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I go fishing up in Maine every summer. Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream; but I find that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I go fishing, I don’t think about what I want. I think about what they want. I don’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or a grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?”
Why not use the same common sense when fishing for men?
That is what Lloyd George did. When someone asked him how he managed to stay in power after all the other wartime leaders – Wilson, Orlando and Clemenceau – had been ousted and forgotten, he replied that if his staying on top might be attributed to any one thing, it was probably to the fact that he had learned it was necessary to bait the hook to suit the fish.
Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want.
So the only way on earth to influence the other fellow is to talk about what he wants and show him how to get it.
Remember that tomorrow when you are trying to get somebody to do something. If, for example, you don’t want your son to smoke, don’t preach at him, and don’t talk about what you want; but show him that cigarettes may keep him from making the basketball team or winning the hundred-yard dash.
This is a good thing to remember regardless of whether you are dealing with children or calves or chimpanzees. For example: Ralph Waldo Emerson and his son one day tried to get a calf into the barn. But they made the common mistake of thinking only of what they wanted: Emerson pushed and his son pulled. But the calf did just what they did; he thought only of what he wanted; so he stiffened his legs and stubbornly refused to leave the pasture. The Irish housemaid saw their predicament. She couldn’t write essays and books; but, on this occasion at least, she had more horse sense, or calf sense, than Emerson had. She thought of what the calf wanted; so she put her maternal finger in the calf’s mouth, and let the calf suck her finger as she gently led him into the barn.
Every act you ever performed since the day you were born is because you wanted something. How about the time you gave $100 to the Red Cross? Yes, that is no exception to the rule. You gave the Red Cross $100 because you wanted to lend a helping hand, because you wanted to do a beautiful, unselfish, divine act. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
If you hadn’t wanted that feeling more than you wanted your $100, you would not have made the contribution. Of course, you may have made the contribution because you were ashamed to refuse or because a customer asked you to do it. But one thing is certain. You made the contribution because you wanted something.
Professor Harry A, Overstreet in his illuminating book, Influencing Human Behavior, says:
“Action springs out of what we fundamentally desire … and the best piece of advice which can be given to would-be persuaders, whether in business, in the home, in the school, in politics, is: first, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.”
Andrew Carnegie, the poverty-stricken Scots lad who started to work at two cents an hour and finally gave away $365 million – he learned early in life that the only way to influence people is to talk in terms of what the other person wants. He attended school only four years; yet he learned how to handle people.
To illustrate: His sister-in-law was worried sick over her two boys. They were at Yale, and they were so busy with their own affairs that they neglected to write home and paid no attention whatever to their mother’s frantic letters.
Then Carnegie offered to wager $100 that he could get an answer by return mail, without even asking for it. Someone called his bet; so he wrote his nephews a chatty letter, mentioning casually in a post-script that he was sending each one a $5 bill.
He neglected, however, to enclose the money.
Back came replies by return mail thanking “Dear Uncle Andrew” for his kind note and – you can finish the sentence yourself.
Tomorrow you will want to persuade somebody to do something. Before you speak, pause and ask: “How can I make him want to do it?”
That question will stop us from rushing in heedlessly to see people with futile chatter about our desires.
I rent the grand ballroom of a certain New York hotel for twenty nights in each season in order to hold a series of lectures.
At the beginning of one season, I was suddenly informed that I should have to pay almost three times as much rent as formerly. This news reached me after the tickets had been printed and distributed and all announcements had been made.
Naturally, I didn’t want to pay the increase, but what was the use of talking to the hotel about what I wanted? They were interested only in what they wanted. So a couple of days later I went to see the manager.
“I was a bit shocked when I got your letter,” I said, “but I don’t blame you at all. If I had been in your position, I should probably have written a similar letter myself. Your duty as the manager of the hotel is to make all the profit possible. If you don’t do that, you will be fired and you ought to be fired. Now, let’s take a piece of paper and write down the advantages and the disadvantages that will accrue to you, if you insist on this increase in rent.”
