How to Win Friends and Influence People (with apologies to Dale Carnegie)

You would not believe how often I’m contacted by people who want something from me (advice, mentoring, subcontracting, free books, etc.) who begin their appeal by pointing out how poorly I’m doing something and how poor my judgment is!! No offense, but they are usually technically-oriented people who explain how my web site is so terrible, my web designer is poor, and my approach is in error.

Well, excuse me.

I realize that any approach can probably be improved, mine included. But there is also a law of diminishing returns. I was told yesterday, for example, that I should use a different color palette. I was told that I should write differently for the internet (call me back when you’ve published eight books and 400 articles).

While I hold nothing I do up as the ultimate in quality, whether it’s my web site, my business reports, or my wardrobe, the fact is that I don’t do so badly. And if you want something from me, then may I suggest that you try a softer tone, preferably one that’s more constructive and doesn’t insult my judgment or that of people I’ve chosen to use as subcontractors.

Here are some solid techniques to extract help and/or favors from someone else (viz.: they are the buyer, you are the seller):

  1. Begin with something of constructive value. Cite how something they’ve done was highly effective and struck you positively. Open on a supportive note.
  2. Don’t exaggerate what you bring to the table. One person told me he’d barter his web design talents, which would easily be worth $20,000. Maybe to him, but not to me and not in this world. Be realistic and humble. The only thing worth real money is real money, not bartered talents. You don’t have to put an inflated number—or any number—on your services.
  3. Don’t be greedy. Don’t ask for 20 books, or a year of mentoring, or 12 references. Ask for something easy and immediate. If you work at the relationship, more will come, but don’t make it onerous from the outset.
  4. Remove your specialty glasses. Whether you’re into technology, recruitment, global business, mergers, or whatever, understand that the other party from whom you want help doesn’t use those same glasses. What you consider to be a big improvement in technology—put a navigator bar on every page—may well seem unimportant to the other person. Take a business position, not a specialty position.
  5. Don’t be insulting and throw down challenges. I love it when people say “If you’re as good as you’re supposed to be, you’ll get back to me promptly and agree to this offer.” In your dreams. Dares and insults make me angry, and the best way to get even is to ignore them.
  6. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Spend 30 minutes trying to figure out what would make the other person respond positively to you. Would it be a certain offer of help, a purchase of products, a referral, a mutual friend, or some other leverage? Don’t assume that his or her motivation is the same as yours, because it probably is not.

All of these principles apply in relationships of any sort, including attracting new business and retaining existing business. If you can’t take the time to learn how to influence others constructively, you’re in the wrong business.

As for all of you who have violated these rules with me, maybe you can learn from this, because I know you visit the web site to read these articles, poor as it is!!