There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody
to do anything. Did you ever stop to think of that? Yes,
just one way. And that is by making the other person want to do it.
Remember, there is no other way.
Of course, you can make someone want to give you his
watch by sticking a revolver in his ribs. YOU can make
your employees give you cooperation - until your back
is turned - by threatening to fire them. You can make a
child do what you want it to do by a whip or a threat. But
these crude methods have sharply undesirable repercussions.
The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving
you what you want.
Sigmund Freud said that everything you and I do
springs from two motives: the sex urge and the desire to
John Dewey, one of America’s most profound philosophers,
phrased it a bit differently. Dr. Dewey said that
the deepest urge in human nature is “the desire to be
important." Remember that phrase: “the desire to be
important." It is significant. You are going to hear a lot
about it in this book.
What do you want? Not many things, but the few
that you do wish, you crave with an insistence
that will not be denied. Some of the things most
1. Health and the preservation of life.
4. Money and the things money will buy.
5. Life in the hereafter.
6. Sexual gratification.
7. The well-being of our children.
8. A feeling of importance.
Almost all these wants are usually gratified-all except one. But there is one longing - almost as deep, almost
as imperious, as the desire for food or sleep - which
is seldom gratified. It is what Freud calls “the
desire to be great.” It is what Dewey calls the “desire to
Lincoln once began a letter saying: “Everybody likes
a compliment.” William James said: "The deepest principle
in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."
He didn’t speak, mind you, of the “wish” or the “desire”
or the “longing” to be appreciated. He said the "craving”
to be appreciated.
Here is a gnawing and unfaltering human hunger, and
the rare individual who honestly satisfies this heart hunger
will hold people in the palm of his or her hand and
“even the undertaker will be sorry when he dies.”
The desire for a feeling of importance is one of the
chief distinguishing differences between mankind and
the animals. To illustrate: When I was a farm boy out in
Missouri, my father bred fine Duroc-Jersey hogs and,
pedigreed white - faced cattle. We used to exhibit our
hogs and white-faced cattle at the country fairs and live-stock
shows throughout the Middle West. We won first
prizes by the score. My father pinned his blue ribbons
on a sheet of white muslin, and when friends or visitors
came to the house, he would get out the long sheet of
muslin. He would hold one end and I would hold the
other while he exhibited the blue ribbons.
The hogs didn’t care about the ribbons they had won.
But Father did. These prizes gave him a feeling of importance.
If our ancestors hadn’t had this flaming urge for a feeling
of importance, civilization would have been impossible.
Without it, we should have been just about like
It was this desire for a feeling of importance that led
an uneducated, poverty-stricken grocery clerk to study
some law books he found in the bottom of a barrel of
household plunder that he had bought for fifty cents.
You have probably heard of this grocery clerk. His name
It was this desire for a feeling of importance that inspired
Dickens to write his immortal novels. This desire
inspired Sir Christoper Wren to design his symphonies
in stone. This desire made Rockefeller amass millions
that he never spent! And this same desire made the richest
family in your town build a house far too large for its
This desire makes you want to wear the latest styles,
drive the latest cars, and talk about your brilliant children.
It is this desire that lures many boys and girls into
joining gangs and engaging in criminal activities. The
average young criminal, according to E. P. Mulrooney,
onetime police commissioner of New York, is filled with
ego, and his first request after arrest is for those lurid
newspapers that make him out a hero. The disagreeable
prospect of serving time seems remote so long as he can
gloat over his likeness sharing space with pictures of
sports figures, movie and TV stars and politicians.
If you tell me how you get your feeling of importance,
I’ll tell you what you are. That determines your character.
That is the most significant thing about you. For
example, John D. Rockefeller got his feeling of importance
by giving money to erect a modern hospital in
Peking, China, to care for millions of poor people whom
he had never seen and never would see. Dillinger, on
the other hand, got his feeling of importance by being a
bandit, a bank robber and killer. When the FBI agents
were hunting him, he dashed into a farmhouse up in
Minnesota and said, “I’m Dillinger!” He was proud of
the fact that he was Public Enemy Number One. “I’m
not going to hurt you, but I’m Dillinger!” he said.
Yes, the one significant difference between Dillinger
and Rockefeller is how they got their feeling of importance.
History sparkles with amusing examples of famous
people struggling for a feeling of importance. Even
George Washington wanted to be called “His Mightiness,
the President of the United States”; and Columbus
pleaded for the title “Admiral of the Ocean and Viceroy
of India.” Catherine the Great refused to open letters
that were not addressed to “Her Imperial Majesty”; and
Mrs. Lincoln, in the White House, turned upon Mrs.
Grant like a tigress and shouted, “How dare you be
seated in my presence until I invite you!”
