me to make my living in a very agreeable way. I’m going to give them the very best I possibly can.”
He declared he never stepped in front of the footlights without first saying to himself over and over: “I love my audience. I love my audience.” Ridiculous? Absurd? You are privileged to think about it anything you like. I am merely passing it on to you without comment as a recipe used by one of the most famous magicians of all time.
Madame Schumann-Heink told me much the same thing. In spite of hunger and heartbreak, in spite of a life filled with so much tragedy that she once attempted to kill herself and her babies—in spite of all that, she sang her way up to the top until she became perhaps the most distinguished Wagnerian singer who ever thrilled an audience; and she, too, confessed that one of the secrets of her success is that fact that she is intensely interested in people.
That, too, was one of the secrets of Theodore Roosevelt’s astonishing popularity. Even his servants loved him. His coloured valet, James E. Amos, wrote a book about him entitled Theodore Roosevelt, Hero to His Valet. In that book Amos relates this illuminating incident:
“My wife one time asked the President about a bobwhite. She had never seen one and he described it to her fully. Some time later, the telephone at our cottage rang. [Amos and his wife lived in a little cottage on the Roosevelt estate at Oyster Bay.] My wife answered it and it was Mr. Roosevelt himself. He had called her, he said, to tell her that there was a bobwhite outside her window and that if she would look out she might see it. Little things like that were so characteristic of him. Whenever he went by our cottage, even though we were out of sight, we would hear him call out: ‘Oo-oo-oo, Annie!’ or ‘Oo-oo-oo, James!’ It was just a friendly greeting as he went by.”
How could employees keep from liking a man like that? How could anyone keep from liking him? Roosevelt called at the White House one day when the President and Mrs. Taft were away. His honest liking for humble people was shown by the fact that he greeted all the old White House servants by name, even the scullery maids.
“When he saw Alice, the kitchen-maid,” writes Archie Butt, “he asked her if she still made corn bread. Alice told him that she sometimes made it for the servants, but no one ate it upstairs.
“ ‘They show bad taste,’ Roosevelt boomed, ‘and I’ll tell the President so when I see him.’
“Alice brought a piece to him on a plate, and he went over to the office, eating it as he went and greeting gardeners and labourers as he passed…
“He addressed each person just as he was wont to address him in the past. They still whisper about it to each other, and Ike Hoover said with tears in his eyes: ‘It is the only happy day we have in nearly two years, and not one of us would exchange it for a hundred-dollar bill.’ ”
It was this same intense interest in the problems of other people that made Dr. Charles W. Eliot one of the most successful presidents who ever directed a university—and you will recall that he presided over the destinies of Harvard from four years after the close of the Civil War until five years before the outbreak of the World War. Here is an example of the way Dr. Eliot worked. One day a freshman, L. R. G. Crandon, went to the president’s office to borrow $50 from the Students’ Loan Fund. The loan was granted. “Then I made my heartfelt thanks and started to leave”—I am quoting Crandon’s own words now—“when President Eliot said: ‘Pray be seated.’ Then he proceeded, to my amazement, to say in effect: “I am told that you cook and eat in your room. Now I don’t think that is at all bad for you if you get the right food and enough of it. When I was in college, I did the same. Did you ever make veal loaf? That, if made from sufficiently mature and sufficiently cooked veal, is one of the best things you could have, because there is no waste. This is the way I used to make it.’ He then told me how to pick the veal, how to cook it slowly, with such evaporation that the soup would turn into jelly later, then how to cut it up and press it with one pan inside another and eat it cold.”
I have discovered from personal experience that one can win the attention and time and co-operation of even the most-sought-after people in America by becoming genuinely interested in them. Let me illustrate:
Years ago I conducted a course in fiction writing at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and we wanted Kathleen Norris, Fannie Hurst, Ida Tarbell, Albert Payson Terhune, Rupert Hughes, and other distinguished and busy authors to come over to Brooklyn and give us the benefit of their experiences. So we wrote them, saying we admired their work and were deeply interested in getting their advice and learning the secrets of their success.
Each of these letters was signed by about a hundred and fifty students. We said we realized that these authors were busy—too busy to prepare a lecture. So we enclosed a list of questions for them to answer about themselves and their methods of work. They liked that. Who wouldn’t like it? So they left their homes and travelled over to Brooklyn to give us a helping hand.
By using the same method, I persuaded Leslie M. Shaw, Secretary of the Treasury in Theodore Roosevelt’s cabinet, George W. Wickersham, Attorney General in Taft’s cabinet, William Jennings Bryan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and many other prominent men to come and talk to the students of my courses in public speaking.
All of us, be we butcher or baker or the king upon his throne, all of us like people who admire us. Take the German Kaiser, for example. At the close of the World War, he was probably the most savagely and universally despised man on this earth. Even his own nation turned against him when he fled over into Holland to save his neck. The hatred against him was so intense that millions of people would have loved to have torn him limb from limb or burned him at the stake. In the midst of all this forest fire of fury, one little boy wrote the Kaiser a simple, sincere letter glowing with kindness and admiration. This little boy said that no matter what the others thought, he would always love Wilhelm as his Emperor. The Kaiser was deeply touched by his letter and invited the little boy to come and see him. The boy came, so did his mother—and the Kaiser married her. That little boy didn’t need to read a book on “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. He knew how instinctively.
If we want to make friends, let’s put ourselves out to do things for other people—things that require time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness. When the Duke of Windsor was Prince of Wales, he was scheduled to tour South America, and before he started out on that tour he spent months studying Spanish so that he could make public talks in the language of the country; and the South Americans loved him for it.
