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11 Ways to Succeed and Influence People


Each of us wants to be monumentally successful, and each of us wants to positively influence others. These admirable goals go hand-in-hand. 

Striving to succeed how you define it is striving to be fulfilled as a human being. We want to make a name for ourselves, and we want others to regard us with high esteem.

There will always be a new sales trick and "the latest" way to get people's attention, but every person who calls themselves successful will tell you that the key to their success was not a trick, but rather a set of time-tested behaviors.

One of America's greatest influencers, Dale Carnegie, was renowned for his classes on public speaking and practical business skills. He was famously known for his ability to win friends and influence people, hence his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Adapted from that very book are these 11 ways to succeed and influence people. 

1. Smile.

Whether you spend most of your day glued to a phone, sitting behind a desk, or in the middle of various groups of people, the expression you wear on your face is far more important than the clothes you wear on your back. Your facial expressions and body language influence your emotions as much as your emotions influence your facial expressions and body language. Changing one changes the other.

A smile creates positive thought and action. If you're having a bad day, smile.  If someone you detest mocks you, smile. It must be sincere, though. A fake or insincere smile causes resentment.

You can't control the world around you, but you can control yourself. The only way to find happiness is by controlling your thoughts and actions. Happiness doesn't depend on outward conditions, it depends on your mindset. According to Shakespeare, "There is nothing either bad or good, but thinking makes it so."

If you want to succeed and influence people, the first step is to smile.

2. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.

Positive thinking is crucial. B.F. Skinner, the psychologist most noted for his research on classical conditioning, proved that good behavior is learned much more rapidly through reward for good behavior than through punishment for bad behavior. Being negative results in no good thing.

Rather than fostering improvement, criticism often causes the receiver to harden their defense and justify their decisions. People are not logical; they are emotional. Play to their positive emotions by being kind. Do not strengthen their prejudices and vanity by condemning.

As Mr. Carnegie is famous for saying,  "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do. It takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving."

If you want to succeed and influence people, you will refrain from harmful criticism, condemnation, and complaint.

3. Give honest and sincere appreciation.

Instead of criticizing someone, give them honest and sincere appreciation. Choose to build others up. Dr. John Dewey once stated that the deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important. Accordingly, a person's confidence in themselves dictates their ability.

Sincerely make those around you feel appreciated, and they will act in ways you appreciate. As America's steel giant Charles Schwab said, "The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement."

If you want to succeed and influence people, make others feel important by giving them honest and sincere appreciation.

4. Become genuinely interested in other people.

"Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care." - Theodore Roosevelt

We all know that everyone cares more about themselves than anyone else. That's why we talk about our promotions, the shows we've seen, what happened to us. "A person's toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people" (Dale Carnegie).

Therefore, if you want to influence someone, talk about them for a while, and let them do most of the talking. Allow the other person to feel that you care about them and have interest in them.

Psychologist Alfred Adler said, "It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring." He's right.

Whether you're in sales, a stay-at-home parent, a manager, a store clerk, or anywhere in between, one of the most important abilities to develop is to make another feel your genuine interest in them. Help yourself while you help others by showing them you care.

If you want to succeed and influence people, show others that you are interested in them.

5. Remember the name of everyone you meet.

A person's name is one of the most important things to that person. Remembering their names pays them a subtle and effective compliment. Benton Love once said, "The executive who tells me he can't remember names is at the same time telling me he can't remember a significant part of his business and is operating on quicksand."

Maybe you need to repeat the name of each person you meet five teams as you are walking away, or maybe you need to keep a little black book of everyone you meet with a few notes on each. Others who have taken the effort to remember everyone they meet will tell you it is the secret to their success.

If you want to succeed and influence people, remember the name of everyone you meet.

6. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

When you are wrong, and you will be, admit it quickly and emphatically. When you are right, as I'm sure you will be at times, it's best to begin with a phrase such as "I may be wrong, it wouldn't be the first time..."

Never say, "You're wrong."  Instead say, "I can completely understand you there, though I can't say I completely agree..."