Then I took a letterhead and ran a line through the center and headed one column “Advantages” and the other column “Disadvantages.”
I wrote down under the head “Advantages” these words: “Ballroom free.” Then I went on to say: “You will have the advantage of having the ballroom free to rent for dances and conventions. That is a big advantage, for affairs like that will pay you much more than you can get for a series of lectures. If I tie your ballroom up for twenty nights during the course of the season, it is sure to mean a loss of some very profitable business to you.
“Now, let’s consider the disadvantages. First, instead of increasing your income from me, you are going to decrease it. In fact, you are going to wipe it out, because I cannot pay the rent you are asking. I shall be forced to hold these lectures at some other place.
“There’s another disadvantage to you also. These lectures attract crowds of educated and cultured people to your hotel. That is good advertising for you, isn’t it? In fact, if you spent $5000 advertising in the newspapers, you couldn’t bring as many people to look at your hotel as I can bring by these lectures. That is worth a lot to a hotel, isn’t it?”
As I talked, I wrote these two “disadvantages” under the proper heading, and handed the sheet of paper to the manager, saying: “I wish you would carefully consider both the advantages and disadvantages that are going to accrue to you and then give me your final decision.”
I received a letter the next day, informing me that my rent would be increased only 50 percent instead of 300 percent.
Mind you, I got this reduction without saying a word about what I wanted. I talked all the time about what the other person wanted, and how he could get it.
Suppose I had done the human, natural thing; suppose I had stormed into his office and said: “What do you mean by raising my rent 300 percent when you know the tickets have been printed and the announcements made? Three hundred percent! Ridiculous! Absurd! I won’t pay it!”
What would have happened then? An argument would have begun to steam and boil and sputter – and you know how arguments end. Even if I had convinced him that he was wrong, his pride would have made it difficult for him to back down and give in.
Here is one of the best bits of advice ever given about the fine art of human relationships. “If there is any one secret of success,” said Henry Ford, “it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as from your own.”
That is so good, I want to repeat it: “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as from your own.”
That is so simple, so obvious, that anyone ought to see the truth of it at a glance; yet 90 percent of the people on this earth ignore it 90 percent of the time.
An example? Look at the letters that come across your desk tomorrow morning, and you will find that most of them violate this high canon of common sense. Take this one, a letter written by the head of the radio department of an advertising agency with offices scattered across the continent. This letter was sent to the managers of local radio stations throughout the country. (I have set down, in paranthesis, my reactions to each paragraph.)
Mr. John Blank,
Dear Mr. Blank:
The _______ company desires to retain its position in advertising agency leadership in the radio field.
(Who cares what your company desires? I am worried about my own problems. The bank is foreclosing the mortgage on my house, the bugs are destroying the hollyhocks, the stock market tumbled yesterday. I missed the eight-fifteen this morning, I wasn’t invited to the Jones’s dance last night, the doctor tells me I have high blood pressure and neuritis and dandruff. And then what happens? I come down to the office this morning worried, open my mail and here is some little whippersnapper off in New York yapping about what his company wants. Bah! If he only realized what sort of impression his letter makes, he would get out of the advertising business and start manufacturing sheep dip.)
This agency’s national advertising accounts were the bulwark of the first network. Our subsequent clearances of station time have kept us at the top of agencies year after year.
(You are big and rich and right at the top, are you? So what? I don’t give two whoops in Hades if you are as big as General Motors and General Electric and the General Staff of the U.S. Army all combined. If you had as much sense as a half-witted hummingbird, you would realize that I am interested in how big I am – not how big you are. All this talk about your enormous success makes me feel small and unimportant.)
We desire to service our accounts with the last word on radio station information.
[You desire! You desire. You unmitigated ass. I’m not interested in what you desire or what Mussolini desires, or what Bing Crosby desires. Let me tell you once and for all that I am interested in what I desire – and you haven’t said a word about that yet in this absurd letter of yours.)
