Recently, I was given an assignment by my pastor to read Dale Carnegie’s excellent book, How to Win Friends & Influence People. My husband and I are on the ministerial staff of our church and our pastor wanted the entire team to read this particular book. The entire focus of the book is learning how to deal with people in a positive, uplifting way. As we apply these principles, our church will naturally grow in number.
The book is divided into four parts, fundamental techniques in handling people, six ways to make people like you, how to win people to your way of thinking, and be a leader: how to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment. As I was reading it, I thought you could use the same principles and apply it to writing.
For instance, in the first section, ‘Fundamental Techniques in Handling People’, Mr. Carnegie says
- Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Arouse in the other person an eager want.
As a writer, we can criticize, condemn, and complain, but does doing that help anyone? Does it make the reader’s life better, or help them in some way? I’ve read some ‘rants’ on people’s blogs and have come away thinking I just wasted too many minutes of my time. On the other hand, sometimes, I’ve been genuinely helped by it. One writer ‘ranted’ about her concerns about the kindle select program and it swayed my opinion on whether or not to go with it. The difference was, she didn’t just rant for the sake of ranting. She genuinely wanted to voice some very real concerns she had. She wasn’t writing for herself, her focus was on you, her readers, and how she might help us.
The second point, give honest and sincere appreciation, is wonderful advice for a writer. If a writer truly appreciates someone else, and writes about it, everybody benefits. We should never complement looking to get something out of it. Frankly, that’s insincere at best and our readers will quickly recognize it. The result is loss of credibility. However, if we as writers honestly and sincerely complement someone else’s work, not only are we benefiting our readers, we’re benefiting a fellow writer. As we take the time to genuinely bless others, it does eventually come back to us. In fact, it makes us look even better as writers, more expert because we took the time and effort to research and share what we’ve learned.
The third point, arouse in the other person an eager want, can easily be applied to writing. The idea is to think about what motivates the other person. Again, the focus is on other people, not yourself. What does the other person want? As a writer, what needs do we see that we can fill? Look at the people around you. What needs do you see? What do these people like? How can you as a writer either give it to them or help them to get it for themselves? There’s a reason there are thousands and thousands of parenting books available. People want to be good parents. What about cookbooks? Well, most people like to eat. There are also books on gardening, home improvement, etc. You get the idea. But, for the writer, it doesn’t stop with non-fiction. What about entertainment? What do the people around you do to relax? What sorts of fiction do they enjoy reading? How can you provide a vicarious adventure for them? How can you help them to relax and even de-stress for a while?
As writers, we are in a unique position to make a difference in the lives of our readers. We have the power to effect change that outlasts even our own short lives. As we apply Mr. Carnegie’s principles, I think you will be amazed at the results. Your writing will take on new life and you will learn and grow as a writer.
Look for more posts that reference this book. We’ve only barely touched on part one. Let me know how you apply some of these principles in your life and writing and what the results were. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Get your own copy through Amazon.com or any other major bookstore. It’s a great read.