How to Win Friends and Influence People ... And Be More Christlike

11/4/2013

GROWING IN GRACE
BEN GOSDEN

A church member and good friend recently gave me a book that meant a great deal to him. He’s a very successful young business owner and I’m a pastor. He’s trying to grow in the area of discipleship and how it relates to his vocation and I’m trying to grow in the area of leadership. Since the two of us come from such different yet similar worlds, we’ve begun a relationship of giving each other meaningful books that we think might help the other person grow.

The first book he gave me to read was the classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. This book was written over 75 years ago and still remains a classic among business people. I actually laughed when he gave it to me because I couldn’t believe out of all the books I’ve read in my life (and I’m a big reader) I had never picked this one up. He explained that whenever he opens a new franchise to his company and is training the management and sales people in how they do business, he always gives them a copy of this book. His hope was that it would also come to mean a great deal to me. And he was not wrong.

Here’s the basic breakdown of the book:

How to handle people

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. (It rarely helps the situation)
  2. Give honest sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six ways to help people like you

  1. Become genuinely 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. (This is the secret to being a great conversationalist.)
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.

How to win people to your way of thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. (Because even if you win, you aren’t going to get what you want.)
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. (A good way to start is to admit that you could be mistaken.)
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives. (Even if deep down they make the decision based on the baser ones. Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story.)
  11. Dramatize your ideas. (A picture and a story are worth a thousand words.)
  12. Throw down a challenge. (Do this when all else fails.) 

How to be an effective leader

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

But the best lesson of all is this: Carnegie writes, “If there’s any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to understand the other person’s point of view and to see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

This book reminded me that just because we say we’re disciples of Jesus Christ doesn’t make it so. We are always in need of grace and growth as we journey toward greater discipleship. And too often we so-called disciples are guilty of arrogance, closed-mindedness, being argumentative, and being generally haughty about our supposed claim of holiness. We do not listen to others with graciousness. We look for arguments because we think “taking a stand” means picking fights. And yes, we often place the value of our own holiness on how unholy we regard others.

I highly recommend Carnegie’s work for all leaders – pastors, District Superintendents, and bishops, as well as leaders outside of the church. It is a work that reminds us how much success (and holiness) is dependent on a sense of humility and grace in dealing with others. It’s a must-read for all who dare to call themselves disciples.

So go online. Go to your local bookstore. Do it today. Buy this book and be reminded how important it is to “love our neighbor as our self.” Or you could always email me for my copy – just as long as you don’t mind it being filled with pen marks, underlines, and stars next to all of the lessons I learned from reading this work.

The Rev. Ben Gosden is an associate pastor at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon. He can be reached at bgosden@mulberrymethodist.org.