Will you, therefore, put the _______ company on your preferred list for weekly station information – every single detail that will be useful to an agency in intelligently booking time.
(“Preferred list.” You have the nerve! You make me feel insignificant by your big talk about your company – and then you ask me to put you on a “preferred” list, and you don’t even say “please” when you ask it.)
A prompt acknowledgment of this letter, giving us your latest “doings,” will be mutually helpful.
[You fool! You mail me a cheap multigraphed letter – a form letter scattered far and wide like the autumn leaves; and you have the gall to ask me when I am worried about the mortgage and the hollyhocks and my blood pressure, to sit down and dictate a personal note acknowledging your multigraphed form letter – and you ask me to do it “promptly”. What do you mean, “promptly”? Don’t you know I am just as busy as you are – or, at least, I like to think I am. And while we are on that subject, who gave you the lordly right to order me around?… You say it will be “mutually helpful.” At last, at last, you have begun to see my viewpoint. But you are vague about how it will be to my advantage.]
Very truly yours,
Manager Radio Department
P.S. The enclosed reprint from the Blankville Journal will be of interest to you, and you may want to broadcast it over your station.
(Finally, down here in the postscript, you mention something that may help me solve one of my problems. Why didn’t you begin your letter with – but what’s the use? Any advertising man who is guilty of perpetrating such drivel as you have sent me has something wrong with his medulla oblongata. You don’t need a letter giving our latest doings. What you need is a quart of iodine in your thyroid gland.)
Now, if a man who devotes his life to advertising and who poses as an expert in the art of influencing people to buy – if he writes a letter like that, what can we expect from the butcher and baker and carpet-tack maker?
Here is another letter, written by the superintendent of a large freight terminal to a student of this course, Mr. Edward Vermylen. What effect did this letter have on the man to whom it was addressed? Read it and then I’ll tell you.
A. Zerega’s Sons, Inc.,
28 Front Street,
Attention: Mr. Edward Vermylen
The operations at our outbound-rail-receiving station are handicapped because a material percentage of the total business is delivered us in the late afternoon. This condition results in congestion, overtime on the part of our forces, delays to trucks, and in some cases delays to freight. On November 10, we received from your company a lot of 510 pieces, which reached here at 4:20 P.M.
We solicit your cooperation toward overcoming the undesirable effects arising from late receipt of freight. May we ask that, on days on which you ship the volume which was received on the above date, effort be made either to get the truck here earlier or to deliver us part of the freight during the forenoon [morning]?
The advantage that would accrue to you under such an arrangement would be that of more expeditious discharge of your trucks and the assurance that your business would go forward on the date of its receipt.
Very truly yours,
J_____ B_____ , Supt.
After reading this letter, Mr. Vermylen, sales manager for A. Zerega’s Sons, Inc., sent it to me with the following comment:
“This letter had the reverse effect from that which was intended. The letter begins by describing the Terminal’s difficulties, in which we are not interested, generally speaking. Our cooperation is then requested without any thought as to whether it would inconvenience us, and then, finally, in the last paragraph, the fact is mentioned that if we do cooperate it will mean more expeditious discharge of our trucks with the assurance that our freight will go forward on the date of its receipt. In other words, that in which we are most interested is mentioned last and the whole effect is one of raising a spirit of antagonism rather than of cooperation.”
Let’s see if we can’t rewrite and improve this letter. Let’s not waste any time talking about our problems. As Henry Ford admonishes, let’s “get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle, as well as from our own.”
Here is one way of revising it. It may not be the best way, but isn’t it an improvement?
Mr. Edward Vermylen,
c/o A. Zerega’s Sons, Inc.
28 Front St.,
Dear Mr. Vermylen:
Your company has been one of our good customers for fourteen years. Naturally, we are very grateful for your patronage and are eager to give you the speedy, efficient service you deserve. However, we regret to say that it isn’t possible for us to do that when your trucks bring us a large shipment late in the afternoon, as they did on November 10. Why? Because many other customers make late afternoon deliveries also. Naturally, that causes congestion. That means your trucks are held up unavoidably at the pier, and sometimes even your freight is delayed.