When an argument is unavoidable, follow these steps. Welcome the disagreement through phrases such as those above. Always distrust your first instinct, as it will normally be to become more defensive. Take a pause to check that your emotions are fully under control.

Listen to what the other has to say, and attempt to empathize with them. Look for areas of agreement. Be sincere in your agreement and disagreement. Thank the other for their insight, and assure plenty of time between the dispute and final decision.

By admitting ones mistakes quickly and emphatically, and by taking time to listen, you elevate yourself above the norm.

If you want to succeed and influence people, avoid argumentation.

7. Try earnestly to see things from the other person's point of view.

There's an old proverb we're all familiar with: "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes." In other words, don't criticize, condemn, or complain about someone, but instead try to understand their point of view.

By the same regard, "Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle" (J.M. Barrie).

When someone has an opinion or behaves a certain way, they have a reason. That's why they think or do what they think or do. You wouldn't believe something if you thought it was wrong.

Instead of arguing, when you disagree with someone, view the subject from their vantage point. Empathize with the other. Everyone has their own ideas and desires. Whether you want your spouse to clean the dishes or you're trying to sell a product, ask yourself how the other would view the situation, and play at it from that angle.

If you want to succeed and influence people, try earnestly to view situations from others' perspectives.

8. Appeal to the nobler motives.

People usually have two reasons for anything they do - one that sounds good to the public, and one that feels good to them.

Ask someone why they're building a business from the ground up and they'll tell you it's for the opportunity. The market demanded it, and they're seeking to create the next big movement to help millions of people better their lives. Ask them behind closed doors and they're doing it to become rich and famous.

There's nothing wrong this dichotomy! But use it to your advantage. When given the choice, people will always want to seem they are more noble and higher in character than might actually be true. Play to that person's nobler motive. Instead of asking a business owner if he wants to make more money, ask him if he's interested in better providing for his family.

If you want to succeed and influence people, appeal to their nobler motives.

9. Elicit a challenge.

According to behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow, people are self-actualizing, meaning that we gain personal fulfillment through triumph, achievement, and exercising our talents. Money and presents alone will not motivate anyone from a young child to a retired elder.

A sales representative may not care at all about making more money than she needs, but she will likely want to be better than the other sales representatives in her office or region. The potential to excel is what motivates most. Challenge arouses action.

If you want to succeed and influence people, make achievement a challenge or a competition.

10. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

Nobody likes being ordered around. You didn't grow up thanking your parents for commanding you to clean your room or do your homework or walk the dog. Conversely, if you're reading this it means you appreciate learning and growing. When someone gives you a tip that can help you improve, you accept it.

Likewise, give suggestions, not commands.

Instead of commanding your coworker to make their next report more appealing, try this. "You're very good at what you do, and I know we want to take advantage of your expertise. Is there anything you could do that would allow us to engage you better?"

"Beginning with praise is like the dentist who begins his work with Novocain. The patient still gets a drilling, but the Novocain is pain-killing" (Dale Carnegie).

By being sincere in your appreciation, and by suggesting there are better ways to complete a task, you are making that person feel important and encouraging them to improve where you know needs improvement. What's better, this person is now going to be happily motivated to bring better work to the table because you've given them a reputation to live up to.

If you want to succeed and influence people, ask and suggest rather than command.

11. Let the other person save face.

The times you are wrong, would you rather be embarrassed in front of a crowd, or would you rather be informed politely, in subtle fashion away from listening ears?

Chances are you're going to be right where others are wrong (and vice versa). At one point or another you will be in a position where someone around you - maybe a spouse or coworker - makes a mistake. You will then have the decision to "make your point" by gloating in their errors, or to politely suggest what measures to take in the future to avoid a similar mistake.

By bringing someone down for doing wrong, you humiliate them and hurt their ego, which hurts every aspect of that person and their functionality. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "What matters is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself."

If you want to succeed and influence people, grant others the courtesy of saving face during their mistakes.