Let the other person feel that the idea is his or
A FORMULA THAT WILL
WONDERS FOR YOU
Remember that other people may be totally wrong. But
they don’t think so. Don’t condemn them. Any fool can
do that. Try to understand them. Only wise, tolerant,
exceptional people even try to do that.
There is a reason why the other man thinks and acts
as he does. Ferret out that reason - and you have the key
to his actions, perhaps to his personality.
Try honestly to put yourself in his place.
If you say to yourself, “How would I feel, how would
I react if I were in his shoes?” you will save yourself
time and irritation, for “by becoming interested in the
cause, we are less likely to dislike the effect.” And, in
addition, you will sharply increase your skill in human
“Stop a minute,” says Kenneth M. Goode in his book
How to Turn People Into Gold, “stop a minute to contrast
your keen interest in your own affairs with your
mild concern about anything else. Realize then, that
everybody else in the world feels exactly the same way!
Then, along with Lincoln and Roosevelt, you will have
grasped the only solid foundation for interpersonal relationships;
namely, that success in dealing with people
depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other persons’
Sam Douglas of Hempstead, New York, used to tell
his wife that she spent too much time working on their
lawn, pulling weeds, fertilizing, cutting the grass twice
a week when the lawn didn’t look any better than it had
when they moved into their home four years earlier. Naturally,
she was distressed by his remarks, and each time
he made such remarks the balance of the evening was
After taking our course, Mr. Douglas realized how
foolish he had been all those years. It never occurred to
him that she enjoyed doing that work and she might
really appreciate a compliment on her diligence.
One evening after dinner, his wife said she wanted to
pull some weeds and invited him to keep her company.
He first declined, but then thought better of it and went
out after her and began to help her pull weeds. She was
visibly pleased, and together they spent an hour in hard
work and pleasant conversation.
After that he often helped her with the gardening and
complimented her on how fine the lawn looked, what a
fantastic job she was doing with a yard where the soil
was like concrete. Result: a happier life for both because
he had learned to look at things from her point of view even if the subject was only weeds.
In his book Getting Through to People, Dr. Gerald S.Nirenberg commented: "Cooperativeeness in conversation
is achieved when you show that you consider the
other person’s ideas and feelings as important as your
own. Starting your conversation by giving the other person
the purpose or direction of your conversation, governing
what you say by what you would want to hear if
you were the listener, and accepting his or her viewpoint
will encourage the listener to have an open mind
to your ideas.” *
* Dr Gerald S. Nirenberg, Getting Through to People (Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), page. 31.
I have always enjoyed walking and riding in a park
near my home. Like the Druids of ancient Gaul, I all but
worship an oak tree, so I was distressed season after
season to see the young trees and shrubs killed off by
needless fires. These fires weren’t caused by careless
smokers. They were almost all caused by youngsters
who went out to the park to go native and cook a frankfurter
or an egg under the trees. Sometimes, these fires
raged so fiercely that the fire department had to be called
out to fight the conflagration.
There was a sign on the edge of the park saying that
anyone who started a fire was liable to fine and imprisonment,
but the sign stood in an unfrequented part of the
park, and few of the culprits ever saw it. A mounted
policeman was supposed to look after the park; but he
didn’t take his duties too seriously, and the fires continued
to spread season after season. On one occasion, I
rushed up to a policeman and told him about a fire
spreading rapidly through the park and wanted him to
notify the fire department, and he nonchalantly replied
that it was none of his business because it wasn’t in his
precinct! I was desperate, so after that when I went riding,
I acted as a self-appointed committee of one to protect
the public domain. In the beginning, I am afraid I
didn’t even attempt to see the other people’s point of
view. When I saw a fire blazing under the trees, I was so
unhappy about it, so eager to do the right thing, that I
did the wrong thing. I would ride up to the boys, warn
them that they could be jailed for starting a fire, order
with a tone of authority that it be put out; and, if they
refused, I would threaten to have them arrested. I was
merely unloading my feelings without thinking of their
point of view.
The result? They obeyed - obeyed sullenly and with
resentment. After I rode on over the hill, they probably
rebuilt the fire and longed to burn up the whole park.
With the passing of the years, I acquired a trifle more
knowledge of human relations, a little more tact, a somewhat
greater tendency to see things from the other person’s
standpoint. Then, instead of giving orders, I would
ride up to a blazing fire and begin something like this:
“Having a good time, boys? What are you going to
cook for supper? . . . I loved to build fires myself when I
was a boy - and I still love to. But you know they are
very dangerous here in the park. I know you boys don’t
mean to do any harm, but other boys aren’t so careful.
They come along and see that you have built a fire; so
they build one and don’t put it out when they go home
and it spreads among the dry leaves and kills the trees.
We won’t have any trees here at all if we aren’t more
careful, You could be put in jail for building this fire. But
I don’t want to be bossy and interfere with your pleasure.
I like to see you enjoy yourselves; but won’t you
please rake all the leaves away from the fire right now,
and you’ll be careful to cover it with dirt, a lot of dirt,
before you leave, won’t you? And the next time you want
to have some fun, won’t you please build your fire over
the hill there in the sandpit? It can’t do any harm there.
Thanks so much, boys. Have a good time.”
What a difference that kind of talk made! It made the
boys want to cooperate. No sullenness, no resentment.
They hadn’t been forced to obey orders. They had saved
their faces. They felt better and I felt better because I
had handled the situation with consideration for their
point of view.
Seeing things through another person’s eyes may ease
tensions when personal problems become overwhelming.
Elizabeth Novak of New South Wales, Australia,
was six weeks late with her car payment. “On a Friday,”
she reported, "I received a nasty phone call from the
man who was handling my account informing me if I did
not come up with $122 by Monday morning I could anticipate
further action from the company. I had no way
of raising the money over the weekend, so when I received
his phone call first thing on Monday morning
expected the worst. Instead of becoming upset I looked
at the situation from his point of view. I apologized most
sincerely for causing him so much inconvenience and
remarked that I must be his most troublesome customer
as this was not the first time I was behind in my payments.
His tone of voice changed immediately, and he
reassured me that I was far from being one of his really
troublesome customers. He went on to tell me several
examples of how rude his customers sometimes were,
how they lied to him and often tried to avoid talking to
him at all. I said nothing. I listened and let him pour out
his troubles to me. Then, without any suggestion from
me, he said it did not matter if I couldn’t pay all the
money immediately. It would be all right if I paid him
$20 by the end of the month and made up the balance
whenever it was convenient for me to do so.”
Tomorrow, before asking anyone to put out a fire or
buy your product or contribute to your favorite charity,
why not pause and close your eyes and try to think the
whole thing through from another person’s point of
view? Ask yourself: “Why should he or she want to do
it?” True, this will take time, but it will avoid making
enemies and will get better results - and with less friction
and less shoe leather.
"I would rather walk the sidewalk in front of a person’s
office for two hours before an interview,” said
Dean Donham of the Harvard business school, “than
step into that office without a perfectly clear idea of what
I was going to say and what that person - from my
knowledge of his or her interests and motives - was
likely to answer.”
That is so important that I am going to repeat it in
italics for the sake of emphasis.
I would rather walk the sidewalk in front of a person’s
office for two hours before an interview than step
into that office without a perfectly clear idea of what I
was going to say and what that persob - from my
knowledge of his or her interests and motives - was
likely to answer.
If, as a result of reading this book, you get only one
thing - an increased tendency to think always in terms
of the other person’s point of view, and see things from
that person’s angle as well as your own - if you get only
that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be
one of the stepping - stones of your career.