Our millionaires helped finance Admiral Byrd’s expedition
to the Antarctic in 1928 with the understanding
that ranges of icy mountains would be named after them;
and Victor Hugo aspired to have nothing less than the
city of Paris renamed in his honor. Even Shakespeare,
mightiest of the mighty, tried to add luster to his name
by procuring a coat of arms for his family.
People sometimes became invalids in order to win
sympathy and attention, and get a feeling of importance.
For example, take Mrs. McKinley. She got a feeling of
importance by forcing her husband, the President of the
United States, to neglect important affairs of state while
he reclined on the bed beside her for hours at a time, his
arm about her, soothing her to sleep.
She fed her gnawing
desire for attention by insisting that he remain with
her while she was having her teeth fixed, and once created
a stormy scene when he had to leave her alone with
the dentist while he kept an appointment with John
Hay, his secretary of state.
The writer Mary Roberts Rinehart once told me of a
bright, vigorous young woman who became an invalid
in order to get a feeling of importance. “One day,” said
Mrs. Rinehart, “this woman had been obliged to face
something, her age perhaps. The lonely years were
stretching ahead and there was little left for her to anticipate.
“She took to her bed; and for ten years her old mother
traveled to the third floor and back, carrying trays, nursing
her. Then one day the old mother, weary with service,
lay down and died. For some weeks, the invalid
languished; then she got up, put on her clothing, and
resumed living again.”
Some authorities declare that people may actually go
insane in order to find, in the dreamland of insanity, the
feeling of importance that has been denied them in the
harsh world of reality. There are more patients suffering
from mental diseases in the United States than from all
other diseases combined.
What is the cause of insanity?
Nobody can answer such a sweeping question, but we
know that certain diseases, such as syphilis, break down
and destroy the brain cells and result in insanity. In fact,
about one-half of all mental diseases can be attributed to
such physical causes as brain lesions, alcohol, toxins and
injuries. But the other half - and this is the appalling
part of the story - the other half of the people who go
insane apparently have nothing organically wrong with
their brain cells. In post-mortem examinations, when
their brain tissues are studied under the highest-powered
microscopes, these tissues are found to be apparently
just as healthy as yours and mine.
Why do these people go insane?
I put that question to the head physician of one of our
most important psychiatric hospitals.
This doctor, who
has received the highest honors and the most coveted
awards for his knowledge of this subject, told me frankly
that he didn’t know why people went insane. Nobody
knows for sure But he did say that many people who go
insane find in insanity a feeling of importance that they
were unable to achieve in the world of reality. Then he
told me this story:
"I have a patient right now whose marriage proved to
be a tragedy. She wanted love, sexual gratification, children
and social prestige, but life blasted all her hopes.
Her husband didn’t love her. He refused even to eat
with her and forced her to serve his meals in his room
upstairs. She had no children, no social standing. She
went insane; and, in her imagination, she divorced her
husband and resumed her maiden name. She now believes
she has married into English aristocracy, and she
insists on being called Lady Smith.
“And as for children, she imagines now that she has
had a new child every night. Each time I call on her she
says: ‘Doctor, I had a baby last night.’ "
Life once wrecked all her dream ships on the sharp
rocks of reality; but in the sunny, fantasy isles of insanity,
all her barkentines race into port with canvas billowing
and winds singing through the masts.
" Tragic? Oh, I don’t know. Her physician said to me:
If I could stretch out my hand and restore her sanity, I
wouldn’t do it. She’s much happier as she is."
If some people are so hungry for a feeling of importance
that they actually go insane to get it, imagine what
miracle you and I can achieve by giving people honest
appreciation this side of insanity.
One of the first people in American business to be
paid a salary of over a million dollars a year (when there
was no income tax and a person earning fifty dollars a
week was considered well off) was Charles Schwab, He
had been picked by Andrew Carnegie to become the
first president of the newly formed United States Steel
Company in 1921, when Schwab was only thirty-eight
years old. (Schwab later left U.S. Steel to take over the
then-troubled Bethlehem Steel Company, and he rebuilt
it into one of the most profitable companies in America.)
Why did Andrew Carnegie pay a million dollars a
year, or more than three thousand dollars a day, to
Charles Schwab? Why? Because Schwab was a genius?
No. Because he knew more about the manufacture of
steel than other people? Nonsense. Charles Schwab told
me himself that he had many men working for him who
knew more about the manufacture of steel than he did.
Schwab says that he was paid this salary largely because
of his ability to deal with people. I asked him how
he did it. Here is his secret set down in his own words
- words that ought to be cast in eternal bronze and hung
in every home and school, every shop and office in the
land - words that children ought to memorize instead of
wasting their time memorizing the conjugation of Latin
verbs or the amount of the annual rainfall in Brazil - words
that will all but transform your life and mine if we
will only live them:
“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my
people,” said Schwab, “the greatest asset I possess, and
the way to develop the best that is in a person is by
appreciation and encouragement.
