Good morning! It’s been so long since I last published a blog post. I’ve been bombarded with papers, projects, and assignments from work/school for the past couple of months that I barely had any time to pursue any of my hobbies-including blogging. But now that I am on a break from my intern work and school, I figured that it’s the perfect time to write one!
For this blog post, I wanted to write about a book that I’ve been reading the past month, called “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s a very well-known book so I’m sure many of you know of it. I’ve been getting recommendations for this book from numerous of my acquaintances but never really had the chance to read it until now. I regret not getting a hold of this book much before.
The book talks exactly about what is stated in its title: how to win friends and influence people around you. What was difficult about this book was not the reading itself but applying the concepts that are presented in each chapter. Out of the six ways that Carnegie offers in making people like you, the one that I found most difficult to put into practice was smiling. To say that smiling is an arduous task may sound absurd to some people; but if you think about it, how many times in a day do you ever pass by strangers in the street who look at you and give you a smile? How many times do you walk by strangers and show them a smile? Seeing a smile is more rare than you think, especially if you live in a big city like I do, where people are usually busy, annoyed, or tired. Carnegie doesn’t tell you to smile at only those who are close to you or who treat you well. He tells you to smile at those who give you an attitude, to strangers that you encounter throughout the day, to co-workers you don’t find to be pleasant, and even to the seemingly unimportant people in your life, such as the cashier working at your local grocery store or a janitor working in your school.
Today, I want to write about a recent incidence in which I decided to apply this concept and how this decision of mine allowed me to develop a relationship with a certain individual that I never would’ve thought was possible.
Every time I have nothing to do at home, I like to just go out to a café because I feel like it forces myself to spend my time wisely-either by reading a book or getting some studying done-rather than just lounging around in my bed watching YouTube or binge-watching countless episodes of Friends or The Handmaid’s Tale (so sad Season 2 is over). I’ve been a regular at this café since they first opened so I’m pretty close with all the workers there. It’s to the point where as soon as they see me on the line, they ask, “One bagel with cream cheese and a medium iced latte, right?” Right. They know exactly how I like my bagel and latte.
Recently however, one of the old workers who always used to take my order quit and a new worker took over the position. When she called “next customer”, I walked up to the line and said, “Good morning! You must be a new worker.” The response that I got from her was completely the opposite of what I had expected. I expected her to smile and say, “Good morning! Yes, I’m new. Nice to meet you. What can I get for you?” But instead, she continued to stare at the cash register screen-not even bothering to look up at me-and coldly answered, “Yeah, what do you want?” I was dumbfounded and repulsed at the type of response that I got that I almost called for the manager but not wanting to make an unnecessary scene, I just ordered my usual bagel and latte and walked away.
The next day I went to the café, the same worker was there. Remembering how she made me feel the previous day, I placed my order using the most bitter and unfriendly tone possible. She looked up; then, after a brief moment of awkward silence, she gave me my change and I walked away. The next time I went to the café, the worker didn’t even bother to greet me or ask me what I want. I could sense she was bitter about the way I placed in my order previously. When I told her my usual order and gave her my cash, she literally snatched the bill from my hand, closed the register with full force, and handed me the change without even looking at me. This kind of vicious cycle in which both of us would express our low-key bitterness towards one another continued for a couple of days.
Just when I was really bothered by this situation, I landed on Chapter 2 of Dale Carnegie’s book, which talked about a simple way to make a good impression. In the chapter, Dale Carnegie tells the readers to “treat those who come with complaints or grievances in a cheerful manner… give appreciation and praise.” This reminded me of another principle that Carnegie mentions in his earlier chapter, which was that we can bring the best out of a person only when we give that person appreciation and encouragement. He then continues on by quoting Charles Schwab, the chairman of the Charles Schwab Corporation: “I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.” I meditated on these statements for quite awhile and realized that I must apply these principles the next time I encounter that worker at the café. It didn’t matter that I took a billion notes and highlighted a bunch of lines in the book; if I don’t put them into use in real life, I realized that I would’ve just wasted both my money and time, purchasing and reading the book just to do the exact opposite of winning friends and influencing people around me.
Determined, I walked into the café the very next day, saw the worker, and said, “Good morning! I will get a medium iced latte and a ham and cheese danish today,” Then, I gave her the biggest smile that I can possibly ever give, hoping that it didn’t look too feigned. She looked up with a slightly shocked expression on her face; nevertheless, her attitude didn’t change the slightest bit. She still accepted my bill quite aggressively and didn’t give me a “good morning” back. I didn’t get mad however, because that was the response that I kind of expected to get-you can’t change a person just by trying once. It takes consistent effort. So for the next couple of days, I repeated the same steps: walk up to the counter, smile, place in my order in a friendly tone, say “thank you”, leave tip, and walk away.
Then, as Dale Carnegie promised in his book, a miracle happened. After about a week or two of treating her that way, the worker began to actually smile back at me and even say things like “I love that flavor too” when I ordered a mango flavored gelato.
Gradually, I noticed that the way she treated me was more affectionate and benign. Now, she and I have actually become close acquaintances-all because I took that initial step to smile and speak kindly to her. Believe me, it was not easy. Smiling and greeting her “good morning” meant giving up my pride; it meant, “Okay, fine. I lose. I actually want to be friends with you.” Admitting that you want to be friends with someone who clearly does not seem to have the same feeling towards you is difficult. However, what I wanted to protect more than my pride was my relationship with others around me. I may have lost my pride but I gained something far more valuable-a new friendship.