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Psychology & Communication

Sources of Power – How People Make Decisions – 2

Note: as this book is dense and comprehensive, I am publishing its summary into two parts. This is the part two, part one is here.

Book Chronicle and Summary of “Sources of Power”, part two:

Chapter 9: Non-Linear Aspects of Problem Solving

The leverage point concept (see previous chronicle) leads to thinking about problem solving as a constructive process. It is constructive in the sense that solutions can be created from leverage points and that the objective’s profound nature can be clarified whilst the person solving the problem is trying to develop a solution.

The leverage points of problem solving require a non-linear approach rather than a linear approach. Problem solving undergoes four stages:

  • Problem detection
  • Problem representation
  • Options generation
  • Evaluation

Non-Linear Aspects of Problem Solving

There is no output stage as each one of these stages can generate a different type of output.

Problem detection is in itself an output, for example in military or health and safety radar surveillance stations of a country.

Problem representation is another output, sometimes sufficient for determining how to proceed: there are certain medical diagnosticians whose job consists mainly of providing an excellent problem representation. Producing forecasts is in itself a professional specialism in many jobs.

Generating an action plan is the step many people consider to be the output of problem solving. But whatever way options are generated, they will have to be evaluated, often through mental simulation.

The evaluation process can lead to adopting an option, or to identifying new barriers and opportunities, which require further problem solving.

The pattern shows why the process is interactive and non-linear. The objectives affect the way in which we evaluate the action plan, and evaluation can help us determine better objectives. The objectives determine the way in which we evaluate the situation, and the things we learn about the situation change the nature of the objectives. The objectives determine the barriers and the leverage points we are looking for, and the discovery of these barriers and leverage points alter the objectives themselves. The way we identify the causes leading up to this situation also affect the types of objectives that are adopted. Moreover, the leverage points we become aware of go beyond our own experience and our own abilities – on another interaction level.

Let’s see through a concrete example how a business has changed its objectives because of the way it evaluated its business plan. By evaluating an action plan, managers discover a leverage point opportunity. This information makes them revise their objective and lead them to synthetize a more extensive action plan:

A parent company has a network of franchises. Each of these franchises uses telemarketing to get customers and each must hire, train and manage telesales staff, which the franchise managers find hard going and annoying.

The marketing director of the parent company identifies this as a problem, but with an obvious solution: the parent company can centralize telemarketing onto one site. The head of the business is not too keen on the idea, as it requires a large investment. He then realizes that, with a centralized team of telesales staff, he could develop his idea of taking orders directly over the phone. At this point, he becomes even more enthusiastic about this project than the marketing director himself.

Whilst the marketing director and the chairman were doing a mental simulation of the proposed telesales center, the chairman noticed a new possibility. The idea to use telesales staff for sales increased the aspiration level of the chairman and changed the nature of the objective he wanted to pursue. This opportunity also suggested additional series of actions, which can easily be integrated into the original objective to help the franchises.

Chapter 10: The Power to See the Invisible

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Sources of Power

How People Make Decisions

sources of power

Sentence summarizing “Sources of Power” : We all have to make decisions, and sometimes these decisions have important – or even dramatic – consequences, which must be taken into account at difficult times and within strong time constraints; how do firemen, soldiers and doctors take split-second decisions when lives are at stake? This book tells us about it, detailing various theories illustrated with stories and case studies.

By Gary Klein, 1998, 300 pages

Chronicle of “Sources of Power”:

In 1984, Gary Klein carried out his first case study to try and understand how people make decisions, particularly under heavy time constraints. The task was to study how firefighters make choices in the heat of the moment, as part of a contract struck with the US Army. Amongst the predictions suggested at the start of the study, the author and his team thought that the firefighters would only have little time on the field to think of all the options and that they would only consider two options: that which was intuitively their favorite and another, which would be used for comparison to demonstrate why the favored option was the best.

This hypothesis was based on the work of Peer Soelberg in 1967. He was a professor at MIT and taught his students how to make decisions using a rational choice strategy consisting of five stages:

  1. Identify the options
  2. Identify the means for evaluating these options
  3. Ponder on each dimension of the evaluation
  4. Calculate the score
  5. Take the decision with the highest score

For his hypothesis, Soelberh studied how his students made a natural and determining choice: choosing their first job whilst they were still finishing the course. He discovered that his students did not use the rational choice strategy, but instead followed their instinct and made the choice they felt the most attracted to. After interviewing his students, Soelberg was able to identify their favorite job and predict their final choice with a success rate of 87%, 3 weeks before his students would announce their decisions.

When Soelberg asked them if they had reached a decision, they would deny it, claiming that a choice is made by studying several possibilities, just as Soelberg had taught them. However Soelberg noticed that students, in order to feel like they had made a decision, tended to take another offer, compare it with their favorite choice, and then tried to demonstrate how much the latter was preferable. Then they would declare it to be their decision the instinctive choice Soelberg had previously identified. They were therefore not making a decision; they were constructing a justification.

Gary Klein and his team hence suggested that the firefighters would do likewise. But strangely, as they were interviewing Fire Officers, it appeared that they never seemed to simultaneously compare two options. Some Fire Officers even insisted on the fact that they never actually made decision, in the sense of studying two or several options at once in order to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each. They simply did not have the time. Everything would have burnt before they’d had the time to study all the options, never mind weighing and comparing. Let’s find out the decisional system firefighters actually use.

Chapter 3: The decision making model based on the first observation

Studying deeper, the researchers realized that Fire Officers did not refuse to compare options: they didn’t have to do it. Fire Officers are experienced firefighters. Even faced with a complex situation, they are able to see what is familiar to them and how to react. Their experience allows them to immediately identify the first thing to do to respond to a situation, therefore they do not bother thinking about other ones. They are not stubborn. They are competent. This is what the researchers call recognition-primed decision-making, or RPD model.

So does this mean that firefighters systematically implement the first thing that comes into their heads? No. They evaluate the feasibility and the chances of success of the first option that comes to mind. If these two parameters appear too weak, they then reject this first option and evaluate a second one, and so on, without comparing two possibilities at the same time. This is what the researchers call singular evaluation approach, to differentiate it from the comparative approach.

These are not easy to differentiate: when you are ordering a meal, you are probably going to compare all the dishes on offer to find the one you like the best. If you are in an unknown city and you are almost out of gas, you are going to look for gas stations and stop at the first decent one, without comparing all of the city’s gas stations in order to find the best value for money. Singular evaluation approach is therefore a strategy that makes you opt for a satisfactory decision. It is very different from making an optimized decision: in order to be satisfied, you only need to make the first decision you deem suitable, in order to optimize you need to consider a large number of choices and only select the best one. This satisfying decision strategy obviously makes sense in an emergency situation such as those firefighters encounter.

In his case, however, how can firefighters rule out or select an option, if they’re not comparing it to another? They use mental simulation: they mentally picture the scene from the option they are considering and can see the consequences happening in their heads. If these consequences appeal to them, they select the option. Otherwise, they mentally simulate the outcome of another decision.

As we will see below, mental simulation is not free of failures. But it is often the best available tool usable within the allocated time.

Before he began his study, the author thought that novices were jumping more impulsively on the first option they could think of, whereas the experts would carefully study the merits of each option. It in fact appeared that the opposite is true: experts know what to do and therefore immediately think of a viable solution faced with a problem, whereas novices have to compare various approaches, when they sometimes do not have time to do so.

Finally. Gary Klein and his team sorted the 156 decisions they collected during these studies into 4 categories:

 

Choosing from options they are given

0

Comparative Evaluation

18 (half come from a case where the firefighters had no experience)

Creative Decision (imagining solutions which had never been used before)

11

RPD, based on singular evaluation approach

127

Therefore, almost 80% of decisions were taken using singular evaluation approach based on the RPD model.

Applications

One of the first lessons to draw from this analysis is to be skeptical as to the formal decision methods. These are methods that are rarely used.

Chapter 4: The Power of Intuition

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Made to Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – 2

Note: this book being also very comprehensive, I am publishing its summary in two parts. This is Part Two. Part One is here.

Made to stick

Book review and summary, Part II:

Chapter 5: Emotion

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

Mother Theresa

Scientific research shows that Mother Theresa’s precept is true for most of us. Charity organizations have known this for a long time: we do not give to “poverty in Africa”, but we sponsor this or that child. It is very difficult for us to feel compassion for statistics. Although we are aware that the economical situation in Africa is dreadful, we often do not feel concerned enough to act. Seeing an individual suffer, and knowing that we can do something to soothe their ordeal, is quite different.

