Human Relations Principle #22: Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
(“If you must find fault, this is the way to begin.”)
(This is the twenty-second in a series of articles where I will encapsulate each of Dale Carnegie’s timeless, life-changing principles for dealing with people. (Adapted from How to Win Friends and Influence People.))*
Beginning with praise is like the dentist who begins his or her work with Novocain. The patient still gets a drilling, but the Novocain is pain-killing.
It is always easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise of our good points.
How Lincoln used tact and diplomacy to correct a General’s grave faults
A period of black sorrow and chaos
For eighteen months during the Civil War, Lincoln’s generals had been leading the Union Army from one tragic defeat to another. Nothing but futile, stupid human butchery. The nation was appalled. Thousands of soldiers had deserted from the army, and even the Republican members of the Senate had revolted and wanted to force Lincoln out of the White House. “We are on the brink of destruction,” Lincoln said. “It appears to me that even the Almighty is against us. I can hardly see a ray of hope.” Such was the period of black sorrow and chaos out of which he was compelled to write one of his more famous letters.
Lincoln wrote one of his sharpest, more famous, letters
Lincoln probably dashed this letter off in five minutes; yet it sold at public auction in 1926 for twelve thousand dollars. The letter was written to General Joseph Hooker on April 26, 1863, during the darkest period of the Civil War. The letter shows how Lincoln tried to change an obstreperous general when the very fate of the nation could have depended upon the general’s action. This is perhaps the sharpest letter Abe Lincoln wrote after he became President; yet you will note that he praised General Hooker before he spoke of his grave faults. Here is the letter he addressed to General Hooker:
I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course, I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you.
I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is valuable if not an indispensable quality.
You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during General Burnside’s command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer.
I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you command.
Only those generals who gain successes can set up as dictators. What I now ask of you is military success and I will risk the dictatorship.
The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more or less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticizing their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you, as far as I can, to put it down.
Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such spirit prevails in it, and now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forth and give us victories.
Talk about tact and diplomacy!
Will this same philosophy Lincoln used operate for you in everyday business and home life? You bet it will! Give it a try!
If you must correct someone’s error-thinking, begin with praise and honest appreciation.
Much success and fulfillment with mastering human relations,
* The best guide on effective human relations that I have ever encountered is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, published in 1936. Prior to writing the book, Carnegie spent 20 years researching the habits of successful people. The book has sold over 30 million copies and is still listed on Amazon’s top 100 best selling books.
Other articles within this series you may enjoy:
3 Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Human Relations Principle #1: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
- Human Relations Principle #2: Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Human Relations Principle #3: Arouse in the other person an eager want.
6 Ways to Make People Like You
- Human Relations Principle #4: Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Human Relations Principle #5: Smile.
- Human Relations Principle #6: Remember that a person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Human Relations Principle #7: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Human Relations Principle #8: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Human Relations Principle #9: Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
12 Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- Human Relations Principle #10: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- Human Relations Principle #11: Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
- Human Relations Principle #12: If your are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Human Relations Principle #13: Begin in a friendly way.
- Human Relations Principle #14: Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
- Human Relations Principle #15: Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
- Human Relations Principle #16: Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
- Human Relations Principle #17: Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Human Relations Principle #18: Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
- Human Relations Principle #19: Appeal to the nobler motives.
- Human Relations Principle #20: Dramatize your ideas.
- Human Relations Principle #21: Throw down a challenge.