If you are wrong, admit it quickly
A DROP OF HONEY
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 person? 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 each other, understand why it is that we
differ, 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 candor 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 and Iron Company;
Rockefeller controlled that company. Property had
been destroyed, troops had been called out. Blood had
been shed. Strikers had been shot, their bodies riddled
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.
The opening of that remarkable speech follows. Note
how it fairly glows with friendliness. Rockefeller, remember,
was talking to men who, a few days previously,
had 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 was 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 coal field 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
“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
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 he 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
Lincoln said that, in effect, over 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 you 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
Business executives have learned 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, then president
of the company, didn’t lose his temper and condemn and
threaten and talk of tryanny 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 Mr. 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 labor wars. That strike ended with a
compromise settlement within a week-ended without
any ill feeling or rancor.
Daniel Webster, who looked like a god and talked like
Jehovah, was one of the most successful advocates who
ever pleaded a case; 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,” " Here are some facts that I trust you will
not lose sight of,” 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 others. 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
0. 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 friendly 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 do 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.”
Dean Woodcock of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the
superintendent of a department of the local electric company.
His staff was called upon to repair some equipment
on top of a pole. This type of work had formerly
been performed by a different department and had only
recently been transferred to Woodcock’s section Although
his people had been trained in the work, this was
the first time they had ever actually been called upon to
do it. Everybody in the organization was interested in
seeing if and how they could handle it. Mr. Woodcock,
several of his subordinate managers, and members of
other departments of the utility went to see the operation.
Many cars and trucks were there, and a number of
people were standing around watching the two lone
men on top of the pole.
Glancing around, Woodcock noticed a man up the
street getting out of his car with a camera. He began
taking pictures of the scene. Utility people are extremely
conscious of public relations, and suddenly Woodcock
realized what this setup looked like to the man with the
camera - overkill, dozens of people being called out to
do a two-person job. He strolled up the street to the
"I see you’re interested in our operation.”
“Yes, and my mother will be more than interested.
She owns stock in your company. This will be an eye-opener
for her. She may even decide her investment was
unwise. I’ve been telling her for years there’s a lot of
waste motion in companies like yours. This proves it.
The newspapers might like these pictures, too.”
“It does look like it, doesn’t it? I’d think the same
thing in your position. But this is a unique situation, . . .”and Dean Woodcock went on to explain how
this was the first job of this type for his department and
how everybody from executives down was interested.
He assured the man that under normal conditions two
people could handle the job. The photographer put away
his camera, shook Woodcock’s hand, and thanked him
for taking the time to explain the situation to him.
Dean Woodcock’s friendly approach saved his company
much embarrassment and bad publicity.
Another member of one of our classes, Gerald H. Winn
of Littleton, New Hampshire, reported how by using a
friendly approach, he obtained a very satisfactory settlement
on a damage claim.
“Early in the spring,” he reported, “before the ground
had thawed from the winter freezing, there was an unusually
heavy rainstorm and the water, which normally
would have run off to nearby ditches and storm drains
along the road, took a new course onto a building lot
where I had just built a new home.
“Not being able to run off, the water pressure built up
around the foundation of the house. The water forced
itself under the concrete basement floor, causing it to
explode, and the basement filled with water. This ruined
the furnace and the hot-water heater. The cost to repair
this damage was in excess of two thousand dollars. I had
no insurance to cover this type of damage.
“However, I soon found out that the owner of the
had neglected to put in a storm drain near the
house which could have prevented this problem I made
an appointment to see him. During the twenty-five-mile
trip to his office, I carefully reviewed the situation and,
remembering the principles I learned in this course, I
decided that showing my anger would not serve any
worthwhile purpose, When I arrived, I kept very calm
and started by talking about his recent vacation to the
West Indies; then, when I felt the timing was right, I
mentioned the ‘little’ problem of water damage. He
quickly agreed to do his share in helping to correct the
“A few days later he called and said he would pay for
the damage and also put in a storm drain to prevent the
same thing from happening in the future.
“Even though it was the fault of the owner of the subdivision,
if I had not begun in a friendly way, there
would have been a great deal of difficulty in getting him
to agree to the total liability.”
Years ago, when I was a barefoot boy walking through
the woods to a country school out in northwest Missouri,
I read a fable about the sun and the wind. They quarreled
about which was the stronger, and the wind said,
"I'll prove I am. See the old man down there with a
coat? I bet I can get his coat off him quicker than you
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 clutched his coat to him.
Finally, the wind calmed down and gave up, and then
the sun came out from behind the clouds 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.
The use of gentleness and friendliness is demonstrated
day after day by people who have learned that a
drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.
F. Gale Connor of Lutherville, Maryland, proved this
when he had to take his four-month-old car to the service
department of the car dealer for the third time. He told
our class: “It was apparent that talking to, reasoning with
or shouting at the service manager was not going to lead
to a satisfactory resolution of my problems.
“I walked over to the showroom and asked to see the
agency owner, Mr. White. After a short wait, I was ushered
into Mr. White’s office. I introduced myself and
explained to him that I had bought my car from his
dealership because of the recommendations of friends
who had had previous dealings with him. I was told that
his prices were very competitive and his service was
outstanding. He smiled with satisfaction as he listened
to me. I then explained the problem I was having with
the service department. ‘I thought you might want to be aware of any situation that might tarnish your fine reputation,’
I added. He thanked me for calling this to his
attention and assured me that my problem would be
taken care of. Not only did he personal get involved,
but he also lent me his car to use while mine was being
Aesop 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-six 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 the world.
Remember what Lincoln said: “A drop of honey
catches more flies than a gallon of gall.”