Charity organizations are not the only ones needing to make people feel concerned. Managers, teachers, politicians and many others need to motivate their colleagues, their pupils, their troops.

What should you be looking for in order to motivate human beings? Appeal to what matters to them. And what matters to them? What are they concerned about?

The answer is simple: themselves. You therefore need to appeal to… their personal interest, and explain: “what can you gain from it” in the messages and ideas you want to convey. How many teachers have heard their pupils ask “But what’s the point of it?”. Do you think pupils are motivated to learn if their teacher cannot answer this question? And what if we could tell them that algebra improves your video game performances, would a teacher hesitate to say it? Would any teacher doubt that it would make the pupils more attentive?

If you have their personal interest on your side, don’t hesitate. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t say: “People will feel safe with GoodYear Tires”, say: “You will feel safe with GoodYear Tires”.

There is however a more subtle way to appeal to the people’s personal interests. In 1982, psychologists carried out a survey on persuasion: students visited homeowners and asked them to answer questionnaires for a presentation. At the time, cable TV was only just beginning and most people had only vaguely heard of it. The survey was meant to compare the efficiency of two different approaches to make people subscribe to cable television, which was to be rolled out a month later.

In the first approach, the following text was presented:

“Cable television will provide its subscribers with more extensive news and entertainment services. Used appropriately, it gives the viewer freedom to plan in order to enjoy the programs on offer. The subscribers may spend more time at home with their family, on their own or with friends, thus saving the hassle of a night out, as well as babysitting and petrol expenses.

In the second approach, the homeowners were asked to imagine a precise scenario:

“Take a few moments and imagine how cable television is going to allow you to enjoy more extensive news and entertainment services. When you know how to use it, you will be able to plan ahead the events you want to watch. Think about it: no more hassle for a night out, not to mention the savings on babysitting and fuel. You will be able to spend time at home, with your family, on your own, or with your friends.”

The differences between the two texts may seem minor. But count the number of times the word you is used in both samples.

One month after the survey, cable television was rolled out in the city and the researchers analyzed the homeowners’ subscriptions. Result: 20% of the first group had subscribed, in keeping with the subscription rate in the area; on the other hand, in the second group, 47% of the homeowners had subscribed.

The subtitle of the article the researchers published was “Is imagining making things happen”. The answer was: it is.

The benefit to the buyer here was not indeed all this valuable. The main argument was: “by subscribing to cable TV, you save yourself the hassle of getting out of your house” (!). These results suggest that – more so than their importance – it is in fact the tangible and concrete aspect of the benefit that clearly comes out when people imagine them, which make them feel concerned.

There is indeed no need to promise the earth: it is often enough to promise reasonable benefits people can easily imagine themselves enjoying.

Personal interest, however, does not explain everything, as Abraham Maslow attempted to demonstrate in his famous pyramid. A recent study presented the following scenario to a selection of people:

Imagine a company offering its employees a $1,000 bonus should they achieve a number of objectives. Here are three ways of presenting the bonus to the staff:

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Made to Stick

Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

Made to Stick

One sentence-summary: Some ideas influence their audience, making a mark on their memory for a long time and even making them act; whilst others are forgotten having hardly been heard. The authors study the ideas which do stick and explain their adhesion mechanisms.

By Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2007, 285 pages.

Note: this book being also very comprehensive, I am publishing its summary in two parts. This is the first. I’m afraid this will be the case for many books in the Psychology & Communication section 😉 .

Summary of “Made to Stick”:

You will never guess what happened to one of my friends’ friend – Frank, not to name him. He was in Seattle for an important meeting with a client. Once the meeting over, as he still had time before catching his flight home, he went to a bar for a drink.

He had just finished his first glass when an attractive young woman came by and offered him a drink. Surprised, but nonetheless flattered, he accepted. She returned with two drinks. Thank you, he said, and took his first sip. After this, it was a total blackout.

When he woke up, comatose, he was lying in a hotel bathtub, his body covered in ice. He looked around him, panicked, trying to remember what he was doing there. His attention was then drawn to a small piece of paper:

DO NOT MOVE. PHONE 911.

There was a cellphone on a small table beside the bathtub. He struggled to reach, his fingers numbed with the cold, and dialed the emergency number.

At the other end of the line, the switchboard operator did not sound surprised. “Sir, could you please reach your arm behind your back? Can you feel something? A catheter in your lower back?”

Worried, he did as she asked. There was indeed a catheter.

“Do not panic, Sir, said the young lady. You have just had a kidney removed. You are the victim of an organ trafficking network wreaking havoc in the city. The ambulance is on its way.

Congratulations.

You have just read one of the most popular urban legends of the past fifteen years, which has gone round the Internet in every language and in many forms. A story easily remembered, a striking story, a story that sticks; albeit a completely fake story.

Let’s now look at an article published in the newsletter of a charity organization:

The communities’ make-up in the broader sense lends itself by nature to an equation of return on investment, which can be reproduced by referring to existing practices. […] The fact that, in order to maintain transparency, the donor organizations often have to target or classify into categories the donated sums, is a factor limiting the flow of resources towards our organization.

Now, do something for ten minutes, anything, and then call a friend and tell him the two stories. Which one do you think you will remember the best? And which one will you be able to explain to your friend in simple terms?

An urban legend on the one hand, a few lines from an article out of context on the other: the comparison between the two is indeed biased. However, it perfectly demonstrates the two extremes of what the authors call “the scale of memorability”. And it also perfectly illustrates that some stories stick and others don’t.

We could be led to believe that some ideas are inherently interesting – a gang of organ thieves – and others inherently boring – the financial strategy of a charity organization. This is certainly partly true. But in this nature/nurture debate as applied to ideas, Chip Heath and Dan Heath gamble on nurture: ideas are made to be interesting rather than interesting by nature.

In 1992, Art Silverman, an employee of the Center for Science in the Public Interest – a non-profit making organization aimed at educating consumers in the field of nutrition – was contemplating a packet of popcorn.

He had just received the test results of popcorn packets collected at a dozen cinemas in three major American cities. Everyone had been surprised at the results: a bag contained on average 37 grams of saturated fat. The recommended maximum amount was 20 grams per day.

The coconut oil, which was used at the time, was to blame, as it was full of saturated fat.

Something had to be done. This bag, which could easily be eaten between meals, contained in itself almost two day’s worth of saturated fat. But how was the public going to be informed? For the majority, “37 grams of saturated fat” does not mean much. Is it good or bad? And even if it were bad, would it be “bad bad”, like tobacco, or “normal bad”, like a biscuit or a treat?

And of course, the phrase “37 grams of saturated fat” is boring enough to make the consumers run a mile. No one is turned on by saturated fat.

There were many means of transmitting the message to the public. But it had to be something extravagant to match the extravagance of this nutritional aberration. So the CSPI organized a press conference delivering this message:

An average portion of popcorn sold at a local cinema contains more dangerous fat for the arteries than a breakfast with bacon and eggs, lunch with a Big Mac and fries, and dinner with steak and all the trimmings – all in one!

And this message was reinforced with visuals. A table crammed with all these fatty foods. An entire day of unbalanced diet on a table; beside it, a bag of popcorn.

The story was a hit and got the honors of television channels. Very soon, the consumers stopped buying popcorn and cinemas, hand on heart, declared that they would no longer use coconut oil to make their popcorn. The idea had stuck.

Note: I did some research on this precise point and it appears that the opinions are far from being unanimous on the actual harm caused by coconut oil and the scientific value of the CSPI. As is often the case, it is hard to find a unanimous opinion concerning nutritional recommendations, as the experts and organizations do not agree with one other and individual interests are hidden and nebulous. For examples of articles against the CSPI or the noxiousness of coconut oil, see here or there.

Looking at the stories that stick and the ones that don’t, the Heath brothers set out to search for the common characteristics which could explain why some stories stick and others don’t, studying in particular hundreds of urban legends and widely spread proverbs.

They drew six determining principles from their research. In order for a story to stick, it requires:

  1. Simplicity. A great barrister claimed: “If you put forward ten arguments, even if they are relevant, the jury will have forgotten them all when they return to the deliberation room.” In order to be simple, an idea must be stripped down to its core, relentlessly excluding superfluous elements.
  2. The unexpected. In order to draw attention, intuitions must be challenged.
  3. Something practical. The ideas that naturally stick are full of concrete images. This is where business communication often stumbles.
  4. Credibility. If a Health Minister talks about a health problem, we are prepared to believe him. But we are not always given such a position of authority. Our ideas must therefore themselves bear their own letters of credit.
  5. Emotion. In order to inspire passion for our ideas, the audience or the readers have to feel something. We are made to feel things for individuals, not for abstractions.
  6. A story. Listening to a story or an anecdote is like a flight simulator, preparing us to react more quickly and more efficiently when a similar situation occurs.

