I have never ever laid hands on Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, but I have a good mind to flip through a few pages. The very fact that the book has sold over 30 million copies worldwide since its publication does speak volumes. It’s one of the first, bestselling self-help books, and Time magazine in 2011 ranked it at the eleventh spot in its list of 100 most influential books. So I feel it will not be a useless exercise to see what the author advises.
Having lived close to five decades on this planet, I have discovered that one of the most perplexing issues is understanding human behavior and interactions. What is right for you could be wrong for me, and both of us could be justified in our own ways. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what figure of speech you need to deploy while dealing with people without hurting or offending them.
One who is a glib talker or has the gift of the gab can very easily get away with certain situations, but someone who’s frank and outspoken may trip in the same circumstances. A friend was narrating how someone who met her at a wedding told her that she looked healthier and that the shape of her face had become rounder. She instantly got the message that she had put on weight and that the comment was put in front of her in a polite way!
Most women (not that I am an outlier here) do not enjoy being told that they have gained the extra pounds. So one could be in a tight spot if a lady asks if she has put on weight. Being honest could well put you at the risk of being undesirable.
Speaking of honesty, is it always the best policy? A much younger cousin was cynical about this old age proverb saying that following it landed her in trouble. She was blasted by her parents after she confessed that she had gone out for a movie with her friends three days prior to her final exams. She said the better choice would have been to hide the whole thing from them. Being a parent myself, I obviously did not support her, but I laughed to myself, thinking that what she complained about did have a grain of truth.
All of us might have attended dinner or lunch invitations where sometimes, the food served may not be palatable or as good as expected, yet as per the rules of courtesy, guests praise hosts to the skies. Personally, I have had that experience in which after guests left, I realized that one of the entrées was too salty, but I got the impression that I had prepared a fabulous dish!
Another very common situation has come to my mind. Many a time, when you give a gift to someone, there comes the famous dialogue, “This is just what I was looking for!” I have heard this umpteen times, so I have started doubting the veracity of this statement though sometimes it could really be the truth.
How many people admit that they are clueless about something you have asked them? Undoubtedly not everybody! You might have often received the response “That is a very good question” as a reply to the query you have posed to someone. That could well be interpreted as the person telling you, “I have no idea what you are talking about!”
Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has helped us track down long lost friends and relatives whose very existence we might have forgotten about. When the user posts pictures, the number of likes accompanied by laudatory comments could be so flattering to one’s ego that it’s pretty easy to fall for praises that may not be true.
The nagging questions persist: Why do people take the route of diplomacy? Why do they want to be politically correct? The answer is obvious. No one wants to hit the unpopularity charts by hitting on others’ low points.
Very few people like to hear unpleasant truths about themselves. The courage to accept feedback that analyzes one’s flaws is very rare in human beings. Equally difficult is the audacity to laugh at one’s foibles. Recently, I read an autobiography by one of my favorite filmmakers and what impressed me the most was that he was very forthright in talking about his idiosyncrasies and shortcomings.
Lest we disappoint others with our candid assessments, we all want to stay safe. Just as you might make a dozen friends with your sweet disposition, you might be having many more disliking you because you have put your foot in the mouth. It is so very difficult to understand the human psyche, and I would not like to open a Pandora’s box by analyzing human behavior. For the moment, let me wind up with a quote by writer David K. Reynolds which to me makes perfect sense: “No one really knows why humans do what they do”!