“There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a
person as criticisms from superiors. I never criticize anyone.
I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I
am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything,
I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my
That is what Schwab did. But what do average people
do? The exact opposite. If they don’t like a thing, they
bawl out their subordinates; if they do like it, they say
nothing. As the old couplet says: “Once I did bad and
that I heard ever. Twice I did good, but that I heard
“In my wide association in life, meeting with many
and great people in various parts of the world,” Schwab
declared, “I have yet to find the person, however great
or exalted his station, who did not do better work and
put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he
would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”
That he said, frankly, was one of the
outstanding reasons for the phenomenal success of Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie
praised his associates publicly as well as privately.
Carnegie wanted to praise his assistants even on his
tombstone. He wrote an epitaph for himself which read:
“Here lies one who knew how to get around him men
who were cleverer than himself:”
Sincere appreciation was one of the secrets of the first
John D. Rockefeller’s success in handling men. For example,
when one of his partners, Edward T. Bedford,
lost a million dollars for the firm by a bad buy in South
America, John D. might have criticized; but he knew
Bedford had done his best - and the incident was
closed. So Rockefeller found something to praise; he
congratulated Bedford because he had been able to save
60 percent of the money he had invested. “That’s splendid,"
said Rockefeller. “We don’t always do as well as
I have among my clippings a story that I know never
happened, but it illustrates a truth, so I’ll repeat it:
According to this silly story, a farm woman, at the end
of a heavy day’s work, set before her men folks a heaping
pile of hay. And when they indignantly demanded
whether she had gone crazy, she replied: “Why, how
did I know you’d notice? I’ve been cooking for you men
for the last twenty years and in all that time I ain’t heard
no word to let me know you wasn’t just eating hay.”
When a study was made a few years ago on runaway
wives, what do you think was discovered to be the main
reason wives ran away? It was “lack of appreciation.”
And I’d bet that a similar study made of runaway husbands
would come out the same way. We often take our
spouses so much for granted that we never let them
know we appreciate them.
A member of one of our classes told of a request made
by his wife. She and a group of other women in her
church were involved in a self-improvement program.
She asked her husband to help her by listing six things
he believed she could do to help her become a better
He reported to the class: “I was surprised by such
a request. Frankly, it would have been easy for me to list
six things I would like to change about her - my heavens,
she could have listed a thousand things she would
like to change about me - but I didn’t. I said to her, ‘Let
me think about it and give you an answer in the morning.’
“The next morning I got up very early and called the
florist and had them send six red roses to my wife with a
note saying: ‘I can’t think of six things I would like to
change about you. I love you the way you are.’
“When I arrived at home that evening, who do you
think greeted me at the door: That’s right. My wife! She
was almost in tears. Needless to say, I was extremely
glad I had not criticized her as she had requested.
“The following Sunday at church, after she had reported
the results of her assignment, several women
with whom she had been studying came up to me and
said, ‘That was the most considerate thing I have ever
heard.’ It was then I realized the power of appreciation.”
Florenz Ziegfeld, the most spectacular producer who
ever dazzled Broadway, gained his reputation by his
subtle ability to “glorify the American girl.” Time after
time, he took drab little creatures that no one ever
looked at twice and transformed them on the stage into
glamorous visions of mystery and seduction. Knowing
the value of appreciation and confidence, he made
women feel beautiful by the sheer power of his gallantry
and consideration. He was practical: he raised the salary
of chorus girls from thirty dollars a week to as high as
one hundred and seventy-five. And he was also chivalrous;
on opening night at the Follies, he sent telegrams
to the stars in the cast, and he deluged every chorus girl
in the show with American Beauty roses.
I once succumbed to the fad of fasting and went for six
days and nights without eating. It wasn’t difficult. I was
less hungry at the end of the sixth day than I was at the
end of the second. Yet I know, as you know, people who
would think they had committed a crime if they let their
families or employees go for six days without food; but
they will let them go for six days, and six weeks, and
sometimes sixty years without giving them the hearty
appreciation that they crave almost as much as they
When Alfred Lunt, one of the great actors of his time,
played the leading role in Reunion in Vienna, he said,
“There is nothing I need so much as nourishment for my
We nourish the bodies of our children and friends and
employees, but how seldom do we nourish their self esteem?
We provide them with roast beef and potatoes
to build energy, but we neglect to give them kind words
of appreciation that would sing in their memories for
years like the music of the morning stars.
Paul Harvey, in one of his radio broadcasts, “The Rest
of the Story,” told how showing sincere appreciation can
change a person’s life. He reported that years ago a
teacher in Detroit asked Stevie Morris to help her find a
mouse that was lost in the classroom. You see, she appreciated
the fact that nature had given Stevie something
no one else in the room had. Nature had given Stevie a
remarkable pair of ears to compensate for his blind eyes.