Having read this list, you may think that these principles make sense. We all more or less know that we ought to “be simple” and “tell a story”. Do you know many soporific gibberish enthusiasts?

But if it were that simple, why are we not flooded with brilliantly designed sticking ideas?

Well, there’s a real baddie. Not Dark Vador, but a natural psychological tendency, which makes the application of these principles very difficult: the curse of knowledge.

In order to fully understand this principle, let’s look at a scientific study carried out in 1990 at Stanford University. It featured two groups of participants: “drummers” and “listeners”. The drummers were given 25 famous songs – such as The Star-Spangled Banner or Happy Birthday. They had to choose one and beat the tempo with their finger on a table to a listener. The listener had to guess which song it was.

The results were edifying: over the 120 songs played, the listeners identified on average 2.5%, i.e. 3 songs. But this is not what was edifying: before the drummers would play, they were asked to predict the success rate of the listeners: they estimated it to be 50%.

The drummers therefore managed to convey their message once in every 40 times, but thought they would manage it once every two times. Why?

They had knowledge the listeners did not have: the tune playing in their heads. For the listeners, the beats may as well have been Morse code, but for the drummers they accompanied the tempo of the music. And this knowledge made them almost impervious to the listeners’ incomprehension.

This is a perfect illustration of the curse of knowledge. You can try the experiment for yourself at home 😉 .

We will see this curse again in all the above principles detailed below. Follow the guide.

Chapter 1: Simplicity

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Deep Survival – 2

 

Note: Because this book is so thick and full of stories, anecdotes and repetition, making it difficut to summarize, I am publishing the summary in two parts. Here is the second. The first part is here. Moreover, certain chapters are somewhat redundant, I skipped the ones that I thought brought little value to the overall work. I have put a concise description in parentheses of each passage to do with the title of these chapters that I don’t necessarily address here.

Part 2 : Survival

When you see someone crying, whether because they are in mourning, or because their son is far away, or because they have lost a possession, be careful not to be carried away with the idea that bad things have befallen them. Remember that in the moment what is affecting them is not the accident, which doesn’t affect anyone but them, but the judgment that they bring to the accident.

Epictitus

 

  • Chapter 9 : Bending the Map (The importance of an appropriate mental model for your surroundings, the 5 stages of loss)

One day in 1998, Ken Killip, a strong and experienced firefighter, took a three day hike with his friend, York, in Rocky Mountain National Park, a huge wild expanse of some 1,000 square kilometers covered with mountains and forests

.

Parc National des Montagnes Rocheuses

Photo by The Brit 2

Parc National des Montagnes Rocheuses

Photo by tgrt

They had a specific itinerary to complete of around 10 kilometers with their heavily stuffed packs and one part of their hike took them up to height of 4,000 meters. They were sharing their load and York was carrying the tent. The latter had to regularly wait for Killip who walked less quickly than he did. After five or six hours, he got tired and left Killip behind – people regularly fail to understand that they should travel at the pace of the slowest, not more quickly.

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Deep Survival

Deep Survival - Qui Vit, Qui Meurt et Pourquoi

One sentence summary: In extraordinary circumstances, like accidents or catastrophes, some people survive and others die, such that sometimes things lead you to believe that the first ones die and the second ones survive; this book explains, using numerous stories of accidents and catastrophes, and by exploring the latest scientific theories – from neuroscience to the theory of chaos – what makes one person die and another survive.

By Laurence Gonzales, 2003, 295 pages.

Summary and book review:

The author begins by telling us the story of his father, a B17 bomber pilot – the flying fortress – during the Second World War. While conducting a raid on Dusseldorf, his plane was hit in midair by a shot from a German flak, which cut the left wing in two and killed nine crew members on the spot – out of ten. With his plane spinning around, pinned by centrifugal force, seriously wounded, he failed to grab his parachute and jump. He remained imprisoned in the cockpit for a six kilometer descent while the plane was cut in two. Then he fainted. When he came to, he was on the ground, and looked out at the world through the shattered window of the cockpit. He whole body was in agony, and a piece of the cockpit had penetrated his leg. A German farmer was standing in front of him, his gun pointed at him – at that time, they did not hesitate to kill American pilots from time to time. The German fired.

He survived. He was taken to a prisoner camp, then freed at the end of the war.

Laurence Gonzales’ interest in survival began when his father told him his story. The fact that he lived while so many others died fascinated him, and he wanted to understand, with the help of his interest in science. When five people were shipwrecked and only two came home, what was it that made the difference? Who survived the Nazi camps? Why did Robert Falcon Scott die during his expedition to the North Pole and Roald Amundsen survive? Why was a 17 year old adolescent girl the sole survivor to escape in the Peruvian jungle, while the adult victims with her in an air crash died? Why can some people survive the worst psychological catastrophes, like divorce, death, layoff, serious illness, while others suffer terribly? In his quest, he discovered principles that he tells us about in his book. Follow the guide.

Part 1 : How accidents happen

 

  • Chapter 1: Look out, here comes Ray Charles (The impact of emotion on our actions and how they are the cause of certain mistakes, the impact of fear and the effectiveness of humor)

Shortly before the author reached the American aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, an important step in his quest that was leading him to explore the frontier between life and death – frontier because some people succeed and others fail – a pilot was in the middle of landing, a normal sort of thing on such a boat. But his approach was too low. And many signals were indicating that to him, both in his cockpit and on the runway – the landing officer had turned on large red lights which meant your approach is not good, you should not land! And of course he yelled into his microphone, his voice echoing in the pilot’s helmet. But the latter continued, even though he only had to push down a fraction of an inch on the throttle to take off again and try a new approach.

The impact of the tail against the aircraft carrier cut the plane in two, and sent the pilot ricocheting off the runway in a shower of sparks, still clinging to his seat.

He survived. That was not the end of the story, that is not where the frontier is. The frontier can be found in this question: What was he thinking? He was intelligent, well prepared and had undergone extremely rigorous training. Something powerful blocked him. Something strong enough to continue trying to hit the runway even though all signals indicated that he wouldn’t make it. This reminded Laurence Gonzales of numerous accidents in dangerous sports like canyoneering which happened because people were ignoring the obvious signs for some inexplicable reason. It is this mystery that the author was trying to solve.

What the pilots of the Carl Vinson know, is that some time issues come up. There are things that you cannot control and you would be better off knowing how you are going to react to them.

The first rule is: face up to reality. Good survivors are not immune to fear. They know what is happening and fear permeates them completely. The whole question is what they do right afterwards.

When a pilot takes the controls of a plane and soars off the runway, he is often in a state of advanced excitement. Flying is his passion and sometimes he only lives for that. Every flight is a pure moment of joy and happiness, even though he is piloting several tons of a highly unstable machine that is full of explosive fuel where the slightest mistake could be fatal. They take a calculated risk just as snowboarders do before taking off from the top of a mountain, alpine climbers, parachutists and numerous other sports.

At times like that, people are not really totally present. They are each in a state of perception, of awareness, of memory and of deeply altered emotion.

Today, scientific studies tell us that emotions are an instinctive response designed for survival. These are faster than intellect, and occur due to many physical changes which are preparations for action. The nervous system becomes more energetic, blood changes its chemistry so that it coagulates more quickly, digestion stops, and numerous chemicals are sent in the blood to help the body become ready for everything that must be done. Reason is hesitant, slow and fallible, while emotions are sure, rapid and unhesitating.

There are primary and secondary emotions. Primary emotions are those you are born with, like the need to search for food or the sudden desire to catch something when you feel it falling. And the emotional system can get hung up on anything and everything. If you are a soldier at war, evolution has not formed your brain to throw you to the ground at the slightest gunshot. But once you have made a connection between gunshots and the risk of death, this connection becomes so deep that you don’t even need to think when it happens; your reaction is automatic. These are secondary emotions: connections between things and primary emotions that make reactions automatic.

