3. If You’re Wrong, Admit It Quickly and Emphatically
Dale Carnegie often went for walks in a natural woodland near his home called Forest Park with his little Boston bulldog named Rex. Since Rex was friendly and harmless, and since no one else was usually around, he let Rex roam freely without a leash or muzzle. But, one day, they ran into a mounted policeman in the park who wanted to emphasize his authority. “What do you mean by letting that dog run loose in the park without a muzzle and leash? Don’t you know it’s against the law?” he demanded.
Carnegie replied, “Yes, I know it is. But, I didn’t think he would do any harm out here.”
“You didn’t think! You didn’t think! The law doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about what you think. That dog might kill a squirrel or bite a child. Now, I’m going to let you off this time; but, if I catch this dog out here again without a muzzle and leash, you’ll have to tell it to the judge.”
Carnegie promised to obey, and he did a few times. But, Rex didn’t like the muzzle and neither did Carnegie. They were having fun as usual till one afternoon, as they raced over a hill and saw the other side, the same policeman was on his horse at the bottom of the hill staring up at them. Rex was out front and continued toward the officer.
Carnegie knew he was in for it. So, he didn’t wait for the officer to start talking. He beat him to it: “Officer, you’ve caught me red-handed. I’m guilty. I have no alibis, no excuses. You warned me last week that if I brought the dog out here again without a muzzle, you would fine me.”
“Well, now,” the policeman replied in a much softer tone than before, “I know it’s a temptation to have a little dog like that have a run out here when nobody is around.”
“Sure it’s a temptation,” Carnegie admitted. “But, it is against the law.”
“Well, a little dog like that isn’t going to harm anybody.”
“No, but he may kill squirrels.”
“Well, now, I think you are taking this a bit too seriously. I’ll tell you what you do. You just let him run over the hill there, where I can’t see him; and, I’ll forget about it.”
The policeman had wanted to feel important. So, when Carnegie began to judge himself harshly, the only way left for him to feel important was to be generous and show mercy.
If we know we are going to get a verbal lashing anyway, isn’t it better to beat the person to do and do it to ourselves? Isn’t it easier to listen to our own confessions and judgments than to hear accusations and condemnations from others’ lips? Say everything bad about yourself that you know the other person is thinking or wants to say, and say it all before they have a chance to say any of it. Chances are very good that they will suddenly become generous and forgiving instead, and your mistake will be minimized.
Ferdinand Warren was a commercial artist with a tough-to-please client. He explained his story to his Carnegie class like this: “It is important, in making drawings for advertising and publishing purposes, to be precise and very exact. Some art editors demand that their commissions be executed immediately; and, in these cases, some slight error is liable to occur. I knew one art director in particular who was always delighted to find fault with some little thing. I have often left his office in disgust, not because of the criticism, but because of his method of attack.
“Recently, I delivered a rush job to this editor, and he phone me to call at his office immediately. He said something was wrong. When I arrived, I found just what I had anticipated—and dreaded. He was hostile, gloating over his chance to criticize. He demanded with heat why I had done so and so. My opportunity had come to apply the self-criticism I had been studying about. So, I said, ‘Mr. So-and-so, if what you say is true, I am at fault, and there is absolutely no excuse for my blunder. I have been doing drawings for you long enough to know better. I’m ashamed of myself.’
“Immediately he started to defend me. ‘Yes, you’re right. But, after all, this isn’t a serious mistake. It is only—’
“I interrupted him. ‘Any mistake,’ I said, ‘may be costly, and they are all irritating.’ He started to break in; but, I wouldn’t let him. I was having a grand time. For the first time in my life, I was criticizing myself—and, I loved it.
“‘I should have been more careful,’ I continued. ‘You give me a lot of work; and, you deserve the best. So, I’m going to do this drawing all over.’
“‘No! No!’ he protested. ‘I wouldn’t think of putting you to all that trouble.’ He praised my work, assured me that he only wanted a minor change, and that my slight error hadn’t cost his firm any money. And, after all, it was a mere detail—not worth worrying about. My eagerness to criticize myself took all the fight out of him. He ended up by taking me to lunch. And, before we parted, he gave me a check and another commission.”
Michael Cheung, who taught the Carnegie course in Hong Kong, told the story of how admitting you’re wrong can be more useful to your life than sticking to the traditional way of doing things. One of Cheung’s students was a middle-aged man who had not spoken to his son for many years due to a falling out caused by the father’s previous opium addiction. He wanted to be reunited with his son and see his grandchildren for the first time. However, in the Chinese culture, it was not appropriate for the elder to make the first move toward any reconciliation. The class, all Chinese, understood the conflict.
