by Steve Adubato, PhD

Recently, one of my communication coaching clients, named “Jane”, attended a Dale Carnegie course. Jane is smart, strategic and highly competent in her field. However, she needed to work on her conversational communication skills. She needed to connect more on a human and personal level with those around her in order to become a more well-rounded leader and to reach her potential as a leader.

As I thought would be the case, after just a few sessions at Dale Carnegie, there was considerable improvement in Jane’s communication skills. She was more relaxed and informal in her conversations. Bottom line—Dale Carnegie’s philosophy is as relevant today as it was in 1936 when he wrote his groundbreaking book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Consider some of Carnegie’s key principles that are worth revisiting:

--Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. The more we do so, the more we put ourselves in a negative frame of mind. We focus on others and our negative feelings about those people. Further, when we complain about our circumstance, we do nothing to change it, but rather waste energy that would be better spent trying to get ourselves to a better place. Dale Carnegie believed that with the limited energy we have, we should focus ourselves in a more positive direction, which would increase the chances of “winning friends and influencing people.”

--Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Dale Carnegie had it right long before the hit television series “Cheers” in the 1980s. Ask yourself, why did everyone go to that fictitious bar in Boston? It was because, as they say in the theme song, you want to go “where everybody knows your name.” Take a few seconds to ask someone his name, and then use it in conversation. When you do this, you are more likely to remember his name later on, which will have a positive impact on your future communication.

--Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say “you’re wrong”. As soon as you say “you’re wrong”, most people get defensive and feel compelled to fight back. Very little constructive communication takes place after this. If you have any desire to find common ground, tell the other person you appreciate his or her point of view, and then share your perspective. For you to be right, it doesn’t mean that the other person has to be wrong. That is a lose-lose communication mentality that only guarantees a bad outcome.

--Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers. Don’t get caught up with pride of authorship. Too often, we are obsessed with making sure that people know that a specific project was our idea, as opposed to ensuring the project itself moves forward. Dale Carnegie understood the value of generosity in that the more others can feel a degree of ownership over a proposal or project, the more likely they are to get on board and be supportive. Be smart, share credit, spread the wealth and don’t hoard it.

--Try to profit from your losses, by learning from your mistakes. Don’t get caught up trying to cover up and camouflage your mistakes. Don’t be defensive. We all screw up. Instead of blaming others or trying to deny the obvious, embrace and own the mistake and then ask yourself, what could I or should I have done differently? More importantly, what WILL I do differently the next time a situation like this arises? THAT’S profiting from your mistakes.