Fear is a very powerful emotion. During a fear reaction, amygdale in the brain – as opposed to throat amygdale – helps to put in motion a series of incredible, complex events designed to produce a reaction that aids survival, bypassing the intellect. For example, if you are walking up a mountain path and notice something on the ground that looks like a snake, you will stop dead before you have even really registered what is on the ground because the strategy that evolution has fashioned with amygdale is “better be safe than sorry.” Then the neocortex takes over and tells you whether you are looking at a simple stick or an actual snake.

Many pilots, therefore, experience fear when they are in the landing stage – taking off is optional, but landing is a must – and fear in the cockpit is like knights dueling in a telephone booth. Pilots out of necessity develop a very strong secondary emotion associating safety, and even ecstasy with the ground – or the flight deck – and the overwhelming feeling that if only they can get this thing on the ground they will be safe and sound. A pilot develops a physical memory of this feeling, which is a powerful driving force for action coupled with direct experience with a primary emotion. He also has intellectual know-how telling him that if he tries to land, if it is too low or too slow, he could die. Unfortunately, he has no secondary emotions linked to that event since he has never experienced it. It is an abstract concept which cannot fight on equal terms to become a driving force to act upon.

So fear is often a stress trigger. In the case of stress, the brain secretes cortisol, which has many effects, one of the most important being the fact that it erodes our ability to perceive things and constrains our field of vision by targeting only what we think are the most important. And sometimes these are not good things. Therefore sometimes a pilot focuses too much on what he feels is the most important thing: the landing strip. His home. And thus the pilot of the Carl Vinson very well may not have heard the voice of the landing officer and not seen the red lights on the bridge. His body was doing what it knew was best for him: escaping the danger and getting to safety as quickly as possible. The rest of the environment became uninteresting noise efficiently filtered out by his brain.

So he hit the carrier.

 

  • Chapter 4 : A gorilla in our midst (How the brain filters reality, mental models, and the limits of working memory)

As complex as the brain is, the world is even more so. The brain cannot deal with and organize all the facts it receives. It could not define a reasonable plan of action if everything was treated equally and perceived with the same intensity. Thus, the brain must simplify reality and only perceive a part of it in order to be able to deal with it, otherwise it would cave under the weight of the complexity. This is what is difficult about logic: it happens step by step in a linear manner. Reality is not linear.

The brain’s role with respect to reality is similar to that of a search engine with respect to millions of pages that it finds on the internet. Without a powerful search engine you are paralyzed.

One of the brain’s search engines involves emotional book-marks, in which emotions help to direct logic and direct reason towards a place where they can do useful work. A second strategy that the brain uses to manage complicated problems is to create mental models, simplified schema of reality. A mental model can tell you what the rules are for a particular environment or the color and shape of a familiar object.

Magicians use this creation of a temporary mental model in their most subtle tricks, a short term memory of the world. Every world model has its own underlying assumptions based on experience, memory, secondary emotions and emotional book marks, which influence our expectations and what we see and what we plan to do about it. The magician creates a world model then passes from one model to another so quickly that you remain stuck in the first model, and you are surprised by the new reality he shows you. It is the disconnect between the first model and the second model that is surprising. You believe that it’s the magician doing the trick, but in fact you are doing it yourself.

One of the reasons why magic tricks work can be explained by the working memory. The working memory is a temporary memory which manages what we are doing at the moment. It can only manage a few things at one time, maybe half a dozen or so, when new things require our attention, these elements are forgotten. The working memory can also use information from long term memory. The fact that you are able to read this long sentence is the result of your short term memory which is capable of remembering the beginning, the middle and the end of the sentence, while using definitions and associations coming from your long term memory to understand the meaning of the words. It is also the result of the fact that you have created mental models of the words, you have associated to the symbol – the word – a meaning, an image of reality. When you read camel you immediately think of a camel, if you have ever seen a picture of that animal. If you have never seen a picture of that animal, then the meaning that you attribute to this word will depend on knowledge that you have acquired about this subject – perhaps you will classify it in the general category of “animal,” you might associate it with the desert or put it simply in the case of “I don’t know what it is” – and you do this in an instant.

The fact that new information – and in particular emotionally laden information – forces things to leave our working memory means that we cannot pay attention to many things at once. Unless something is transferred successfully to our long term memory, it is lost.

Working memory is therefore our attention. Its limited nature, together with the inevitable failings of the mental models, can cause surprising deficiencies in the way in which we comprehend reality and make conscious or unconscious decisions.

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  • Chapter 5 : Anatomy of an Act of God (the need for humility, the cause for mistakes)

If you distill all the cognitive sciences, psychology and neurosciences over the last hundred years, you will find that we are always Homo but only sometimes Sapiens. We are emotional creatures, which is to say physical creatures. Neurologist Joseph Ledoux concluded that “people do all sorts of things for reasons they are not conscious of…and that is one of the principal jobs of the conscience to make our lives have a coherent manner, in a self concept.” Therefore, each of us is the hero in our own movie.

It is therefore not surprising to note that in many cases the mechanisms underlying survival, which are directly wired in us and sculpted by experience, are revealed not only to be powerful motivation elements pushing us to action, but also work to their maximum which they short circuit conscious mechanisms. Once an emotional reaction has taken hold, this can lead to an imperious desire to act.

But there are many ways to revise the script and adapt to dangerous situations. Training is one. All performers at the top of their profession train hard, and if you follow in their footsteps you are interested in being well trained as well. If we are beginners, we are confronted in mother nature with the same level of difficulty as the experts: she does not adapt herself to our level.

The practice of Zen teaches us that it is impossible to add anything to a teacup filled with water. The same thing is true of our mind. A closed attitude that says “I already know that” can lead us to miss important information. Zen teaches openness. Survival teachers refer to it when they talk about “humility.” Generally, highly skilled performers such as professional rescue personnel have an exceptional personal balance between bravery and humility.

Just being aware of nature’s pitfalls can help; it helps us remember that we are primates with a recent new functionality that is only somewhat tested; the neocortex. What we see as failings in the mind are probably nothing more than nature’s process which is quietly tinkering with simple rules over a long period of evolutionary time. Nature always uses plenty of individuals of all species in her experiments, and we are her ultimate experiment. It’s nothing personal then, when our brains play tricks on us. It’s nothing personal either when we die, as Marc-Aurèle, the philosopher emperor put it.

 

  • Chapter 6 : The sand pile effect (Accidents as a natural effect of systems)

What we call “accidents” do not happen by themselves. People must assemble the framework that makes them happen. Furthermore, nothing can stay happening for a long time. That is how mountains can have the reputation for being easy and well suited for beginning climbers. However accidents do happen, often involving experienced people who have climbed much more difficult mountains.

It was like this in 2002 that a drama unfolded on Mount Hood, a supposedly easy mountain in Oregon. 4 mountain climbers, one of whom was very experienced, arrived at the summit. After enjoying the view, they began their descent, all attached to the same cord, the novice at the bottom and the most experienced at the top. They did not use pitons to attach the cord, it was attached to them. The cord helped hold someone if they fell, but only on condition that the person at the top did not fall. Effectively, the distance between the climbers could be 10 meters (about 32 feet), so that if the person at the top fell, the second would absorb the impact when the first falls 20 meters (twice as long as the cord between the two of them), leading to an impact of such force that the second person would have to fall, and so on. That is why the most experienced person is at the top. They are not supposed to fall.

So on that day, Ward, the experienced mountain climber, slipped and fell. He led the other three in his fall, and this fine group led another two climbers who were down below them, then three more who were making their ascent. The nine of them fell into a crevice. Three died, including Ward.

This kind of accident must happen, as is always the case, to someone somewhere. All the available theories tell us that it is an inevitable part of the system at large that puts climbers on snow-covered slopes in large numbers. In his book Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow defends the idea that in certain types of systems big accidents, while rare, are both normal and inevitable. Accidents are a characteristic of the system itself.

Mountain climbers roped themselves in a team without belaying to anchor themselves all the time. They use axes for support poles while they descend

.

Alpiniste utilisant un piolet

Photo par massimobottelli

The accident on Mount Hood involved two big categories of effects: the mechanical system that the climbers were using and the psychology and physiology that contributed to the accident.

In system accidents, unexpected interactions between forces and components are generated naturally by the complexity of the system. This type of accident is made up of conditions, judgments, acts and events that would be inconsequential by themselves; at least if they were not associated with “right time” and “right place,” they would pass unnoticed. So Ward had slipped in the past, but he had always managed to catch himself before a fatal fall. He had also already belayed, but without ever falling to the point of it being useful to him. Thus Charles Perrow observed that most of the time, nothing serious happens, which leads operators – in this case climbers – to believe that the behavior of the system that they see is the only possible state of the system.

