The High Road to a Man’s Reason

Listen to this post:

Like listening to the audio? You can now get How to Win Friends and Influence People (The Unrevised Edition) as an Audiobook! (Over 7 hours of human narration - FAR superior to the machine generated TTS on this site!)


If your temper is aroused and you tell ’em a thing or two, you will have a fine time unloading your feelings. But what about the other fellow? Will he share your pleasure? Will your belligerent tones, your hostile attitude, make it easy for him to agree with you?

“If you come at me with your fists doubled,” said Woodrow Wilson, “I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if you come to me and say, ‘Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ from one another, understand why it is that we differ from one another, just what the points at issue are,’ we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we differ are few and the points on which we agree are many, and that if we only have the patience and the candour and the desire to get together, we will get together.”

Nobody appreciated the truth of Woodrow Wilson’s statement more than John D, Rockefeller, Jr. Back in 1915, Rockefeller was the most fiercely despised man in Colorado. One of the bloodiest strikes in the history of American industry had been shocking the state for two terrible years. Irate, belligerent miners were demanding higher wages from the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company; and Rockefeller controlled that company. Property had been destroyed, troops had been called out. Blood had been shed. Strikers had been shot, their bodies riddled with bullets.

At a time like that, with the air seething with hatred, Rockefeller wanted to win the strikers to his way of thinking. And he did it. How? Here’s the story. After weeks spent in making friends, Rockefeller addressed the representatives of the strikers. This speech, in its entirety, is a masterpiece. It produced astonishing results. It calmed the tempestuous waves of hate that threatened to engulf Rockefeller. It won him a host of admirers. It presented facts in such a friendly manner that the strikers went back to work without saying another word about the increase in wages for which they had fought so violently.

Here is the opening of that remarkable speech. Note how it fairly glows with friendliness.

Remember Rockefeller is talking to men who, a short time ago, wanted to hang him by the neck to a sour-apple tree; yet he couldn’t have been more gracious, more friendly if he had addressed a group of medical missionaries, His speech is radiant with such phrases as I am proud to be here, having visited in your homes, met many of your wives and children, we meet here not as strangers, but as friends, spirit of mutual friendship, our common interests, it is only by your courtesy that I am here.

“This is a red-letter day in my life,” Rockefeller began. “It is the first time I have ever had the good fortune to meet the representatives of the employees of this great company, its officers and superintendents, together, and I can assure you that I am proud to be here, and that I shall remember this gathering as long as I live. Had this meeting been held two weeks ago, I should have stood here a stranger to most of you, recognizing a few faces. Having had the opportunity last week of visiting all the camps in the southern coalfields and of talking individually with practically all of the representatives, except those who were away; having visited in your homes, met many of your wives and children, we meet here not as strangers, but as friends, and it is in that spirit of mutual friendship that I am glad to have this opportunity to discuss with you our common interests.

“Since this is a meeting of the officers of the company and the representatives of the employees, it is only by your courtesy that I am here, for I am not so fortunate as to be either one or the other; and yet I feel that I am intimately associated with you men, for, in a sense, I represent both the stockholders and the directors.”

 

Isn’t that a superb example of the fine art of making friends out of enemies?

Suppose Rockefeller had taken a different tack. Suppose he had argued with those miners and hurled devastating facts in their faces. Suppose he had told them by his tones and insinuations that they were wrong. Suppose that, by all the rules of logic, he had proved that they were wrong? What would have happened? More anger would have been stirred up, more hatred, more revolt.

 

 

If a man’s heart is rankling with discord and ill feeling toward you, you can’t win him to your way of thinking with all the logic in Christendom. Scolding parents and domineering bosses and husbands and nagging wives ought to realize that people don’t want to change their minds. They can’t be forced or driven to agree with you or me. But they may possibly be led to, if we are gentle and friendly, ever so gentle and ever so friendly.

Lincoln said that, in effect, almost a hundred years ago. Here are his words:

“It is an old and true maxim ‘that a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. So with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart; which, say what you will, is the great high road to his reason.”

Business-men are learning that it pays to be friendly to strikers. For example, when 2,500 employees in the White Motor Company’s plant struck for higher wages and a union shop, Robert F. Black, the president, didn’t wax wroth and condemn, and threaten and talk of tyranny and Communists. He actually praised the strikers. He published an advertisement in the Cleveland papers, complimenting them on “the peaceful way in which they laid down their tools’. Finding the strike pickets idle, he bought them a couple of dozen baseball bats and gloves, and invited them to play ball on vacant lots. For those who preferred bowling, he rented a bowling alley.

This friendliness on President’s Black’s part did what friendliness always does: it begot friendliness. So the strikers borrowed brooms, shovels and rubbish carts, and began picking up matches, papers, cigarette stubs, and cigar butts around the factory. Imagine it! Imagine strikers tidying up the factory grounds while battling for higher wages and recognition of the union. Such an event had never been heard of before in the long, tempestuous history of American labour wars. That strike ended with a compromise settlement within a week—ended without any ill feeling or rancour.

