It feels like I’m the last person in the world to read How To Win Friends And Influence People. I don’t know why I took so long, it’s such a good book! One particular lesson I gleaned from the book that I found beautiful is how there is value in not arguing with others. We live in a world where everyone needs to feel important, and more importantly – correct.
We are subconsciously self-important and it’s very dangerous for us not to be aware of that. Little things can turn into huge, petty arguments because we are obsessed with being right. Sometimes this can manifest in even the most mundane of arguments – like what colour a sticky note is. What makes things ugly is when you attack the other person’s own feeling of self-importance. Dale Carnegie in his famous book reminds us that instead of arguing, we should seek to understand. Let’s really look at this sticky note through several lights to see if somehow they could see it as orange instead of blue. Maybe the other person is colour blind – you need to unpack why they are seeing this differently.
If we choose to argue rather than seek to understand, we create an enemy who is never going to see our side of the situation. In order to win friends and influence people you need people to believe in you. The more you seek to understand other people’s positions and where they’re coming from and what their principles are, the further you’re going to get in the world. Ray Dalio calls it radical open-mindedness – I highly recommend reading his work.
Dalio goes a step further than Carnegie: if he has a position or a principle that he wants to test, he will seek people who have opposite views to understand their position rather than argue. He actively does this because what if he is the one in the wrong? If he seeks to understand other people’s opinions, then he can actually bolster and strengthen his own position. This, in turn, will make him more influential which will make him more successful.
Discussions are not black and white. Just because you don’t agree with someone does not mean you are incapable of understanding them or being close with them. Just because you don’t agree with someone, that does not mean they are inherently your enemy. In fact, the more enemies you have, the harder it is for you to actually accomplish what you want in life. I don’t want any of you to suffer like that, especially with the New Year around the corner.
There is nothing wrong with being right, but there’s everything wrong with belittling someone in order to make yourself feel a little bit better about yourself or about your position. So, in this online world of bullying belittlement, maybe you can be one of those people that just seeks to understand if there’s an argument going on. Just mediate your own debate or someone else’s by asking if there is another way the situation can be looked at. Is there a way that a common ground can be reached? I wish you the absolute merriest, wonderful time of the year. If you see someone out there that needs a smile, a helping hand, or just your presence, make sure that you take the extra time to do that because not everyone finds this time of year to be a happy time of year, but we all can help to lift up humanity one little step at a time. One little smile at a time.