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The Most Powerful Skills Your Children Need

What is the topic that has the greatest utility for everyday life? Interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are not taught at universities. You are left alone to figure this out for yourself.

But where do you begin? Dale Carnegie’s 1937 classic book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People” is the most powerful non-scripture book ever written. Laden with simple and common sense principles, this book is a masterpiece on the subject of interpersonal relations. Almost tragically, most people have not read this book and even fewer apply its principles.

When applied in the real world, the principles in “How to Win Friends & Influence People”, will have a greater impact on your life than anything else you can do.  You will have a framework for meeting new people, engaging in their interests and getting them to know, like and trust you. Nothing is more powerful.

11 Proven Steps for Living a Life of Meaning and Influence

These are the principles that Dale Carnegie would want your children to know.

Step #1How to Begin a Conversation: NEVER talk about yourself.  No one wants to know about you.

Ask questions about the person’s interests and passions, e.g., “What do you do for a living?” And then find out as much as you can about their work and passions. People love talking about themselves and they will appreciate your interest.

Step #2Be Present: When you talk with someone, listen carefully to what they’re saying.  Make sustained eye contact.  Don’t look away and do not think of anything other than what the person in front of you is saying. Let them know that you’re listening and you care what they say.

“To be interesting, be interested.”

Dale Carnegie

As you learn new things from your acquaintance, respond to let them know that you heard what they said, “That’s interesting. I never thought of that.” Keep following up with questions until you’ve learned as much as you can about your new friend. 

Step #3Use First Names:  Call everyone you meet by their first name. Everyone loves the sound of their name. Using their first name repeatedly will help you remember their name.

“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and
most important sound in any language.”

Dale Carnegie

Frequently you will hear people confess, “I’m terrible with names.” Everyone is bad with names, but there’s a solution: repeat the first name of everyone you meet at least 3x when you first speak with them. By repeating their name 3x, you will reinforce their name in your memory. And the next time you meet them, your acquaintance will be shocked that you remembered their name.

Step #4Talk with Strangers: Whenever you go to a social event, meet at least one person you don’t know and talk to them.  Try to find out what makes the person tick (a/k/a, their passion for life).

“Talk to someone about themselves, and they’ll listen for hours.”

Dale Carnegie

Be bold and take the initiative.  At social events, don’t seek out persons you already know. Find someone you don’t know and start speaking with them.  This might seem awkward at first, but you might find that you have a lot more in common than you previously thought. And you might just make a new friend.

Step #5Preparing to Meet Someone: If you plan to meet someone (a new or existing relationship), find out as much about them as possible. 

If the person roots for the U-Conn women’s basketball team, research the latest news about the U-Conn women’s basketball team (even if you have no interest in them) and be prepared to discuss the team with your new friend, e.g., “Great win for the Huskies last night against their arch-rival.” It doesn’t matter that you have no interest in U-Conn women’s basketball, what matters is that your friend loves them.

Step #6Dealing with Anxiety/Stress: Think of the worst possible outcome and accept it. Then, work to create the best possible outcome. You will never be disappointed because you’ve already accepted the worst outcome.

“Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare
 to accept it.  Then proceed to improve on the worst.”

Dale Carnegie

Step #7Own Your Mistakes:  Do not blame others for your mistakes. When you screw up, own it, e.g., “I am sorry. This shouldn’t have happened.” When you own your mistakes, others will be forgiving. 

“It raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of
nobility and exaltation to admit one’s mistakes.”

Dale Carnegie

Step #8: Never Disagree with Someone in Public: DO NOT CRITICIZE, CONDEMN OR COMPLAIN.

“There is only one way to get the best of an
argument and that is to avoid it.”

Dale Carnegie

No one wants to hear that they’re wrong (even if they are). Don’t tell someone that they’re wrong. Listen, nod attentively and if necessary, tell them in private that you might not agree. Be kind and understanding.

Step #9: Do Not Hold Grudges:  When you hold a grudge against another person, you are only hurting yourself. Forgive everyone, even those who hate you.

“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them
power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites,
our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.”

Dale Carnegie

Step #10: Your Mindset:  No one cares about you (except your spouse and they might not even care).  Everyone cares about themselves. Make every person you meet the center of the conversation and get them to talk about themselves.  Everyone—even those in prison—have something in their life that they are proud of, e.g., their children, hobbies or work. Get them to talk about the things they love.

“You can make more friends in two months by
 becoming interested in other people than you can in
two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Dale Carnegie

If you ask someone, “Would you mind sharing with me how you’ve become so successful?” You instantly make a new friend. Over the next 20 minutes, your new friend will tell you about their successes and all you have to do is nod your head.

Step #11Do Not Be Transactional: In most relationships, people think, “What can I get out of this?” Don’t be transactional. Do not think what someone can do for you. Rather, think, “What I can do to help them?” 

“The rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve
 others has an enormous advantage.”

Dale Carnegie

When you give, without any expectation of getting anything in return, you will be rewarded tenfold. This is known as the rule of reciprocity. When you give something of value to others, they will want to return the favor. 

The Ultimate Go-Giver

4 years ago, I had a chance encounter with a gentleman at an architectural firm in Greenville, South Carolina. This gentleman welcomed me to his firm, and made it clear that—even though we were strangers—he would be more than happy to help our son, Tim, during his studies at Clemson University.

Over the next 4 years, I returned frequently to Greenville to have a meal with my new friend. My new friend never stopped giving. But not only for our son, but for everyone he met. Complete strangers were treated as close and long-standing friends and they always received a warm smile, offers of support and his cell # (just in case they wanted to continue the conversation). It quickly became apparent that I had met someone special.

Does Rip Parks give so that he can get something back? Absolutely not. Giving without an expectation of getting anything in return is what Rip was taught by his parents.  We learn by the way that our parents live their lives. And that, my friend, is the most precious gift you can give your children.

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.