That’s bad. Very bad. How can it be avoided? By making your deliveries at the pier in the forenoon when possible. That will enable your trucks to keep moving, your freight will get immediate attention, and our workmen will get home early at night to enjoy a dinner of the delicious macaroni and noodles that you manufacture.
Please don’t take this as a complaint, and please don’t feel I am presuming to tell you how to run your business. This letter is prompted solely by a desire to serve you more effectively.
Regardless of when your shipments arrive, we shall always cheerfully do all in our power to serve you promptly.
You are busy. Please don’t trouble to answer this note.
J_____ B_____ , Supt.
Thousands of salesmen are pounding the pavements today, tired, discouraged and underpaid. Why? Because they are always thinking only of what they want. They don’t realize that neither you nor I want to buy anything. If we did, we would go out and buy it. But both of us are eternally interested in solving our problems. And if a salesman can show us how his services or his merchandise will help us solve our problems, he won’t need to sell us. We’ll buy. And a customer likes to feel that he is buying – not being sold.
Yet many salespeople spend a lifetime in selling without seeing things from the customer’s angle. For example, I live in Forest Hills, a little community of private homes in the center of Greater New York. One day as I was rushing to the station, I chanced to meet a real-estate operator who had bought and sold property on Long Island for many years. He knew Forest Hills well, so I hurriedly asked him whether or not my stucco house was built with metal lath or hollow tile. He said he didn’t know and told me what I already knew: that I could find out by calling the Forest Hills Gardens Association. The following morning, I received a letter from him. Did he give me the information I wanted? He could have gotten it in sixty seconds by a telephone call. But he didn’t. He told me again that I could get it by telephoning myself, and then asked me to let him handle my insurance.
He was not interested in helping me. He was interested only in helping himself.
I ought to have given him copies of Vash Young’s excellent little books, The Go-Giver and A Fortune to Share. If he read those books and practiced their philosophy, they would make him a thousand times as much profit as handling my insurance.
Professional men make the same mistake. Several years ago, I walked into the office of a well-known nose-and-throat specialist in Philadelphia. Before he even looked at my tonsils, he asked me what my business was. He wasn’t interested in the size of my tonsils. He was interested in the size of my exchequer. His chief concern was not in how much he could help me. His chief concern was in how much he could get out of me. The result was he got nothing. I walked out of his office with contempt for his lack of character.
The world is full of people like that: grabbing, self-seeking. So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage. He has little competition. Owen D. Young said: “The man who can put himself in the place of other men, who can understand the workings of their minds, need never worry about what the future has in store for him.”
If out of reading this book you get just one thing: an increased tendency to think always in terms of other people’s point of view, and see things from his angle – if you get that one thing out of this book, it may easily prove to be one of the milestones of your career.
Most men go through college and learn to read Virgil and master the mysteries of calculus without ever discovering how their own minds function. For instance: I once gave a course in “Effective Speaking” for the young college men who were entering the employ of the Carrier Corporation, Newark, New Jersey, the organization that cools office buildings and air-conditions theatres. One of the men wanted to persuade the others to play basketball, and this is about what he said:
“I want you to come out and play basketball. I like to play basketball, but the last few times I have been to the gymnasium there haven’t been enough men to get up a game. Two or three of us got to throwing the ball around the other night – and I got a black eye. I wish you boys would come down tomorrow night. I want to play basketball.”
Did he talk about anything you want? You don’t want to go to a gymnasium that no one else goes to, do you? You don’t care about what he wants. You don’t want to get a black eye.
Could he have shown you how to get the things you want by using the gymnasium? Surely. More pep. Keener edge to the appetite. Clearer brain. Fun. Games. Basketball.
To repeat Professor Overstreet’s wise advice: “First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.”
One of the students in the author’s training course was worried about his little boy. The child was underweight and refused to eat properly. His parents used the usual method. They scolded and nagged. “Mother wants you to eat this and that.” “Father wants you to grow up to be a big man.”