When a system is tightly coupled, its effects can expand in an exponential manner. In a system that is loosely coupled or uncoupled, the effects don’t affect other parts of the system. Therefore in a closely arranged row of dominoes there is a strong relationship between the state of an individual domino and the state of all the dominoes: if one falls, all the others will be affected. But if the dominoes are sufficiently well spaced, if one falls there won’t be any consequences for the others.

If the climbers were not attached to each other, the consequences of Ward’s fall would have been much less dramatic. But the accident was, however, no-one’s fault. It was a logical consequence of the self-directed system. So the Mount Hood accident was predictable, but no-one could know which mountain climbers were going to fall, nor where, nor when, nor with what injuries. The climbers were familiar with the system and had a good idea of how it worked, but only of its most common states. This type of huge accident, when it happens, happens very fast and can’t be stopped.

 

  • Chapter 7 : The rules of life (psychological causes of accidents)

There are two environments, two worlds, on Mount Hood. One is designed for the survival and comfort of humans. The other is not. There are mechanical chair lifts, pavilions, and a five star restaurant with its pinot noir and its rosemary crostini. In that place you can look out over thousands of square meters of natural wilderness while sipping your white wine, with an indifference more impudent than any animal would dare to entertain. The mountain is safely contained behind double-paned glass.

But we can only reign over our little model of the world. It is easy to cross this invisible line between that which has been adapted for us and that which requires that we adapt to it. But it is also easy to forget and bring with us this false sense of security that can be fatal for us when we cross the line. So the nine mountain climbers could have taken a little bit of this attitude with them from the pavilion to the mountain. Their success in life, their objectives, their plans and their imaginations took them there. They earned money to do this sort of thing. They earned the reward that their life mastery had bought them. People are part of a mechanical system but they are also a system in themselves.

Risk homeostasis theory states that people accept a certain level of risk and the more you perceive the environment as less risky, the more risks you take and vice versa. Therefore when the ABS breaking system was introduced in cars, the number of accidents overall remained the same because drivers who had them felt safer and took more risks. In the same way, the mountain climbers who have tackled reputedly dangerous mountains with maximum precaution, have a tendency to relax when they are climbing on reputedly safer mountains.

So, as Heraclite put is over 2500 years ago now, “every time we enter a river, it’s a different river.” And every time you hike on Mount Hood, it’s a different mountain. Studies of mountain accidents show that there are three factors that contributed to Mount Hood: 1) the descent, 2) everyone was roped together and 3) no belay. These three factors mean that on a global scale, accidents similar to the one on Mount Hood are very common.

There are three difficulties with the descent:

  1. Attitude
  2. An emotion tied to reaching a goal
  3. Stress

In the first place, the climbers, like many, had celebrated their arrival at the summit. “It was a glorious morning,” one of them recounted, “we had fun up there for half an hour, cracking jokes.” Humor. The tool that gives vent to emotional response. The pitfall they were up against was that they were only half way there. They partied even though the hardest part still awaited them. Mountain climbers are the only athletes to do that. So, it’s a natural part of the cycle of human emotions to let down your guard once you have reached a goal.

So the climbers were at the summit and faced the descent with the 5 star restaurant below them. Suddenly, the positive state of celebration upon arriving at the summit was transformed into the perspective of slowly descending the length of the long slope. Images of previous experiences popped into the minds of all the climbers: they saw themselves sitting quietly in the warm, resting. They saw rest and safety within their grasp: they only had to get down quickly and reach the pavilion as quickly as possible (a warm shower, pinot noir, rosemary crostini). So securing themselves by belaying would be long, annoying and tiring. They were already tired, and had already spent a lot of time climbing. A succession of emotional book marks had already been etched in their minds and one of the book marks reminded them that is was enough to go down one foot in front of the other for safety. Another told them that belaying would mean prolonged pain, thirst, hunger and fatigue. And they had no emotional book mark tied to falling 300 meters, or for the energy that would build up with a rope system if the highest climber fell.

So they had a false sense of security, due to the fact that Mount Hood is reputedly easy, of Ward’s experience, and by the training in self-arrest that they had successfully carried out the day before, and by their discussions on what behaviors to adopt to secure their descent.

Thus, piece by piece, unconscious of the fact that their model of the world was no longer valid, they assembled their accident. And they began the process long before their arrival at Mount Hood.

This kind of accident has to happen. But it does not have to happen for you and me.

More in the next episode 😉 .

Read more reviews of Deep Survival on Amazon.

Translated by www.DeansResource.com

How to Win Friends and Influence People

 How to Win Friends and Influence People

One Sentence Summary: To make friends, influence others and get them in our corner, it is important to know how to look after their ego; this happens after an important change in our everyday behavior, which consists of never criticizing, being genuinely interested in others, smiling, remembering the first name of the person we are speaking with, making them feel important, never telling them they are wrong, talking about our own mistakes before talking about theirs, motivating, sincerely complimenting, and generally always looking after their self esteem.

By Dale Canergie, 1936 (first edition), 1981 (most recently revised edition), 250 pages.

Summary and Book Review:

After GTD, this book is the second best seller of my crazy personal MBA challenge and it is certainly one of the best known. It has sold over 45 million copies around the world since it was first published – a modest printing run of five thousand copies – in 1936. The book has undergone several revisions since the death of the author in 1955, primarily by his wife and his daughter in order to update examples given by the author about famous personalities who were known in 1936 but forgotten since – without changing the heart of the book itself.

The author starts out by entrusting us with 8 rules for getting the best out of the book, which seem to me to be highly relevant and applicable to any number of non-fiction books:

  1. Have a great desire for learning and applying the principles that drive communications and relationships between human beings.
  2. Read every chapter twice before going on to the next one.
  3. Interrupt our readings frequently to ask ourselves about our personal possibilities for applying every principle.
  4. Underline the important ideas.
  5. Re-read the book every month.
  6. Practice the principles whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  7. Transform the book into a fun game: ask our friends to pay a penalty whenever they surprise us by breaking the rules.
  8. Monitor the progress that we make each week. Ask ourselves what mistakes we have made, what progress we have made, what lessons we have learned.

Part One: Three fundamental techniques for handling people

 

  • Chapter 1: If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive

In 1931, Francis “Two Guns” Crowley, a gangster and assassin who was known for having killed a police officer in cold blood after he asked him for his driving license, was arrested in his girlfriend’s apartment after a siege in which one hundred police officers were mobilized! He was taken alive, but, believing he was as good as dead, he had taken the time to write a letter. Was it a letter of repentance, a letter of remorse for the crimes he had committed? No, it said “Under my jacket beats a weary heart, but a good one that would not hurt anyone.”

He was condemned to the electric chair. When he arrived at the execution chamber, was he full of excuses, did he declare that he was experiencing remorse? No. He said “This is my punishment for wanting to defend myself.

Al Capone, the most notorious gangster of all time, himself said: “I have spent the best years of my life giving pleasure to people and amusing them, and what has been my reward? Insults and the life of a hunted man.” Often, gangsters, criminals and wrongdoers justify their behavior with a whole lot of logical or fallacious reasoning.

If criminals as notorious as Francis Crowley or Al Capone consider themselves innocent, what do the people we meet every day who are just like you and me think of themselves?

This is a universal law that is sometimes difficult to accept: 99 times out of 100, man considers himself innocent, no matter how serious his crime. Criticism is therefore useless because it puts the individual on the defensive and forces him to justify himself, and it is dangerous because it damages their self esteem and causes bitterness. Criticism is like a carrier pigeon: the person we want to blame and correct will do anything to justify himself and will condemn us in return. Or, often, they exclaim: “I don’t see how I could have acted any differently!”

When you study the lives of those considered great leaders of men, like Abraham Lincoln – who Dale Carnegie studied in a very thorough manner, even wrote a biography, Lincoln the Unknown – you generally notice that they handle criticism with extreme caution and do everything to preserve the self esteem of those they reproach.

Rather than condemn people, it is better to try and understand them, to discover the motive for their actions. This is much nicer and more productive than criticizing, and it makes us more tolerant, understanding, and good.

Principal # 1: Don’t criticize, don’t condemn and don’t complain

 

  • Chapter 2 : The big secret of dealing with people

There is only one way in the world to get someone to do something: you must excite in them the desire to do it. Obviously, it is always possible to use force, authority or blackmail, but these methods have way more disadvantages than advantages. It is only by giving you what you want that I will manage to get you to do something.

