How not to win
friends and influence people.
ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER
writing a Christmas column for our local newspaper, the Rome (GA) News Tribune,
I was reminded of a basic communications skills tenet. Part of the column went
philosopher, whose name escapes me at the moment, has stated that there are three
stages of life:
1: You believe in Santa Claus.
Stage 2: You don't believe in
Stage 3: You are Santa Claus.
I think I'm in a fourth stage. This
has come about as I have aged further, and find myself becoming less loveable and
more cantankerous. This has tended to make me more Scrooge-like at Christmas time.
The wife of a deceased distant relative, whom
I've never even met, sends me a Christmas card and a two-page, single-spaced newsletter
every year. As best I can tell, none of her children or grandchildren has as yet
received a Nobel Prize. However, this seems to be about the only honor they have
In addition to the detailed description
of all the remarkable things they have accomplished over the past year, she further
brightens my holiday season with a blow-by-blow description of her recent surgeries
and health problems.
The poor lady is just attempting to
get people to see that she's important. Everyone wants to feel important. But she
obviously doesn't realize that a basic tenet of communication is that you don't
communicate your importance to people by boasting about it.
As a stage–4 Scrooge, her newsletter sure
didn't convince me of her importance. I suspect even younger recipients, much less
crotchety than I, were also turned off. I was tempted to send her the following
"We've had a real good year since last
Christmas. We're right–proud of our granddaughter, Lavonia. She was elected
president of her sophomore class. It's the first time in the history of the school
that anyone has been president of the sophomore class three years in a row!
"Our eldest son, Ezra, received a reward
for good behavior! It got him out of prison two years early. And we're right–proud
of our little granddaughter, Tessie Lou too. She was selected as the poster child
for the Zero Population Growth movement.
"Also you may remember Clem, who was
an unwanted child? He's really come up in the world. Now he's wanted in 12 states!
Our youngest daughter, Rachel Lou,
has graduated from high school in just three terms. (George Bush the elder's,
Clinton's, and George Bush III's.)"
I may also tell her about my hemorrhoid
surgery in detail (no pun intended). That ought to brighten her holidays, just as
she brightens mine.
A Christmas present I received reminded me of
another communications lesson: the necessity to make certain your questions or statements
are not misunderstood.
The present was a Carl Hurley audio
tape. One of the stories he told was about the man who got lost while driving through
the hills of Kentucky. Coming across an elderly farmer by the side of the road,
he stopped and asked him, "How do you get to Louisville?"
"Wal, mostly," the old man drawled,
"my son-in-law carries me."
OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S
ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM. CONTACT HIM AT RUNNINGERJ@AOL.COM
Optometric Management, Issue: February 2006