We were seated in rows in a small room on the third floor of Kings College University, London. A guest lecturer was presenting to the Dietetics Club – a rabble of third and fourth-year students and tired professors.
“Who here has read ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie”?
I raised my hand.
“Could have fooled me”, came the snigger from across the aisle behind me from two of my tutors. One was a just out of nappies Phd’er with a massive ego; the other was about to abscond to Canada, leaving a trail of unmarked assignments in her wake.
I ignored them. Best thing for schoolyard bullies. But it stung.
It was true. I had read the book many years earlier. Or rather, skimmed it along with other much-touted bestsellers like Rich Dad Poor. [I guess that didn’t work either, judging by my crappy little house].
Fast forward 20 years, and I had felt a definite cooling towards me in certain social circles, which didn’t extend to my husband. And I didn’t know why?
And then I remembered that snide remark and wondered, ‘was it me’?
So I dusted off my copy of How to Win Friends amongst the graveyard of self-help books and re-read the yellowed pages.
There’s nothing like doing a life review and drowning in a tsunami of regrets that you can’t do-over.
A D+ [miserable fail] for comprehension and learning the first time I supposedly read it. I’m giving myself the + for buying the book.
Some of it I did well, like listening. Or perhaps too well and falling into the listening trap, so people thought I was ‘quiet’ – Uhm no. I just don’t get a word in.
And fixing the RBF (resting bitch face like Posh Spice). A good friend said, smile more. So I did, and now I have deep track lines down my face.
Remembering names. Nope – it’s faces not names for me with dyslexia.
Talking about other people, with other people. Guilty. I got drawn into that much too easily, a hangover from a dysfunctional family, until it came back to bite me. But that’s a story for another time.
But yes, there was much work needed to upgrade my character traits and bad habits so that my husband was not more popular than me.
I was about to start a new five-month contract, and it was the perfect opportunity to experiment with a clean slate. To find out if I could really win friends and influence people.
Every day I was mindfully working against my natural behaviours, attitude and responses to match these basic principles outlined in the chapters:
- Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
- Give honest and sincere appreciation
- Arouse in the other person an eager want
- Become genuinely interested in other people
- Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
The experiment was a success. The results after five months…
- A $10k payrise
- Renegotiated my hours twice to suit (eventually down to part-time)
- An unexpected $1k bonus
- An international consultant raved I was the best EA he’d ever worked with
- My manager wanted to take me with him when he left (that has NEVER happened in the 30 years of a litany of bosses)
- Was offered a permanent role and paid to sit around for six weeks until it started so that they didn’t lose me
- Was respected by a team of managers
- And I gained confidence in knowing I’d be ok in any social situation because I had these little principles in my toolbox to fall back on.
So I guess I have those two snot-nosed tutors to thank for that. (Although, they could probably do with reading the book too).
And as pained as I am to admit it, some of it was me! The signs were becoming too obvious to ignore.
I had to take a good look at myself, reflect, and course correct, and I’m all the richer for it – both in friends and bank balance.
But the one thing I learned most of all from this lesson was that:
“You might forget what someone said, but you’ll never forget the way they made you feel.”
p.s. Want to find friends for more fun, laughter and happiness in your life? Download the Quick Start Guide to finding fabulous friends in your 50s for meaningful connections that will bring you joy. It’s FREE!