When the course neared its end, the man said to the class, “I have pondered this problem. Dale Carnegie says, ‘If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.’ It is too late for me to admit it quickly, but I can admit it emphatically. I wronged my son. He was right in not wanting to see me and to expel me from his life. I may lose face by asking a younger person’s forgiveness. But, I was at fault; and, it is my responsibility to admit this.” The class applauded and supported him. The next time the class met, he reported that he went to his son’s house and asked for and received his forgiveness. Now, he was enjoying a new relationship with his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.
Carnegie reminded his readers of the old proverb: “By fighting you never get enough; but, by yielding you get more than you expected.”
4. A Drop of Honey: Begin in a Friendly Way
President Abraham Lincoln said, “It is an old and true maxim that ‘a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So, with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what you will, is the great high road to his reason.”
Carnegie wrote: “Business executives have learned that it pays to be friendly to strikers. For example, when 2,500 employees in the White Motor Company’s plant struck for higher wages and a union shop, Robert F. Black, then president of the company, didn’t lose his temper and condemn and threaten and talk of tyranny and Communists. He actually praised the strikers. He published an advertisement in the Cleveland papers, complimenting them on ‘the peaceful way in which they laid down their tools.’ Finding the strike pickets idle, he bought them a couple of dozen baseball bats and gloves and invited them to play ball on vacant lots. For those who preferred bowling, he rented a bowling alley. This friendliness on Mr. Black’s part did what friendliness always does: it begot friendliness. So, the strikers borrowed brooms, shovels, and rubbish carts, and began picking up matches, papers, cigarette stubs, and cigar butts around the factory. Imagine it! Imagine strikers tidying up the factory grounds while battling for higher wages and recognition of the union. Such an event had never been heard of before, in the long, tempestuous history of American labor wars. That strike ended with a compromise settlement within a weekend without any ill feelings or rancor.”
O. L. Straub, an engineer taking one of Carnegie’s courses, wanted to get a reduction in his apartment rent, but he knew his landlord was tough. He shared his story: “I wrote him notifying him that I was vacating my apartment as soon as my lease expired. The truth was I didn’t want to move. I wanted to stay if I could get my rent reduced. But, the situation seemed hopeless. Other tenants had tried and failed. Everyone told me that the landlord was extremely difficult to deal with. But, I said to myself, ‘I am studying a course in how to deal with people. So, I’ll try it on him, and see how it works.’
“He and his secretary came to see me as soon as he got my letter. I met him at the door with a friendly greeting. I fairly bubbled with good will an enthusiasm. I didn’t begin talking about how high the rent was. I began talking about how much I liked his apartment house. Believe me, I was ‘hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.’ I complimented him on the way he ran the building and told him I should like so much to stay for another year but couldn’t afford it.
“He had evidently never had such a reception from a tenant. He hardly knew what to make of it. Then he started to tell me his troubles. Complaining tenants. One had written him fourteen letters, some of them positively insulting. Another threatened to break his lease unless the landlord kept the man on the floor above him from snoring. ‘What a relief it is,’ he said, ‘to have a tenant like you.’ And, then, without even my asking him to do it, he offered to reduce my rent a little. I wanted more. So, I named the figure I could afford to pay; and, he accepted without a word. As he was leaving, he turned to me and said, ‘What decorating can I do for you?’
“If I had tried to get the rent reduced by the methods the other tenants were using, I am positive I should have met with the same failure they encountered. It was the friendly, sympathetic, appreciative approach that won.”
Gerald Winn, of Littleton, New Hampshire, was another student of the Carnegie course. He shared with his class how his use of this “start friendly” approach resulted in a most satisfying settlement of a property damage claim: “Early in the spring, before the ground had thawed from the winter freezing, there was an unusually heavy rainstorm. And, the water, which normally would have run off to nearby ditches and storm drains along the road, took a new course onto a building lot, where I had just built a new home.
“Not being able to run off, the water pressure built up around the foundation of the house. The water forced itself under the concrete basement floor, causing it to explode, and the basement filled with water. This ruined the furnace and the hot water heater. The cost to repair this damage was in excess of two thousand dollars. I had no insurance to cover this type of damage. However, I soon found out that the owner of the subdivision had neglected to put in a storm drain near the house which could have prevented this problem. I made an appointment to see him. During the 25 mile trip to his office, I carefully reviewed the situation. And, remembering the principles I learned in this course, I decided that showing my anger would not serve any worthwhile purpose. When I arrived, I kept very calm and started by talking about his recent vacation to the West Indies. Then, when I felt the timing was right, I mentioned the ‘little’ problem of water damage. He quickly agreed to do his share in correcting the problem.
“A few days later, he called and said he would pay for the damage and also put in a storm drain to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. Even though it was the fault of the owner of the subdivision, if I had not begun in a friendly way, there would have been a great deal of difficulty in getting him to agree to the total liability.”
5. The Secret of Socrates: Get the Other Person Saying “Yes, Yes” Immediately
When starting a discussion with anyone, begin with the points on which you agree, not with the points on which you disagree. Emphasize, and keep emphasizing, that you are both striving for the same goal and the only difference of opinion is how to get there.
