How to Win Friends and Influence People

Jann FreedLeading, Living Leave a Comment

Dale Carnegie’s classic book by this same title as this post shares many ways to win friends and influence people.  I believe Mr. Carnegie would agree with the content of this post.  While I am describing a small detail, often the small things are the big things that matter most.   This might change your perspective in a positive way.  

Many years ago, I learned of this story (not sure from where or from whom) and I have shared it with students for decades.

Everywhere you go and with everyone you meet:  Imagine every person has a sign around their neck that says:  “Make me feel important.”

Sometimes to understand the real meaning of a phrase, I reverse it.  For example, I wrote two books and several articles about continuous quality improvement (CQI) in higher education.  I defined it as “getting better” at what we are doing by examining processes.  People would tell me CQI was a fad or the “flavor of the month” and I would respond with statements such as, “Let’s not get better.  Let’s not examine what we are doing to see if we could be more effective or efficient.”  And people would finally “get it.”

Have you ever had the experience of someone treating you as if you had a sign around your neck that said:  “Make me feel unimportant.”  If not, you are fortunate.  I have had this experience and it is not the way to win friends and influence people.  It does not feel good.  John Maxwell is often cited as saying, “People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.”  When you treat people as if they are not important, they remember it–at least the feeling of not caring stays with me.

I often say how leaders treat those under their influence has an impact on how they then treat others.  When you visualize everyone with a sign around their neck that reads “Make me feel important,” then you treat them as if that were true.  I have a practice of handing out bags (hand sanitizer, couple of dollars, toothbrush and toothpaste, granola bar) to people on street corners.  A few people told me they are now making this a practice which makes me happy.  Other people say it is a scam and to that, I say, “If they are willing to stand on corners, they deserve one of my bags.” But I want to add another element.

A few years ago, I took a social justice course (JustFaith) through the Center for Social Ministry.  During the course, I read an article in the  New York Times about Pope Francis and his advice on people on street corners.  He said to “give without worry.”  From the article:

“But what if someone uses the money for, say, a glass of wine? (A perfectly Milanese question.) His answer: If “a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?” Another way to look at it, he said, is to recognize how you are the “luckier” one, with a home, a spouse and children, and then ask why your responsibility to help should be pushed onto someone else.”

But it is what Pope Francis said next that caught my attention the most:

He said the way of giving is as important as the gift. You should not simply drop a bill into a cup and walk away. You must stop, look the person in the eyes, and touch his or her hands.”

While I must admit I do not touch anyone as I am handing out the bags on the corners.   And NO TOUCHING is extremely important in these Covid-19 times.  I have even driven around the block so that the person is on the driver’s side. I say something to the person and I look them in the eye.  Last week, we talked about the weather and how it was not as cold as it has been.  He said, “I have a heater in my tent.”  I asked him if it was from Joppa and he said it was–and  “they provide gas for it too.”  If you are not familiar with Joppa, it is a local organization my husband and I support and now I know it is worth our support.  There may be a similar organization in your community.

So if you want to win friends and influence people — anyone and everyone, picture a sign around their neck that reads:  MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT.  

  • Who has made you feel UNIMPORTANT? 
  • What did this person say or do to make you feel this way?
  • Who has made you feel IMPORTANT?  
  • What did this person say or do to make you feel this way? 

Wherever you go and with whomever you interact, may you make people feel important.  If you are reading this, you are likely better off than people on street corners.  Be kind–especially now in these social isolation times. Give them the gift of looking them in the eyes.