For years I have made it a point to find out the birthdays of my friends. How? Although I haven’t the foggiest bit of faith in astrology, I begin by asking the other party whether he believes the date of one’s birth has anything to do with character and disposition. I then ask him to tell me the month and day of his birth. If he says November 24, for example, I keep repeating to myself: “November 24, November 24.” The minute his back is turned, I write down his name and birthday and later transfer it to a birthday book. At the beginning of each year, I have these birth- day dates scheduled in my calendar pad, so they come to my attention automatically. When the natal day arrives, there is my letter or telegram. What a hit it makes! I am frequently the only person on earth who remembers.
If we want to make friends, let’s greet people with animation and enthusiasm. When somebody calls you on the telephone, use the same psychology. Say “Hello” in tones that bespeak how pleased you are to have the person call. The New York Telephone Company conducts a school to train its operators to say “Number please” in a tone that means “Good morning, I am happy to be of service to you”. Let’s remember that when we answer the telephone tomorrow. Does this philosophy work in business? Does it? I could cite scores of illustrations; but we have time for only two.
Charles R. Walters, of one of the large banks in New York City, was assigned to prepare a confidential report on a certain corporation. He knew of only one man who possessed the facts he needed so urgently. Mr. Walters went to see that man, the president of a large industrial company. As Mr. Walters was ushered into the president’s office, a young woman stuck her head through a door and told the president that she didn’t have any stamps for him that day.
“I am collecting stamps for my twelve-year-old son,” the president explained to Mr. Walters.
Mr. Walters stated his mission, and began asking questions. The president was vague, general, nebulous. He didn’t want to talk, and apparently nothing would persuade him to talk. The interview was brief and barren.
“Frankly, I didn’t know what to do,” Mr. Walters said as he related the story to the class. “Then I remembered what his secretary had said to him—stamps, twelve-year-old son . . . And I also recalled that the foreign department of our bank collected stamps—stamps taken from letters pouring in from every continent washed by the seven seas.
“The next afternoon I called on this man and sent in word that I had some stamps for his boy. Was I ushered in with enthusiasm? Yes, sir. He couldn’t have shaken my hand with more enthusiasm if he had been running for Congress. He radiated smiles and good will. ‘My George will love this one,’ he kept saying as he fondled the stamps. ‘And look at this! This is a treasure.’
“We spent half an hour talking stamps and looking at a picture of his boy, and he then devoted more than an hour of his time to giving me every bit of information I wanted—without my even suggesting that he do it. He told me all he knew, and then called in his subordinates and questioned them. He telephoned some of his associates. He loaded me down with facts, figures, reports, and correspondence. In the parlance of newspaper men, I had a scoop.”
Here is another illustration:
C. M. Knaphle, Jr., of Philadelphia, had tried for years to sell coal to a large chain-store organization. But the chain-store company continued to purchase its fuel from an out-of-town dealer and continued to haul it right past the door of Knaphle’s office. Mr. Knaphle made a speech one night before one of my classes, pouring out his hot wrath upon the chain stores, branding them as a curse to the nation.
And still he wondered why he couldn’t sell them.
I suggested that he try different tactics. To put it briefly, this is what happened. We staged a debate between members of the course on “Resolved that the spread of the chain store is doing the country more harm than good”.
Knaphle, at my suggestion, took the negative side; he agreed to defend the chain stores, and then went straight to an executive of the chain-store organization that he despised and said: “I am not here to try to sell coal. I have come to ask you to do me a favour.” He then told about his debate and said, “I have come to you for help because I can’t think of anyone else who would be more capable of giving me the facts I want. I am anxious to win this debate; and I’ll deeply appreciate whatever help you can give me.”
Here is the rest of the story in Mr. Knaphle’s own words:
I had asked this man for precisely one minute of his time. It was with that understanding that he consented to see me. After I had stated my case, he motioned me to a chair and talked to me for exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes. He called in another executive who had written a book on chain stores. He wrote to the National Chain Store Association and secured for me a copy of a debate on the subject. He feels that the chain store is rendering a real service to humanity. He is proud of what he is doing for hundreds of communities. His eyes fairly glowed as he talked; and I must confess that he opened my eyes to things I had never even dreamed of. He changed my whole mental attitude.
“As I was leaving, he walked with me to the door, put his arm around my shoulder, wished me well in my debate, and asked me to stop in and see him again and let him know how I made out. The last words he said to me were: “Please see me again later in the spring. I should like to place an order with you for coal.”
“To me that was almost a miracle. Here he was offering to buy coal without my even suggesting it. I had made more headway in two hours by becoming genuinely interested in him and his problems than I could have made in ten years by trying to get him interested in me and my coal.”
You didn’t discover a new truth, Mr. Knaphle, for a long time ago, a hundred years before Christ was born, a famous old Roman poet, Publilius Syrus, remarked: “We are interested in others when they are interested in us.”
So if you want people to like you, Rule 1 is:
BECOME GENUINELY INTERESTED IN OTHER PEOPLE.
If you want to develop a more pleasing personality, a more effective skill in human relations, let me urge you to read The Return to Religion, by Dr. Henry Link. Don’t let the title frighten you. It isn’t a goody-goody book. It was written by a well-known psychologist who has personally interviewed and advised more than three thousand people who have come to him with personality problems. Dr. Link told me that he could easily have called his book How to Develop Your Personality. It deals with that subject. You will find it interesting, illuminating. If you read it, and act upon its suggestions, you are almost sure to increase your skill in dealing with people.