Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” turns 75 this year and its publisher – for better or for worse – is releasing an updated version that deals with the peculiarities of the digital age. Carnegie originally wrote this classic in an era where most communication was face-to-face, so it is understandable that those charged with stewarding his legacy are concerned to do what they can to maintain its relevance. The trouble with updating timeless favorites, however, is that they run the risk of blunting the original message.
Take for example these substitutions:
OLD Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
NEW What will you do when the best road to business growth goes through someone with whom you have already burned the relational bridge?
Have we really evolved beyond the point where we can follow simple advice, without requiring an explanation? Must everything be sugar-coated in our era of political correctness? One of the mistakes many young parents make is that they feel the need to explain everything to the child in great detail, rather than simply expecting agreement and compliance. What this breeds is a child who does not know how to move easily with authority, an especially dangerous trait in emergency situations (e.g. Parent: “Get off of the road!” Child: “Why?”). While I do agree that every child must learn to weigh his or her options against a set of expected consequences, I also feel that at a certain level every child must possess a fundamental building block to character: obedience.
Another of the updates further illustrates the point, albeit in a less obvious way:
OLD “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.”
NEW “With so many opportunities to be heard, many seem keen on thrusting forth their right to speak when someone else is wrong, yet they just as quickly shrink into their right to remain silent when it is they who are wrong.”
The updated version is an excellent observation, but like the previous example, it dances around the core message rather than laying it on the table in plain sight. In my experience, when it is time to swallow a bitter pill you are wise to hurry up and swallow it. There is rarely any advantage gained by hemming and hawing, insisting that it be coated, packaged or delivered in a different way. If you are a male of the species, then man up; if you are a female of the species, then put on your big girl panties and deal with it. By all means, never delay the necessary!
The discomfort of a well-deserved lesson lasts only as long as you forestall the full acceptance of responsibility for misplaced orientation, unclear thinking and misguided action. Once you accept it and move forward, allowing for a permanent redirection, you realign yourself with the power of life that allows you to overcome with much less ado the next time the issue comes to point. Your reputation in the minds of others may take a while to catch up, but if you stay true to the truth that sits at the core of your new realization, you will reveal yourself to be a different person over time.