Daniel Webster, who looked like a god and talked like Jehovah, was one of the most successful advocates who ever pleaded a cause; yet he ushered in his most powerful arguments with such friendly remarks as: “It will be for the jury to consider”, “This may, perhaps, be worth thinking of, gentlemen”, “Here are some facts that I trust you will not lose sight of, gentlemen”, or “You, with your knowledge of human nature, will easily see the significance of these facts”. No bulldozing. No high-pressure methods. No attempt to force his opinions on other men. Webster used the soft spoken, quiet, friendly approach, and it helped to make him famous.

You may never be called upon to settle a strike or address a jury, but you may want to get your rent reduced. Will the friendly approach help you then? Let’s see.

O. L, Straub, an engineer, wanted to get his rent reduced. And he knew his landlord was hard-boiled. “I wrote him,” Mr. Straub said in a speech before the class, “notifying him that I was vacating my apartment as soon as my lease expired. The truth was I didn’t want to move. I wanted to stay if I could get my rent reduced. But the situation seemed hopeless. Other tenants had tried—and failed. Everyone told me that the landlord was extremely difficult to deal with. But I said to myself: ‘I am studying a course in how to deal with people, so I’ll try it on him—and see how it works.’

“He and his secretary came to see me as soon as he got my letter. I met him at the door with a regular Charlie Schwab greeting. I fairly bubbled with good will and enthusiasm. I didn’t begin talking about how high the rent was. I began talking about how much I liked his apartment house. Believe me, I was ‘hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise’. I complimented him on the way he ran the building, and told him I should like so much to stay for another year but I couldn’t afford it.

“He had evidently never had such a reception from a tenant. He hardly knew what to make of it.

“Then he started to tell me his troubles. Complaining tenants. One had written him fourteen letters, some of them positively insulting. Another threatened to break his lease unless the landlord kept the man on the floor above from snoring. ‘What a relief it is,’ he said, ‘to have a satisfied tenant like you.’ And then without my even asking him to do it, he offered to reduce my rent a little. I wanted more, so I named the figure I could afford to pay, and he accepted without a word.

“As he was leaving, he turned to me and asked: ‘What decorating can I have done for you?’

“If I had tried to get the rent reduced by the methods the other tenants were using, I am positive I should have met with the same failure they encountered. It was the friendly, sympathetic, appreciative approach that won.”

 

Let’s take another illustration. We’ll take a woman this time—a woman from the Social Register—-Mrs. Dorothy Day of Garden City on the sandy stretches of Long Island.

“I recently gave a luncheon to a small group of friends,” said Mrs, Day. “It was an important occasion for me. Naturally, I was most eager to have everything go off smoothly. Emil, the maitre d’hotel, is usually my able assistant in these matters. But on this occasion he let me down. The luncheon was a failure. Emil was nowhere to be seen. He sent only one waiter to take care of us. This waiter hadn’t the faintest conception of first-class service. He persisted in serving my guest of honour last. Once he served her one miserable little piece of celery on a large dish. The meat was tough; the potatoes greasy. It was horrible. I was furious. With considerable effort, I smiled through the ordeal, but I kept saying to myself: ‘Just wait until I see Emil. I’ll give him a piece of my mind all right.’

“This happened on a Wednesday. The next night I heard a lecture on human relationships. As I listened, I realized how futile it would be to give Emil a dressing down. It would make him sullen and resentful. It would kill all desire to help me in the future. I tried to look at it from his standpoint. He hadn’t bought the food. He hadn’t cooked it. He couldn’t help it because some of his waiters were dumb, Perhaps I had been too severe, too hasty in my wrath. So, in- stead of criticizing him, I decided to begin in a friendly way. I decided to open up on him with appreciation. This approach worked beautifully. I saw Emil the following day. He was defensively angry and spoiling for battle. I said: ‘See here, Emil, I want you to know that it means a great deal to me to have you at my back when I entertain. You are the best maitre d’hotel in New York. Of course, I fully appreciate that you don’t buy the food and cook it. You couldn’t help what happened on Wednesday.’

“The clouds disappeared. Emil smiled, and said: ‘Exactly, Madam. The trouble was in the kitchen. It was not my fault.’

“So F continued: ‘I have planned other parties, Emil, and I need your advice. Do you think we had better give the kitchen another chance?’

“ ‘Oh, certainly, Madam, of course. It might never happen again,”

“The following week I gave another luncheon. Emil and I planned the menu. I cut his tip in half, and never mentioned past mistakes.

“When we arrived, the table was colourful with two dozen American beauty roses. Emil was in constant attendance. He could hardly have showered my party with more attention if I had been entertaining Queen Mary. The food was excellent and hot. The service was perfection. The entrée was served by four waiters instead of one. Emil personally served delicious mints to finish it off.

