If you want to excel in that difficult leadership role of
changing the attitude or behavior of others, use
Give the other person a fine reputation to
MAKE THE FAULT SEEM
EASY TO CORRECT
A bachelor friend of mine, about forty years old, became
engaged, and his fiancée persuaded him to take some
belated dancing lessons. “The Lord knows I needed
dancing lessons,” he confessed as he told me the story,
“for I danced just as I did when I first started twenty
years ago. The first teacher I engaged probably told me
the truth. She said I was all wrong; I would just have to
forget everything and begin all over again. But that took
the heart out of me. I had no incentive to go on. So I quit
“The next teacher may have been lying, but I liked it.
She said nonchalantly that my dancing was a bit old-fashioned
perhaps, but the fundamentals were all right,
and she assured me I wouldn’t have any trouble learning
a few new steps. The first teacher had discouraged me
by emphasizing my mistakes. This new teacher did the
opposite. She kept praising the things I did right and
minimizing my errors. ‘You have a natural sense of
rhythm,’ she assured me. ‘You really are a natural-born
dancer.’ Now my common sense tells me that I always
have been and always will be a fourth-rate dancer; yet,
deep in my heart, I still like to think that maybe she
meant it. To be sure, I was paying her to say it; but why
bring that up?
“At any rate, I know I am a better dancer than I would
have been if she hadn’t told me I had a natural
rhythm. That encouraged me. That gave
me hope. That
made me want to improve.”
Tell your child, your spouse, or your employee that he
or she is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, has no gift for
it, and is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed
almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the
opposite technique - be liberal with your encouragement,
make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person
know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that
he has an undeveloped flair for it - and he will practice
until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.
Lowell Thomas, a superb artist in human relations,
used this technique, He gave you confidence, inspired
you with courage and faith. For example, I spent a weekend
with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas; and on Saturday night,
I was asked to sit in on a friendly bridge game before a
roaring fire. Bridge? Oh, no! No! No! Not me. I knew
nothing about it. The game had always been a black
mystery to me, No! No! Impossible!
“Why, Dale, it is no trick at all,” Lowell replied.
“There is nothing to bridge except memory and judgment.
You’ve written articles on memory. Bridge will be
a cinch for you. It’s right up your alley.”
And presto, almost before I realized what I was doing,
I found myself for the first time at a bridge table. All
because I was told I had a natural flair for it and the
game was made to seem easy.
Speaking of bridge reminds me of Ely Culbertson,
whose books on bridge have been translated into a
dozen languages and have sold more than a million copies.
Yet he told me he never would have made a profession
out of the game if a certain young woman hadn’t
assured him he had a flair for it.
When he came to America in 1922, he tried to get a job
teaching in philosophy and sociology, but he couldn’t.
Then he tried selling coal, and he failed at that
Then he tried selling coffee, and he failed at that, too.
He had played some bridge, but it had never occurred
to him in those days that someday he would teach it. He
was not only a poor card player, but he was also very
stubborn. He asked so many questions and held so many
post-mortem examinations that no one wanted to play
Then he met a pretty bridge teacher, Josephine Dillon,
fell in love and married her. She noticed how carefully
he analyzed his cards and persuaded him that he
was a potential genius at the card table. It was that encouragement
and that alone, Culbertson told me, that
caused him to make a profession of bridge.
Clarence M. Jones, one of the instructors of our course
in Cincinnati, Ohio, told how encouragement and making
faults seem easy to correct completely changed the
life of his son.
“In 1970 my son David, who was then fifteen years
old, came to live with me in Cincinnati. He had led a
rough life. In 1958 his head was cut open in a car accident,
leaving a very bad scar on his forehead. In 1960
his mother and I were divorced and he moved to Dallas,
Texas, with his mother. Until he was fifteen he had spent
most of his school years in special classes for slow learners
in the Dallas school system. Possibly because of the
scar, school administrators had decided he was brain-injured
and could not function at a normal level. He was
two years behind his age group, so he was only in the
seventh grade. Yet he did not know his multiplication
tables, added on his fingers and could barely read.
“There was one positive point. He loved to work on
radio and TV sets. He wanted to become a TV technician.
I encouraged this and pointed out that he needed
math to qualify for the training. I decided to help him
become proficient in this subject. We obtained four sets
of flash cards: multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.
As we went through the cards, we put the correct
answers in a discard stack. When David missed one,
I gave him the correct answer and then put the card in
the repeat stack until there were no cards left. I made abig deal out of each card he got right, particularly if he
had missed it previously. Each night we would go
through the repeat stack until there were no cards left.
Each night we timed the exercise with a stop watch. I
promised him that when he could get all the cards correct
in eight minutes with no incorrect answers, we
would quit doing it every night. This seemed an impossible
goal to David. The first night it took 52 minutes,
the second night, 48, then 45, 44, 41 then under 40 minutes.
We celebrated each reduction.
I’d call in my wife,
and we would both hug him and we’d
all dance a jig. At
the end of the month he was doing all
the cards perfectly
in less than eight minutes. When he
made a small improvement
he would ask to do it again.
He had made the
fantastic discovery that learning was
easy and fun.
“Naturally his grades in algebra took a jump.
amazing how much easier algebra is when you can
multiply. He astonished himself by bringing home a B in
math. That had never happened before. Other changes
came with almost unbelievable rapidity. His reading improved
rapidly, and he began to use his natural talents
in drawing. Later in the school year his science teacher
assigned him to develop an exhibit. He chose to develop
a highly complex series of models to demonstrate the
effect of levers. It required skill not only in drawing and
model making but in applied mathematics. The exhibit
took first prize in his school’s science fair and was entered
in the city competition and won third prize for the
entire city of Cincinnati.
“That did it. Here was a kid who had flunked two
grades, who had been told he was ‘brain-damaged,’ who
had been called ‘Frankenstein’ by his
told his brains must have leaked out of the cut on his
head. Suddenly he discovered he could really learn and
accomplish things. The result? From the last quarter of
the eighth grade all the way through high school, he
never failed to make the honor roll; in high school he
was elected to the national honor society. Once he found
learning was easy, his whole life changed.”