Thursday, October 13, 2011


Ever since I was a child, I've been a very polite person. As an adolescent I was also very shy and had a hard time making friends. Then, when I was in grade nine I read How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. "Smile," the book told me. "Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves," "Talk in terms of the other person's interests," were among the many useful tips within. 

I took the book to heart. And it worked. Getting people to talk about themselves made conversation a lot easier and less awkward. And because I really listened, people liked talking to me. That book became my bible. I took it so seriously that about a year and a half after befriending one of my now best friends, she said, "I hardly know anything about you. You never talk about yourself. Why don't you talk about yourself more?" Why? Because I followed HTWFAIP's instructions assiduously, and focused on encouraging others to talk about themselves. 

The major lesson I took away from the book was to always put my feelings aside, and put the other person's feelings, ego and interests first. To go out of my way to make the other person feel comfortable and respected. The number one rule for dealing with others was, "Never criticize, condemn or complain." And this is all well and good in many situations. But as a model for daily living I found it saps one of one's sense of agency, of power. Interestingly, a lot of Carnegie's advice goes along well with the ideals that women in our society are supposed to live up to - always smiling, always supportive, ever a self-sacrificing wife and mother.