So, what are our needs? In a list that somewhat resembles Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Dale Carnegie lists the different needs that we claim with ceaseless insistence:

  1. Health and preservation of life
  2. Food
  3. Sleep
  4. Money and the means to procure it
  5. Future survival
  6. Sexual satisfaction
  7. Our children’s happiness
  8. A sense of being important

Very often, most of these needs are met, but there is one that is rarely satisfied, because it is just as deep, and just a imperative as hunger. It is what Freud referred to as “the desire to be recognized,” what William James talks about as “the deepest principal of human nature,” and that is the thirst for appreciation, recognition, to be considered important. This desire distinguishes man from the animals, in which it does not exist.

It is this desire for importance that has driven many men who were poor at birth, to realize a glorious destiny, like Lincoln, Dickens or Rockefeller, it is this desire that drives men to buy cars that are too big for their needs or a house that is much to huge for them.

Tell me how you fulfill this need, and I will tell you who you are. The way in which we fill this need is one of the traits that best characterizes our personality. Some people fulfill it by turning to crime, like the notorious French Bonnot Gang, others write great works of literature, or build commercial empires or help others with all their might, until their dying breath. History is full of amusing details about famous people who try to show their importance, from George Washington, who demanded to be called the “Greatest President of the United States,” to Victor Hugo who wanted to donate his name to the city of Paris.

Note: And you just have to stroll through the Père Lachaise cemetery and read the epitaphs to understand that this need for importance accompanied many men even in death.

So, what is the best way to give a person the importance they seek so much? It is by complimenting them. It is not a matter here of flattery, false or otherwise, which is dangerous and often ends up coming back to bite the sycophant. It is a matter of a new mental attitude, of a new way of life: finding the good qualities in others and sincerely complimenting them, making them aware of the admiration we have for them. Sincere praise is the honey of human relations – everyone seeks it and deeply appreciates it.

Principal # 2: Compliment sincerely and honestly

  • Chapter 3: He who can do this this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way

Why are we always talking about what we want? It’s vain, childish and absurd. Obviously, each of us is interested in what we want. We will be interested in it for eternity. But we will be the only ones thinking about it. Everyone else is just like us in this regard and worry only about what they think.

That’s why the only way to influence your neighbor is to talk to him about what he wants and show him that he can get it.

This is the secret of success: putting yourself in someone else’s place and thinking about things from both his point of view and ours. Because action is born out of our fundamental desires, and to influence others you must first excite in them an ardent desire to act.

Principal # 3: Motivate often to do what you propose.

Part Two: Six ways to make people like you

  • Chapter 4: Do this and you’ll be welcome anywhere

Do you like dogs? If you do, why? Does it by any chance have something to do with the fact dogs are completely loyal, love you spontaneously and sincerely, and make a big fuss over you when you come home? Do you like it when they jump up on you wagging their tail, with their tongue hanging out, before the door is fully open, losing themselves completely in welcoming you?

We all know people who try their whole lives to get people interested in them. Wasted effort! People are only interested in themselves. They think about themselves morning, noon and night. When you look at a photo of a group that you are part of, who do you look at first?

If you want people to be interested in you, you must first be interested in them. Whether we are a beggar or a king, we like those who admire us.

Do you want people to like you? Then write down anniversaries on your calendar and send a card, welcome people with warmth and enthusiasm on the telephone, show your admiration and your sincere interest when opportunity presents itself. Publius Syrus said it over two thousand years ago:

We are interested in others when they are interested in us.

As with all the advice in this book, this must be applied with total sincerity. This way you might even touch the the heart of the most powerful and unreachable person.

Principal # 4: Be genuinely interested in others

 

  • Chapter 5 : A simple way to make a good first impression

Actions speak louder than words. A smile says: “I like you,” “I am happy to see you,” “Your presence makes me happy,” etc. Obviously, it needs to be a sincere, wide and spontaneous smile that seduces and comforts, not a mechanical and false smile that irritates instead of pleasing.

The most striking example of the effect of a sincere smile is the smile of a child :

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 Smile of a children

Photo by Julien Lagarde

Often it communicates to us and can change our grimmest mood in an instant, whenever we smile back.

A smile is so important that it is can also be heard in our voice. Your telephone voice will change if you smile; try it and see 🙂

Try this: For one week, once an hour, smile your widest, sincerest smile possible, be nice to others, appreciate their company, because we must be happy in the company of our peers if we want them to be happy in ours. If this is difficult for you, tell yourself that it is just one week and you can stop after that if you don’t like it 😉

Principal # 5 : Have a smile

 

  • Chapter 6 : If you don’t do this you are headed for trouble

James Farley, a famous American politician, has succeeded in becoming a cornerstone of American politics, depended on for decades, even though he was born to a poor family of farmers, even though he lost his father at age 10 and had to start working at that age on a construction site, pushing wheelbarrows full sand and letting bricks dry in the sun. When Dale Carnegie asked him his secret, he replied that he could remember the first name of over five thousand people, as well as the details of each of their lives.

He was Roosevelt’s electoral agent. He had a simple and remarkable system: whenever he met a new person he researched their first and last name – with its exact spelling – and carefully engraved the details in his mind, then he was able to greet this person by his first name by cross-referencing them later – sometimes years later.

Jim Farley knew that everyone likes his own name better than any other name on earth. If you can remember someone’s name, you pay its owner a subtle and appreciated compliment. But if you forget it, mispronounce it or misspell it, you might upset someone or greatly displease them. Men are proud of their name and try to perpetuate it at all costs.

In general, if we forget names, it’s because we simply don’t take the time to write them down, repeat them, and engrave them permanently in our minds. This takes work and requires a certain amount of time, but the reward is definitely worth the effort.

Principal # 6: Remember a person’s name so that they are important

 

  • Chapter 7 : An easy way to become a good conversationalist

How do you succeed with the person you are talking with? How do you convince him and reach a good understanding with him? It’s no mystery: to win someone over, put him in a good mood, and get him in your corner, you must give him your full attention when he expresses himself. Nothing is more flattering.

To do this, you must know how to listen sincerely, and show it.

This also works with unhappy people, including customers. Often, unhappy customers who complain are deeply hurt themselves because someone has made them feel one way or another that they are not important. If you succeed in showing them that they are important in your eyes, then often their complaint will go away by itself.

On the other hand, if you want to know what to do to get people to run from you, mock you behind you back, or despise you, it’s easy: don’t listen to what other people say; only talk about yourself. If an idea comes to you when someone else is talking, don’t wait until they are finished. What good will it do anyway? In any case, what they are saying can’t be as interesting and brilliant as what you are going to say. Go on, really, cut them off mid-sentence.

But if you want your conversation to be appreciated, learn how to listen: to be interesting, be interested. Ask stimulating, agreeable questions, ask them about their life, what they have done. Remember that the person you are talking to is a hundred times more interested in his toothache than in the famine that was responsible for thousands of deaths in China.

Principal # 7: Learn to listen. Encourage others to talk about themselves

 

  • Chapter 8 : How to get people to like you instantly

To find the way to man’s heart you must bring him what he prizes the most

To discover what interests someone, what he is passionate about, all you have to do is stop and listen with interest while he explains to you everything you want to know.

Principal # 8 : Talk to people about what they are interested in

 

  • Chapter 9 : How to make people like you instantly

There is a primordial law that we must respect in our relationships with others. If we observe it, we will win friendship and happiness. If we violate it, we will give rise to numerous difficulties in our wake. Here it is: Make others feel important.

You respect those around you, you wish them to do justice to your merits, and you like very much feeling important in your own circle. You hate excessive flattery, but adore sincere praise, you want to be respected, encouraged, complimented. We all aspire to that.

Principal 9 : Make others feel important and do it sincerely

Part Three: Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking

 

  • Chapter 10 : You can’t win an argument

In his youth, Dale Carnegie adored controversy.

He studied logic and argument in college, never missed the opportunity to participate in contradictory debates, and even directed a dialectic course as a result, and made the project about writing on a subject… Then, after having attended and participated in thousands of discussions, he analyzed them and drew one conclusion: the best way to carry on a controversy is to avoid it. Nine times out of ten, everyone leaves the debate being even more certain that they are right.

Effectively, nobody wins these battles! Because if you lose, you lose and if you win, you also lose because you have proven to your adversary that he is wrong, you have made him feel inferior, you have hurt his self esteem and his pride. So,

A man convinced against his will
Always keeps his own opinion.