Get the other person saying “yes, yes” from the beginning. If possible, avoid any statements that might have them saying “no, no.” If they say “no,” they will stubbornly stick to that position out of pride, and just to be consistent, even if they internally have a change of heart. They don’t want to appear wishy-washy or unsure of themselves.
If you get people to say a series of “yes, yeses,” the momentum of their affirmative responses becomes a natural rhythm that takes on a power of its own. Once it’s going in that direction, it takes far more force to push it back into the opposite, “no” direction.
When people say “no,” their whole mind and body is in a rejecting mode and you can see they want to physically withdraw from you. However, when people say a lot of “yeses,” they are receptive, more open to new ideas, and want to move forward to the next step.
James Eberson, a teller at the Greenwich Savings Bank in New York City, used the “yes, yes” technique to keep a new customer who might have otherwise turned and walked out. He told this story to his Carnegie class:“This man came in to open an account, and I gave him our usual form to fill out. Some of the questions he answered willingly. But, there were others he flatly refused to answer. Before I began the study of human relations, I would have told this prospective depositor that if he refused to give the bank this information, we should have to refuse to accept this account. I am ashamed that I have been guilty of doing that very thing in the past. Naturally, an ultimatum like that made me feel good. I had shown who was boss, that the bank’s rules and regulations couldn’t be flouted. But, that sort of attitude certainly didn’t give a feeling of welcome and importance to the man who had walked in to give us his patronage.
“I resolved this morning to use a little horse sense. I resolved not to talk about what the bank wanted but about what the customer wanted. And, above all else, I was determined to get him saying ‘yes, yes’ from the very start. So, I agreed with him. I told him the information he refused to give was not absolutely necessary. ‘However,’ I said, ‘supposed you have money in this bank at your death. Wouldn’t you like to have the bank transfer it to your next of kin, who is entitled to it according to law?’
“’Yes, of course,’ he replied.
“Don’t you think,’ I continued, ‘that it would be a good idea to give us the name of your next of kin so that, in the event of your death, we could carry out your wishes without error or delay?’
“Again, he said ‘yes.’ The young man’s attitude softened and changed when he realized that we weren’t asking for this information for our sake but for his sake. Before leaving the bank, this young man not only gave me complete information about himself, but he opened, at my suggestion, a trust account, naming his mother as the beneficiary for his account, and he had gladly answered all the questions concerning his mother also. I found that by getting him to answer ‘yes, yes’ from the outset, he forgot the issue at stake and was happy to do all the things I suggested.”
Joseph Allison, a sales representative for Westinghouse Electric Company told this story about how he used the “yes, yes” method to secure a valuable customer: “There was a man in my territory that my company was most eager to sell to. My predecessor had called on him for 10 years without selling anything. When I took over the territory, I called steadily for three years without getting an order. Finally, after 13 years of calls and sales talk, we sold him a few motors. If these proved to be all right, an order for several hundred more would follow. Such was my expectation. Right? I knew they would be all right. So, when I called three weeks later, I was in high spirits.
“The chief engineer greeted me with this shocking announcement: ‘Allison, I can’t buy the remainder of the motors from you.’
“’Why?’ I asked in amazement. ‘Why?’
“’Because your motors are too hot. I can’t put my hand on them.’
“I knew it wouldn’t do any good to argue. I had tried that sort of thing too long. So, I thought of getting the ‘yes, yes’ response.
“’Well, now, look, Mr. Smith,’ I said. ‘I agree with you a hundred percent. If those motors are running too hot, you ought not to buy any more of them. You must have motors that won’t run any hotter than standards set by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Isn’t that so?’
“He agreed it was. I had gotten my first ‘yes.’
“’The Electric Manufacturers Association regulations say that a properly designed motor may have a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit above room temperature. Is that correct?’
“’Yes,’ he agreed. ‘That’s quite correct. But, your motors are much hotter.’
“I didn’t argue with him. I merely asked, ‘How hot is the mill room?’
“’Oh,’ he said, ‘about 75 degrees Fahrenheit.’
“’Well,’ I replied, ‘if the mill room is 75 degrees and you add 72 to that, that makes a total of 147 degrees Fahrenheit. Wouldn’t you scald your hand if you held it under a spigot of hot water at a temperature of 147 degrees Fahrenheit?’
“Again, he had to say ‘yes.’
“’Well,’ I suggested, ‘wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep your hands off those motors?’
“’Well, I guess you’re right,’ he admitted. We continued to chat for a while. Then he called his secretary and lined up approximately $35,000 worth of business for the ensuing month. It took me years and cost me countless thousands of dollars in business before I finally learned that it doesn’t pay to argue, that it is much more profitable and much more interesting to look at things from the other person’s viewpoint and try to get that person saying, ‘yes, yes.’”