Did the boy pay any attention to these pleas? Just about as much as you pay to the feast days of the Mohammedan religion.
No man with a trace of horse sense would expect a child three years old to react to the viewpoint of a father thirty years old. Yet that was precisely what that father had been expecting. It was absurd. He finally saw that. So he said to himself: “What does that boy want? How can I tie up what I want to what he wants?”
It was easy when he started thinking about it. His boy had a tricycle which he loved to ride up and down the sidewalk in front of the house in Brooklyn. A few doors down the street lived a “menace”, as they say out in Hollywood – a bigger boy who would pull the little boy off his tricycle and ride it himself.
Naturally, the little boy would run screaming to his mother, and she would have to come out and take the “menace” off the tricycle and put her little boy on again, This happened almost every day.
What did the little boy want? It didn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to answer that one. His pride, his anger, his desire for a feeling of importance – all the strongest emotions in his makeup – goaded him on to get revenge, to smash the “menace” in the nose. And when his father told him he could wallop the daylights out of the bigger kid some day if he would only eat the things his mother wanted him to eat – when his father promised him that, there was no longer any problem of dietetics. That boy would have eaten spinach, sauerkraut, salt mackerel – anything in order to be big enough to whip the bully who had humiliated him so often.
After solving that problem, the father tackled another: the little boy had the unholy habit of wetting his bed.
He slept with his grandmother. In the morning, his grandmother would wake up and feel the sheet and say: “Look, Johnny, what you did again last night.”
He would say: “No, I didn’t do it. You did it.”
Scolding, spanking, shaming him, reiterating that mother didn’t want him to do it – none of these things kept the bed dry. So the parents asked: “How can we make this boy want to stop wetting his bed?”
What were his wants? First, he wanted to wear pajamas like daddy, instead of wearing a nightgown like Grandmother. Grandmother was getting fed up with his nocturnal iniquities, so she gladly offered to buy him a pair of pajamas if he would reform. Second, he wanted a bed of his own… Grandma didn’t object.
His mother took him down to Loeser’s department store in Brooklyn, winked at the salesgirl, and said: “Here is a little gentleman who would like to do some shopping.”
The sales girl made him feel important by saying: “Young man, what can I show you?”
He stood a couple of inches taller and said: “I want to buy a bed for myself.”
When he was shown the one his mother wanted him to buy, she winked at the sales girl and the boy was persuaded to buy it.
The bed was delivered the next day; and that night, when father came home, the little boy ran to the door shouting: “Daddy! Daddy! Come upstairs and see my bed that I bought!”
The father, looking at the bed, obeyed Charles Schwab’s injunction: he was “hearty in his approbation and lavish in his praise”.
“You are not going to wet this bed, are you?” the father said.
“Oh, no, no! I am not going to wet this bed.” The boy kept his promise, for his pride was involved. That was his bed. He and he alone had bought it. And he was wearing pajamas now like a little man. He wanted to act like a man. And he did.
Another father, K.T. Dutschmann, a telephone engineer, a student of this course, couldn’t get his three-year old daughter to eat breakfast food. The usual scolding, pleading, coaxing methods had all ended in futility. So the parents asked themselves: “How can we make her want to do it?”
The little girl loved to imitate her mother, to feel big and grown up; so one morning they put her on a chair and let her make the breakfast food. At just the psychological moment, father drifted into the kitchen while she was stirring the breakfast food and she said: “Oh, look, Daddy, I am making the cereal this morning.”
She ate two helpings of the cereal that morning without any coaxing, because she was interested in it. She had achieved a feeling of importance; she had found in making the breakfast food an avenue of self-expression.
William Winter once remarked that “self-expression is the dominant necessity of human nature”. Why can’t we use that same psychology in business? When we have a brilliant idea, instead of making the other person think it is ours, why not let him cook and stir the idea himself. He will then regard it as his own; he will like it and maybe eat a couple of helpings of it.
Remember: “First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.”