“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” (William James)
A few years back I worked in a large building, with about 1,500 people in it. All of us worked for the same company. There was a gal there who worked in the mail room. Her job was to take the mail for all1,500 of us, and deliver it to our desks on a daily basis. There was just this one woman, and she was always on the go. But, she was never so busy that she couldn’t say hello and have a kind word.
Because she was the mail lady, she knew my name, so I made it a point to get to know hers. On the rare occasion that I received something in the mail, she would bring it by. I would thank her and ask how she was doing. The conversations were never more than 10 or 15 seconds, because she had so many stops to make.
One year at Christmas time I decided that I wanted her to know how appreciated she was. My thought was that she was probably invisible to most of the men and women who worked in our building. We were all very busy, and I was sure that few took the time to notice her. I got a nice Christmas card. I didn’t know her religious preference, so I made sure it was non-denominational. It was mostly blank inside, so I took a few minutes to write 2 or 3 sentences on what a great job I thought she did. I told her that I knew her job was hard, but that I admired the fact that she could do it with a smile for anyone who talked to her, and how efficient she was. Then, I did something that I learned in when I was a Boy Scout. I decided not to sign the card.
I carried it with me for a day, looking for the right opportunity. I finally saw her mail cart at the other end of the building, far from my desk. I waited until she was away and out of sight, and I left the card prominently near the handle of the cart. And then, I walked away.
I honestly have no idea what reaction she had to the card because I didn’t stick around to see it. And, frankly, it wasn’t about me knowing. What I wanted was for her to know that what she did was important and appreciated. I didn’t do it to get better delivery of my mail, or so that she’d be more friendly to me. I did it because I wanted her to feel important.
Recently, someone asked me whether the principles in How to Win Friends and Influence People weren’t just manipulation. His thought was that even the most altruistic person always receives something in return for social interactions. The answer to that is that, yes, the principles in this book could most definitely be used to manipulate other people. They could be used in such a way that the person using them gets some benefit, without much investment. I could tell people what they want to hear, and even maybe convince them for a while that I was sincere.
And, it is true that in most circumstances, even the most altruistic act does have a benefit for the person who does it. And, yes, the book is a guide on How to Win Friends and Influence People, so if it is successful, the reader of the book who applies what she learns must get something from it.
Where I diverge from my friend is with the word “manipulation.” If I am doing something only because it benefits me, and I care not what ultimately happens to the other person, then yes, I am being manipulative. I am being nothing but a phony who is out to make gains for myself. I will say 2 things about that as it relates to this book.
First, at every turn, Mr. Carnegie goes to great lengths to remind us to be sincere, and to do things genuinely and honestly. The reason is that…
Second, if you aren’t sincere, you will soon be found out. You will break the trust of people around you, and then nothing you do will benefit you. Everything you do will be greeted with suspicion. Even if later you should find the errors of your ways and become genuine and sincere, you will have a very long row to hoe to get back in good graces.
If you are reading the book, or following my blog only for personal gains that are insincere and not genuine, then please stop reading my blog. I am certain there are thousands of other sites that will come up in a google search that will tell you how to reach your ill-gotten ends. And, you won’t have me constantly telling you to be genuine and sincere.
I mentioned above that I got the idea of not signing the card when I was in Boy Scouts. The Boy Scout slogan is “Do a good turn daily.” A good turn is something nice that is done for another person for which we expect nor will accept anything in return. It is often said that the best Good Turn is done in such a way that the person who benefits actually never knows who their benefactor was. When I left the unsigned card on her cart, I was fulfilling what my Scout leaders had taught me when I was 11 years old.
As you are working through the application of this principle, try doing what the Boy Scouts teach. Try making someone else feel important, without them knowing that it was you that did it. It isn’t as hard as it sounds, and I am confident that if you are genuine and sincere you’ll find a way.
When it comes to having this principle help us to become friendlier people, the application is equally easy. It is a matter of finding something in the person in front of you that you truly admire, and letting them know about it.
Principle 9 – Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely