Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain

Last week I introduced Dale Carnegie’s tips from How to Win Friends and Influence People in conjunction with Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink as a way to help you be more influential. The more I thought about that post the more I came to the conclusion it might be good to start digging even further into Carnegie’s advice because it’s timeless wisdom about how to influence people.

Did you know How to Win Friends and Influence People was first published way back in 1935? Believe it or not, it’s sold more than 15 million copies! The fact that nearly 75 years later you can still find How to Win Friends and Influence People in bookstores is a testament to this truth: people know Dale Carnegie’s advice works!

Carnegie didn’t have social scientist or behavioral economists to test his hypotheses. Instead he observed what the influential people of his day were doing and reflected on hi
s own successes when compiling his thoughts.

He started by encouraging readers regarding three fundamental techniques everyone should remember when dealing with people:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  • Give honest, sincere appreciation.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want

First up for our consideration is “don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” This should be obvious for one reason – nobody likes to be around anyone who is constantly criticizing them or complaining about their behavior. Okay, so you’re sick and tired that your boss, spouse, kid, employee or someone else won’t change. I’ll bet a light bulb didn’t just come on and you thought, “Perhaps if I nag enough that will do the trick.” No, in most cases if people were honest they’d admit the “advice” they’ve been giving ranges from subtle jabs to flat out complaining. People say, “You never…” or “You always…” as if saying it louder or repeating it more will bring about the change they want to see.

Newsflash: Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If what you’ve been doing isn’t working then perhaps it’s time to try something different…unless nagging is your way of releasing frustration.

On a more subtle level, we often fail to remember everyone has reasons (even if we think they’re poor ones) for doing what they do. Kids will justify cheating in school because everyone is doing it. Thieves will tell you they steal because they can’t get a job or life has been unfair to them. Famous people cave into all kinds of temptation because, “You don’t know what it’s like to have all this pressure.” I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. Right or wrong, everyone has reasons for doing what they do.

Here’s another newsflash: We are emotional beings, not logical, rational creatures. The vast majority of people act on emotion then try to justify their actions with some amount of logic. Salesman and marketers figured this out a long time ago. If you want to see great examples of “rational” people acting irrationally pick up Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational.

So here’s what Dale Carnegie realized – if we “attack” people by criticizing them or complaining about their behavior they’ll only dig in their heels and justify why they’ve done something. It’s like having two people stand face-to-face with their hands pressed against one another. As soon as one person applies a little pressure the other person automatically does so too. The result; the hands are in a state of equilibrium and remain in the same spot.

Now apply that concept to the person you’ve been complaining about, criticizing or condemning. They’ve probably applied equal and opposite pressure and have remained the same. In the end we sabotage ourselves because our own behavior only makes it harder to persuade them to bring about lasting change.

What’s the answer? Dale Carnegie’s already told us, “Stop criticizing, condemning and complaining!” You protest, “But then they’ll never change!” That might be true but at least you won’t have wasted your breath and frustrated yourself in the process. And remember, we’re going to be looking at nearly three dozen other ideas, including nine ways to encourage people to change without giving offense so hang in with me and look for another post next Monday.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

1 reply
  1. Carlo Zampiva
    Carlo Zampiva says:

    Great Brian! I read "how to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie this summer and I think it is a masterpiece. Very very good book!

    Reply

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