By Toby Moore
For Capital Region Independent Media
One of my favorite books is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. The book has so many helpful tips that, once you read them, you realize they are common sense.
Astoundingly, some of these principles, although simple, often elude our understanding until we delve into them and reflect deeply. If it wasn’t for my engagement with the book, I might have never gained even a basic level of self-awareness.
If you’ve never read the book, I recommend you check it out. It could change your life.
So, how do you win friends and influence people? I can’t summarize the entire book right here, but I can tell you what not to do.
Never criticize, condemn or complain.
We’ve all had those special people who never seem to have anything good to say about what we’ve accomplished. Often these can be family members, and if they are, they’re hard to escape because they are family, but have you ever met someone who, right when you met them, started telling you all the things you’ve done wrong?
It starts friendly enough, but as the clock ticks, this person thoroughly criticizes a particular aspect of how you do things.
Last year I met a filmmaker I thought I wanted to work with. We started messaging each other on Facebook, and within minutes, he told me all the ways I would fail. The platform needed to be corrected, the way I was advertising was wrong, the filmmakers were too hard to work with, etc.
I started to distance myself from him almost as fast as we connected and came to find out; this guy had quite a reputation. He had such a reputation that there was an Emmy-winning documentary made about him and his epic criticisms of those unfortunate enough to meet him.
The next point on this spectrum is “condemnation.”
Before I knew it, he escalated to launching open condemnations at me through lengthy, irrational emails. Ignoring him only seemed to fuel the intensity of his messages. Far beyond mere criticisms, his vitriolic emails were awash with harsh judgments, evidently designed to unsettle and intimidate me.
Stay far away from condemnation. When someone is busy with condemnation, they miss a valuable opportunity to understand perspective, learn from experience, and build a deeper and more meaningful relationship with others.
Unsurprisingly, he had no friends and lived alone in his car. His continual critique and condemnation created a wall of negativity that turned me, a potential collaborator, into an adversary.
It is clear here that criticism and condemnation don’t win friends.
Harmful communication doesn’t stop at criticism and condemnation. Another disruptive behavior lurks — complaining.
Criticizing, condemning and complaining are indeed interconnected. Amidst the filmmaker’s wave of criticisms and condemnations, a lengthy roster of complaints and grievances surfaced, surprisingly extensive given that I had only been in contact with him for less than a week.
Imagine this: You’re taking a flight to your dream destination on a long-awaited vacation. You’re excited and already planning the places you’ll explore. Suddenly, the passenger beside you, a stranger you’ve only exchanged polite greetings with, starts venting. They grumble about the legroom, frown at the in-flight meal, complain about the temperature, and make a massive fuss about the delay in take-off.
Suddenly, the anticipation for your trip dissipates, replaced by a dark cloud of negativity. Each complaint seems to chip away at your excitement.
This was precisely how I felt when interacting with this individual. My business, which I had dreamt of and worked on for many years, was my source of passion and excitement. However, this stranger appeared intent on shrouding my aspirations and ambitions in negativity.
People generally shy away from complainers.
Rather than resorting to criticism, opt for acceptance. In place of complaining, find a solution — and, instead of casting judgment, endeavor to understand.
A remarkable transformation awaits you if you can resist the urge to criticize, condemn and complain.
Others naturally feel drawn to your empathetic and positive energy, seeking your company and valuing your input. This change doesn’t make you likable; it makes you an inspiring, uplifting influence in the lives of those around you.
Never criticize, condemn or complain.
Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.