Dale Carnegie’s Fourth Principle, which we shared last time, is to ask questions instead of giving orders.
Principle Five is to:
Let The Other Person Save Face
Sun Tzu, in his treatise The Art of War, posited that a battle should never be waged against an enemy with no means of escape for he, having no alternative, will fight to the death.
This is also why Alexander The Great never fought sea battles close to shore, ideally, positioning his boats so his opponents’ were between the shore and his forces, thereby offering his enemies a tantalizing route of escape with none for his own men.
An argument is to interpersonal communication what a battle is to war. Sun Tzu considered war to be something to be avoided whenever possible. Dale Carnegie felt similarly about arguments in that the only way to win one is not to have one. When you win an argument, your opponent is left, at best, with a feeling of defeat, embarrassment or worse, anger and humiliation. When you win an argument, you are left feeling that way. Neither is exactly a prescription for harmonious relations.
A key to gaining agreement, or at least, avoiding discord, is to first realize that, were you this person, having the same history and experience, you would probably share their opinion, attitude, or belief. Show them your ability to identify with their position by saying for instance:
I can certainly see how you might feel that way: I might as well, were I in your position. Would you mind if I ask you a question?
Then proceed to express your thoughts in the form of questions beginning with “Did you know” “Were you aware” “If I were to share with you that”, etc. What you’ll find is that, almost immediately, the other party will soften their position because you’ve allowed them a way to see things from your perspective, while also allowing them to save face.
Keep this in mind the next time you engage with someone offering an opposing viewpoint. Before polishing your armor and mounting your steed, consider if a full frontal attack is likely to serve your purpose or whether a bit of quiet diplomacy might just be what the doctor ordered.
Stay tuned for Principle Six:
Praise the slightest and every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation, and lavish in your praise
by Danny Bobrow