You must therefore choose: a spectacular and theoretic triumphant, or sincere agreement. The two rarely go together. You may well be right, a hundred times right, if you have to fight prove it and change your adversaries mind, your efforts will as useless as if you were wrong.

But what should you do then if there is disagreement? The idea is to welcome the dispute. The dispute is an opportunity to enrich yourself, to discover a new point of view that had not occurred to you before. Here is advice in such a situation:

  • Don’t give in to your first impulse.
  • Overcome your anger.
  • Begin by listening.
  • Find common ground.
  • Be honest.
  • Promise to think about the ideas of your adversaries, and study them carefully.
  • Sincerely thank your adversaries for their interest.
  • Adjourn your actions to allow both parties present the time to examine the problem in detail.

Principal # 10: Avoid controversy, unless you can come out on top.

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  • Chapter 11: A sure way of making enemies and how to avoid it.

When Theodore Roosevelt was the President of the United States, he admitted that he couldn’t be sure he was right more than 75% of the time. That was the outer limit of his potential. If that is the degree that such a successful man could attain, then what is it for you and me?

Actually, if we could be sure of being right even 50% of the time, all that would be left to do would be to install ourselves on Wall Street and earn a million dollars a day. But if we can’t achieve this percentage, why do we allow ourselves to state that others are wrong?

So don’t ever begin a sentence with “I will prove that to you” or “I can show that…” because that comes out as “I am smarter than you, and I am going to change your mind,” that can only hurt someone’s self esteem without changing their mind. It is actually difficult, even under favorable conditions, to change other people’s opinion, so why present obstacles and add even more difficulty?

If someone states something that you think is wrong, wouldn’t it be better to start with: Listen, I don’t see it the same way as you but I might be wrong. That happens to me a lot. If I am wrong, I will change my mind… Let’s take a look together, would you mind?

This type of phrasing is magic because no-one can object to “I might be wrong, let’s take a look together.” Who can find anything to say about that? Therefore no-one will ever be annoyed with you if you promptly admit that you are subject to error.

Here is an excerpt from the book “The Mind in the Making” by James Harvey Robinson to learn more:

[Translator’s note: The book excerpt is translated from the French version, so the text may not match the English version of the book exactly]

We can spontaneously modify our opinions effortlessly and without emotion. But if someone tells us that we are wrong, we revolt against the accusation and instantly adopt a defensive attitude. We form our convictions lightly, but the instant anyone threatens to snatch them from us, we develop a fierce passion for them. Obviously, it is not so much our ideas as it is our self esteem that we fear is in danger…

Principal #11: Respect others’ opinions. Never tell people they are wrong.

  • Chapter 12: If you’re wrong, admit it.

      One day, the author was walking his dog off the leash in a park, which was not allowed. He came face to face with a mounted policeman who, after a sharp reprimand, told him never to come back. A week later, Dale Carnegie came across the same policeman, in the exact same circumstances. What did he do? He rushed up to the policeman and overwhelmed him with apologies, and reminded him that he had promised to fine him if he did it again. The policeman’s reply was mellow, Dale Carnegie insisted that he was at fault, and finally the policeman let him off the hook.

      Because the policeman, like all of us, was only a man; what he wanted was confirmation of his own importance. When Dale Carnegie confessed, the only thing left for the policeman to do to maintain his own self esteem was to adopt a magnanimous attitude.

      When we know that we deserve a dressing down, isn’t it better to take the initiative bravely and make our mea culpa? If we inflict blame on ourselves, isn’t it more acceptable that way than from someone else’s mouth?

      Principal #12: If you are wrong, admit it promptly and energetically.

      • Chapter 13: A drop of honey

          Aesop, a greek slave from the seventh century BC, has explained the point of this chapter once before:

          One day, the wind and the sun were arguing over who was the strongest. The wind said:

          – I am going to prove that I am. You see that old man down there? I bet that I can make him take his coat off faster than you can.

          Upon which the sun disappeared behind a cloud and the wind started to blow like a hurricane. But the harder it blew, the more the man cinched his coat around him. Finally, the wind became tired and stopped blowing. Then, the sun came out from behind a cloud and smiled gently to the traveler. Soon he started to feel warm; he wiped his forehead and took off his coat.

          The sun then remarked to the wind that sweetness and kindness are always stronger than violence and fury.

          Principal #13: Begin on a friendly note.

          • Chapter 14: The Secret of Socrates

              When you want to win someone over, avoid raising issues that you don’t agree with, from the very start. Focus instead on things you identify with and emphasize those. The point is to show that you have goals in common, and disagree only on the means to reach them, and to do that, say “yes” as early as possible, and above all try to avoid having them say “no.”

              Because as Dr Overstreet says in his book “The Art of influencing the human condition:”

              A negative response is a difficult obstacle to overcome. When someone says “no,” his pride causes him to remain steadfast in his opinion[…]. Later, he may figure out that it was an unjustified no. Too bad! He cannot retract it; he must above all look out for his self esteem. That’s why it is extremely important to start out, from the beginning, with the person you are talking to in the right direction: that of agreement.

              […]

              When someone says “no” sincerely and with conviction, they can do no more than articulate those two letters. […] Their whole being is on the defensive, the whole neuro-muscular system is alerted against agreeing.

              On the other hand, when someone says “yes,” their body takes on a consenting, receptive attitude. Consequently, the more we can get people to say yes, the more we succeed in putting someone in a favorable mood towards our proposition.

              Principal #14: Ask questions that will lead to saying yes immediately.

              • Chapter 15: The safety valve in handling complaints

                  Most people say too much when they are trying to persuade someone. Let the other person vent. He knows his problems and his business better than you. Ask him questions and let him express himself. This produces good results in professional relationships as well as between friends and family.

                  Principal # 15 : Make the person you are talking to feel completely comfortable speaking.

                  • Chapter 16: How to get cooperation

                      Don’t we trust the ideas that we think of by ourselves more than those are handed to us ready to go on a silver platter? If that’s true, isn’t it clumsy to try and impose our opinions at all costs? Isn’t it wiser to make some clever suggestions and leave the other person to draw his own conclusions?

                      Twenty five centuries ago, Lao-Tsu, a wise man from China said that the reason why rivers and seas are graced with certain mountain streams is because they keep a low profile. They can thus reign over all the mountain streams. The wise man, who wants to be above others, puts himself below them; if he wants to be in front, sets himself behind. Thus, if his place is above others, they don’t feel his weight; if his place is in front, they are not hurt.

                      Principal #16: Allow the person you are talking to the pleasure of thinking it was his idea.

                      • Chapter 17: A formula that will work wonders for you.

                          Even if your neighbor is wrong, he doesn’t think he’s wrong. Don’t condemn him. The first fool that comes along can condemn him. Rather, try to understand him. Those who would be wise are tolerant and even exceptional.

                          Actually, your neighbor has a reason for thinking and acting as he does. Find out the hidden reason and you will understand the secret to his behavior, and probably to his personality.

                          Think about the difference that exists between the passionate interest that you have for your own business and the luke warm attention that you pay to the rest of the word. Ponder, and ponder deeply on the fact that everyone in the world experiences the same thing as you. If you can understand that, then you can considerably perfect the art of leading men.

                          Principal #17: Make a real effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.

                          • Chapter 18: What everybody wants

                              Wouldn’t you like to know a magic phrase that lets you avoid arguments, dissipates bitterness, stimulates good will and motivates others to listen to you carefully?

                              Yes? Well then, it does exist. Here is it:

                              “I understand completely where you are coming from, if I was you I would probably feel the same.”

                              Try it and you will see 😉

                              Principal #18: Welcome kindly the ideas and desires of others.

                              • Chapter 19: Appeal that everybody likes

                                  Everyone we meet has a high opinion of himself and wants to appear noble and generous in their own eyes. Therefore, individuals generally have two reasons for their behavior: one which makes him look good, and the real one. An individual understands the second one very well, but he prefers to put his most worthy reasons out in front.

                                  So, to influence others it is better to appeal to their most noble intentions. For fear of shattering the idealist image they have of themselves, they will be more motivated to respond to your pleas.

                                  Note : The desire to show only the most noble motivation is not only strong to protect their self image, but also the image they wish to project to others.

                                  Principal #19: Appeal to higher feelings.

                                  • Chapter 20: The movies do it. TV does it. Why don’t you do it?