“As we were leaving, my guest of honour asked: ‘Have you charmed that maitre d’hotel? I never saw such service, such attention.’

“She was right. I had charmed with the friendly approach and sincere appreciation.”

 

Years ago, when I was a barefooted boy walking through the woods to a country school out in north-west Missouri. I read a fable one day about the sun and the wind. They quarrelled about which was the stronger, and the wind said: “I’ll prove I am. See that old man down there with a coat? I bet I can make him take his coat off quicker than you can?”

So the sun went behind a cloud and the wind blew until it was almost a tornado, but the harder it blew the tighter the old man wrapped his coat about him.

Finally, the wind calmed down and gave up; and then the sun came out from behind the cloud and smiled kindly on the old man. Presently, he mopped his brow and pulled off his coat. The sun then told the wind that gentleness and friendliness were always stronger than fury and force.

Even while I was a boy reading this fable, the truth of it was actually being demonstrated in the far-off town of Boston, an historic centre of education and culture that I never dreamed of ever living to see. It was being demonstrated in Boston by Dr. A. H. B——, a physician, who thirty years later became one of my students. Here is the story as Dr. B—— related it in one of his talks before the class:

The Boston newspapers in those days screamed with fake medical advertising—the ads of professional abortionists and quack physicians who pretended to treat the diseases of men but who really preyed upon many innocent victims by frightening them with talk about “loss of manhood” and other terrible conditions. Their treatment consisted in keeping the victim filled with terror and in giving him no useful treatment at all. The abortionists had caused many deaths, but there were few convictions. Most of them paid small fines or got off through political influence.

The condition became so terrible that the good people of Boston rose up in holy indignation. Preachers pounded their pulpits, condemned the papers, and implored the help of Almighty God to stop this advertising. Civic organizations, business-men, women’s clubs, churches, young people’s societies, damned and denounced—all in vain. A bitter fight was waged in the state legislature to make this disgraceful advertising illegal, but it was defeated by graft and political influence.

Dr. B——— was then chairman of the Good Citizenship Committee of the Great Boston Christian Endeavour Union. His committee had tried everything. It had failed. The fight against these medical criminals seemed hopeless. Then one night, after midnight, Dr. B—— tried something that apparently no one in Boston had ever thought of trying before. He tried kindness, sympathy, appreciation. He tried to make the publishers actually want to stop advertising. He wrote the publisher of The Boston Herald, telling him how much he admired his paper. He had always read it; the news items were clean, not sensational; and the editorials were excellent. It was a splendid family paper. Dr. B declared that it was, in his opinion, the best paper in New England and one of the finest in America. “But,” continued Dr. B——, “ a friend of mine has a young daughter. He told me that his daughter read one of your advertisements aloud to him the other night, the advertisement of a professional abortionist, and then asked him what was meant by some of the phrases. Frankly, he was embarrassed, He didn’t know what to say. Your paper goes into the best homes in Boston. If that happened in the home of my friend, isn’t it probable that it is happening in many other homes also? If you had a young daughter, would you want her to read those advertisements? And if she did read them and ask you about them, how could you explain?

“I am sorry that such a splendid paper as yours—almost perfect in every other way—has this one feature which makes some fathers dread to see their daughters pick it up. Isn’t it probable that thousands of your other subscribers feel about it just as I do?”

Two days later the publisher of The Boston Herald wrote Dr. B—; the doctor kept the letter in his files for a third of a century and gave it to me when he was a member of my course. I have it in front of me now as I write. It is dated October 13, 1904.

A. H. B——, M.D.

Boston, Mass.

Dear Sir:

I really feel under an obligation to you for your letter of the 11th inst., addressed to the editor of this paper, inasmuch as it has finally decided me on an action which I have had under contemplation ever since I have been in charge here.

Beginning Monday, I propose to have The Boston Herald absolutely expurgated of all objectionable advertising matter, as far as it is possible to do so. The medical cards, the whirling spray syringe, and like advertising, will be absolutely “killed”, and all other medical advertising, which it is impossible to keep out at this time, will be so thoroughly edited that it will be absolutely inoffensive.

Again thanking you for your kind letter, which has been helpful in this respect, I beg to remain.

Yours sincerely,

W. E. Haskell,

Publisher.

 

“Esop was a Greek slave who lived at the court of Croesus and spun immortal fables six hundred years before Christ. Yet the truths he taught about human nature are just as true in Boston and Birmingham now as they were twenty-five centuries ago in Athens. The sun can make you take off your coat more quickly than the wind; and kindliness, the friendly approach, and appreciation can make people change their minds more readily than all the bluster and storming in Christendom.

Remember what Lincoln said: “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.”

 

When you wish to win people to your way of thinking, don’t forget to use Rule 4:

BEGIN IN A FRIENDLY WAY.