But this was really the first time Stevie had been shown
appreciation for those talented ears. Now, years later, he
says that this act of appreciation was the beginning of a
new life. You see, from that time on he developed his
gift of hearing and went on to become, under the stage
name of Stevie Wonder, one of the great pop singers and
and songwriters of the seventies.*
Some readers are saying right now as they read these
lines: “Oh, phooey! Flattery! Bear oil! I’ve tried that
stuff. It doesn’t work - not with intelligent people.”
Of course flattery seldom works with discerning people.
It is shallow, selfish and insincere. It ought to fail
and it usually does. True, some people are so hungry, so
thirsty, for appreciation that they will swallow anything,
just as a starving man will eat grass and fish worms.
Even Queen Victoria was susceptible to flattery.
Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli confessed that he put
it on thick in dealing with the Queen. To use his exact
words, he said he “spread it on with a trowel.
was one of the most polished, deft and adroit men
who ever ruled the far-flung British Empire. He was a
genius in his line. What would work for him wouldn’t
necessarily work for you and me. In the long run, flattery
will do you more harm than good. Flattery is counterfeit,
and like counterfeit money, it will eventually get you
into trouble if you pass it to someone else.
The difference between appreciation and flattery?
That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere.
One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth
out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally
admired; the other universally condemned.
I recently saw a bust of Mexican hero General Alvaro
Obregon in the Chapultepec palace in Mexico City.
Below the bust are carved these wise words from General
Obregon’s philosophy: “Don’t be afraid of enemies
who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you.”
No! No! No! I am not suggesting flattery! Far from it.
I’m talking about a new way of life. Let me repeat. I am
talking about a new way of life.
King George V had a set of six maxims displayed on
the walls of his study at Buckingham Palace. One of
these maxims said: “Teach me neither to proffer nor receive
cheap praise.” That’s all flattery is - cheap praise.
I once read a definition of flattery that may be worth
repeating: “Flattery is telling the other person precisely
what he thinks about himself.”
“Use what language you will,” said Ralph Waldo
Emerson, “you can never say anything but what you
If all we had to do was flatter, everybody would catch
on and we should all be experts in human relations.
When we are not engaged in thinking about some definite
problem, we usually spend about 95 percent of our
time thinking about ourselves. Now, if we stop thinking
about ourselves for a while and begin to think of the
other person’s good points, we won’t have to resort to
flattery so cheap and false that it can be spotted almost
before it is out of the mouth,
One of the most neglected virtues of our daily existence
is appreciation, Somehow, we neglect to praise
our son or daughter when he or she brings home a good
report card, and we fail to encourage our children when
they first succeed in baking a cake or building a birdhouse.
Nothing pleases children more than this kind of
parental interest and approval.
The next time you enjoy filet mignon at the club, send
word to the chef that it was excellently prepared, and
when a tired salesperson shows you unusual courtesy,
please mention it.
Every minister, lecturer and public speaker knows the
discouragement of pouring himself or herself out to an
audience and not receiving a single ripple of appreciative
comment. What applies to professionals applies
doubly to workers in offices, shops and factories and our
families and friends. In our interpersonal relations we
should never forget that all our associates are human
beings and hunger for appreciation. It is the legal tender
that all souls enjoy.
Try leaving a friendly trail of little sparks of gratitude
on your daily trips. You will be surprised how they will
set small flames of friendship that will be rose beacons
on your next visit.
Pamela Dunham of New Fairfield, Connecticut, had
among her responsibilities on her job the supervision of
a janitor who was doing a very poor job. The other employees
would jeer at him and litter the hallways to show
him what a bad job he was doing. It was so bad, productive
time was being lost in the shop.
Without success, Pam tried various ways to motivate
this person. She noticed that occasionally he did a particularly
good piece of work. She made a point to praise
him for it in front of the other people. Each day the job
he did all around got better, and pretty soon he started
doing all his work efficiently. Now he does an excellent
job and other people give him appreciation and recognition.
Honest appreciation got results where criticism
and ridicule failed.
Hurting people not only does not change them, it is
never called for. There is an old saying that I have cut
out and pasted on my mirror where I cannot help but
see it every day:
I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I
can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being,
let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall
not pass this way again.
Emerson said: “Every man I meet is my superior in
some way, In that, I learn of him.”
If that was true of Emerson, isn’t it likely to be a thousand
times more true of you and me? Let’s cease thinking
of our accomplishments, our wants. Let’s try to figure
out the other person’s good points. Then forget flattery.
Give honest, sincere appreciation. Be “hearty in your
approbation and lavish in your praise,” and people will
cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them
over a lifetime - repeat them years after you have forgotten