                                      At the beginning of the last century, a newspaper was the object of vicious rumors that effectively said that the paper had too many advertisements and not enough text; that it was no longer interesting to its readers, etc. They needed to act fast to halt the devastating rumors. But how? The staff of the newspaper had a good idea: they would cut all the text that wasn’t advertising from one edition, and publish it in the form of a book, they would call it “One Day.” The book, which was 307 pages long, would go for average price, because the paper was sold at only a fraction of the usual price of a book.

                                      The publication highlighted the lies and rumors, and appealed to people in a more convincing and more attractive way than a whole pile of figures and arguments.

                                      Principal #20: Show off your ideas spectacularly. Appeal to both sight and imagination.

                                      • Chapter 21: When nothing else works try this

                                          The need to excel and compete are two extremely powerful drivers for the human spirit. To get results, create competition, not for the sake of winning, but to lubricate in a noble way the desire to do one’s best, to outdo others and to excel.

                                          Principal #21: Present a challenge.

                                          Part Four – Be a leader: how to change people without living offensively or arousing resentment

                                          • Chapter 22: If you must find fault, this is the way to begin

                                              It involves an obvious process, but it gets results; it less painful for us to receive unpleasant comments after a compliment about our ability.

                                              Principal #22: Start out with sincere praise.

                                              • Chapter 23: How to criticize and not be hated for it

                                                  One day, a senior person in a steel factory was walking the floors. He ran across a group of workers smoking. Just above their heads was a sign on which was written “no smoking.” What do you think the person did? Did he mouth off at these people yelling “Don’t you know how to read?” No. He approached them, offered each of them a cigar and said “I would like it if you went to smoke these cigars outside.”

                                                  How do you think the workers felt? They were in violation and they knew he knew it. Instead of punishing them, he offered them a gift and didn’t say a thing to reproach them. He had made them feel important. Who couldn’t like a man like that?

                                                  With reasonable people who would suffer under direct criticism, draw attention to their mistakes indirectly, and you will work wonders.

                                                  Principal #23: Comment on mistakes or errors indirectly.

                                                  • Chapter 24: Talk about your own mistakes first

                                                      By acknowledging our own mistakes, even if we have not corrected them, we can help others to change their behavior. A few humble words can greatly help to deliver the bitter pill of criticism .

                                                      Principal #24: Mention your own mistakes befote correcting those of other people.

                                                      • Chapter 25: Nobody likes to take orders

                                                          An order which is too brusque can cause someone longlasting offense, even if the order is justified. Instead, ask questions such as “Could you take a look at this?” or “Do you think this would be okay?” or “Would you do this?” Asking questions doesn’t just make orders more palatable, it also stimulates the other person’s creativity. People accept orders more readily if they have been part of the initial decision.

                                                          Principal #25: Ask questions rather than giving direct orders.

                                                          • Chapter 26: Let the other person save face

                                                              Here is how Saint Exupéry put it:

                                                              I don’t have the right to say or do something that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What counts is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man’s dignity is a crime.

                                                              Principal #26: Let the person you are speaking with save face.

                                                              • Chapter 27: How to spur people on to success

                                                                  Psychologist Jess Lair wrote the following:

                                                                  Praise is like sunshine for the human spirit. We cannot flourish without it. However, most of use are ready to blow the cold wind of criticism on others, rather than warm their heart with a compliment.

                                                                  So, let’s acknowledge the progress, however slight it is, of those we wish to encourage. That’s how we will motivate them, how we will get them to pursue their efforts.

                                                                  Principal #27: Praise the smallest progress and praise any progress. Do it warmly and generously.

                                                                  • Chapter 28: Give a dog a good name

                                                                      For this, there is nothing better than complimenting someone on their potential or their past coups, and asking them if they think they will get back to that initial level or reach their full potential.

                                                                      Principal #28: Give a good reputation to the deserving.

                                                                      • Chapter 29: Making the fault seem easy to correct

                                                                          Tell your colleague, your child or your coworker that they are stupid, that they are not cut out for such work, or such a game, that they are doing badly, that they don’t understand anything, etc, and you will destroy any desire they have to excel. But try it the opposite way: Give generous encouragement; make it so the task to be accomplished appears easy, let them know you are behind them, that you have confidence in their abilities, tell them they have untapped talent… and they will use it all day long if necessary.

                                                                          Principal #29: Encourage. Make errors seem easy to fix.

                                                                          • Chapter 30: Making people glad to do what you want

                                                                              To change someone’s attitude or behavior, it is useful to keep the following points in mind:

                                                                              1. Be sincere. Don’t make false promises. Forget your own interests and focus on the interest of the other person.
                                                                              2. Make sure you know exactly what you want the person to do.
                                                                              3. Put yourself in the other person’s place.
                                                                              4. Think about the benefits that the other person will get out of doing what you want them to do.
                                                                              5. Make sure these benefits line up with what the other person wants.
                                                                              6. When you make an offer, structure it in such a way that the other person understands that he will benefit personally.

                                                                              Principal #30: Make others happy to do what you suggest.

                                                                              Book Review:

                                                                              I am pleased that I read this book. It has been on my list of books to read for years (which has become significantly larger since my Readers have been sending me suggestions! 😉 and I finally found the opportunity to pick it up. As to the format, this book is written in a simple, accessible way. Dale Carnegie seems to write as he Speaks, staying very concrete, concise and relevant, and using many examples from real life – what am I saying? – a plethora of examples – of which you have only a small sample in this summary. These examples might seem dated – they date from the Civil War to the Second World War for the most part – but they are extremely varied, from a president, a king and an emperor, all the way to factory directors, finance magnates or workers. They allow us to get into the concepts very easily and understand how to apply them on a daily basis.

                                                                              Regarding content, I found this book extremely interesting, because of the primordial importance it accords to the ego and self esteem. Dale Carnegie puts the deeply emotional nature of human beings first, and the whole book is centered on these two primordial concepts:

                                                                              1. No matter what they say, men and women are above all emotional beings with a vital need to look kindly on themselves.

                                                                              2. No matter how rational an argument might be, they will reject it most of the time if their self esteem is hurt.

                                                                              Once you understand these two concepts, most of the principles of the book are simple to understand. All you have to do is apply them. The eight pieces of advice that Carnegie gives at the beginning of this book – and that could easily be applied to almost all the Personal MBA books – are, I think, a good beginning for implementing. As with everything, this advice must be applied in moderation, otherwise I think we could become machines generating consensus, which would be a bit bland and hypocritical. I also think that a good Kick in the rear can produce better results than all the diplomacy in the world. But Carnegie’s approach doesn’t consist of adopting mechanical tricks to artificially increase his influence, it consists of understanding the two concepts presented above, and internalizing them to transform our point of view with regard to human relationships and remaining watchful so that the other person comes out on top, or at least free, in our arguments, confrontations and other issues.

                                                                              It’s a huge program. I am sure that human relationships would be a bit smoother if everyone applied the principles in this book. What’s more, it’s an excellent introduction to the ideas of ego and self esteem, and a point of departure for me with certain questions: why is it so important to us to maintain the vision of ourselves intact, and the way that we think of ourselves even though very often we “form our opinions lightly?” Why do we favor a comfortable vision even though it is false, to the truth? What is ego? Self esteem? Are they deeply human and therefore universal, greatly influenced by society or not? In short, great, interesting questions but which require sometime to be understood J

                                                                              I therefore recommend this book. It’s excellent, may change the way in which we look at human relationships and is easy to read. A must have.

                                                                                Strong points:

                                                                                • Clear and concise
                                                                                • Written simply and is easy to read
                                                                                • Numerous examples covering a wide variety of situations
                                                                                • Strong, relevant, fundamental concepts
                                                                                • Many principles that can be applied or internalized

                                                                                Weak Points:

                                                                                • The examples are a little dated (from the Civil War to the Second World War primarily)
                                                                                • A little redundant at times

                                                                                Translated by www.DeansResource.com

                                                                                    My rating: image image imageimageimageimageimageimage image

                                                                                    Have you read this book? How do you rate it?

                                                                                    Mediocre - No interestReasonable - One or two interesting paragraphsIntermediate - Some goods ideasGood - Had changed my life on one practical aspectVery Good - Completely changed my life ! (7 votes, average: 4.57 out of 5)
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                                                                                    PMBA Challenge:

                                                                                    Cost of book:€ 5
                                                                                    Total cost of project: 222.77
                                                                                    Number of pages:250
                                                                                    Total number of pages:3311
                                                                                    Time to read book:3H
                                                                                    Time to write this article:6H
                                                                                    Total time for the project:123H30

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