One day, the manager of a factory walked out onto the factory floor to find two of his employees smoking under a very conspicuous “No Smoking” sign. Indignation rose up inside the manager, and he stormed towards them determinedly. He growled to the underlings, “Can’t you slackers read?? NO SMOKING ON THE FLOOR! Now get back to work.” Shrugging and laughing to themselves at their manager, the two men shuffled back to their work, determined to smoke there again as often as they had the chance.
Now, let’s rewind for a moment.
One day, the manager of a factory walked out onto the factory floor to find two of his employees smoking under a very conspicuous “No Smoking” sign. He sighed to himself, but he didn’t allow his feelings to show as he greeted the two men warmly. “Hey Dan, hey Josh! It’s good to see you two.” He greeted them both by name and began to ask about their family lives. “How’s the girlfriend, Dan? And Josh, I heard your wife just had your first son. Congratulations!” He spoke to them for five minutes or so, smiling and conversing congenially. Turning to go, he pulled two cigars from his coat jacket and said, “Oh! I nearly forgot. Boys, I want you to have these. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. But could you do me a favor? Do you think you could smoke theses outside, perhaps?” The men smiled and nodded in assent. “Sure thing, boss. Thanks.”
Which of these two approaches to conflict had the most lasting effect? The second one, of course. Dale Carnegie tells this second true story in How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book I’m listening to in my car at the moment. He uses this story to illustrate the importance of relating to people as individuals, not as objects, and effectively leading them by making them want to follow you. The manager in the second story took the time to learn his employees’ names–even the ones on the bottom of the chain of command–and pay attention to details he learned about them. He made them feel appreciated and important enough for him, the manager, to know about their lives. By the end of their conversation, he had gained the two men’s respect. They wanted to follow a leader like that. Since we are all leaders (or will be) throughout our lives in one capacity or another, learning to motivate people correctly is an incredibly important skill for us to master.
Jesus used this method too. Instead of filling up with wrath and spilling over in righteous anger at the sinners, he gave them dignity and importance in the way he treated them. In Luke 19, Jesus spots Zacchaeus in a tree straining to catch a glimpse of him. Instead of pointing out how sinful he is, or the fact that no one likes him since he’s a tax collector, Jesus calls to him, “Zacchaeus! I’m coming to your house for dinner!” Something about the way Jesus said this made Zacchaeus exclaim, “I will give half of what I own to the poor, and then I will pay back everyone I’ve cheated four times as much!” Jesus didn’t tell him to do this. In fact, he didn’t even remotely mention it. But the fact that Jesus gave Zacchaeus dignity and honored him by coming to his house changed Zacchaeus’ heart more than any amount of condemnation ever could. Jesus understood better than anyone that our desires have to change before our behavior will.
Dale Carnegie gives three fundamental techniques for handling people:
- Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Arouse in the other person an eager want.
“Want” is a far stronger motivator than guilt or shame, and it is by far more positive and uplifting. And when people feel understood and validated by you, they are far more likely to see your point of view.
I always tell myself, “There are two ways to accomplish this: the easy way, and the hard way.” When it comes to my brother, I’ve realized that a little bit of sincere appreciation or praise goes a long way when I ask him to do something. I could either storm in and demand the computer (I even have the right to, since he’s been on it for the past hour), OR I could come up behind him, scratch his head for a moment (one of his favorite things ever), and ask, “Hey, when you get to a stopping point, do you think I could use it for a bit?” The second way will make him far more willing to share the computer than will the first way, even though I have a right to use force, and he NEVER says no. It’s always easier for everyone, and our relationship is always far better. It’s not manipulation; it’s choosing to be kind even when we have the right to exercise authority.
So next time you’re in the position to ask or tell someone else to do something, think of this advice. How could you let them know you appreciate them? How could you give them dignity and make them feel important? There are two ways to make people do something: the easy way, or the hard way. How could you make this person want to do it? Kindness and empathy go a long way in leadership, as we can see from Christ’s example. Ask him to show you ways to season your conversations with grace and sincerity, and I’m sure he’ll help you. As the old saying goes, ” You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Kind words and sincere concern for others make people feel that you care.
Thanks for reading! Have a blessed week!