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Category: PR skills

Critiques

Author Dale Carnegie of the bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People says “Criticize in private, but praise in public.” We saw this nearly a year ago here.

It might seem like obvious advice, but do not be fooled by its simplicity. Just recently, I was part of a call, which had one senior person pulling up several others for something not done by them. The big boss of many of those being picked on was also present on the call.

To be sure, the person pointing the finger was by no means wrong – he had his facts straight – the accused had been tardy, they had not done their work well, they had not informed their superiors about gaps in the information and so on.

But did any of that matter? Not one bit. The call quickly morphed into a verbal brawl, with people supporting themselves, and proving why they were right and then heaping accusations back and forth. Could have just had some nice popcorn on the side and …

But really, it is so hard to put this advice into practise I suppose. It might seem like it takes longer to have 1-on-1 calls with five people rather than just lambaste 5 people on one call. But the negative effects of that one badly organized call can be far worse, as was the case. Preferably, never criticize at all, but if it must be done, then it can be done with empathy, in private, with examples from one’s own life as well, and also leading by example. That would be true leadership.

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To listen or to speak?

Both Dale Carnegie and my Guru cannot overemphasize the importance of listening as a skill. We are all accustomed to talking non-stop especially in social situations. We love to hear the sound of our own voices. And onc they topic shifts to anything even remotely of self-interest, then the words just don’t stop rolling out!

But listening allows us to win over other people, because if everyone likes to talk, then someone must be there to listen? Listening also builds patience, maturity, concentration and empathy over time.

There is one scenario I’ve seen though, where people love to listen and completely shy away from speaking. This is on the stage. Any formal stage, be it big or small – we often hate the spotlight and the associated stage fright aka butterflies.

However, at least from a satsang perspective, there is no better place to speak – no not after the satsang, but as the main speaker! And the reason is very unique here. If we just listen to satsangs, we will get knowledge. But it may not convert to wisdom or action. In order to make that conversion, speaking is a wonderful tool. When we listen to others speak, we may feel like we are understanding concepts. But when we laboriously sit and prepare for a speech, read up copious information to demystify our scriptures, underline the various important points, search for interesting anecdotes and stories, attempt to figure out the ‘real meaning’ and ‘practical meaning’ and ‘deep meaning’, we will encounter on these abstruse topics some epiphanies that will never leave us for life.

Speak we must, at every satsang opportunity. But prepare we must, too, so that our speaking is easy listening for everyone.

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Open mouth please

Here is a common two-threaded problem we each face at some point. We just had a really rough week at work and want nothing more than to plunge into a soft bed with head hitting a even softer pillow. But your spouse or significant other has just told you that they plan to take you out for a romantic candle-lit dinner. Normally this would be an awesome plan, but not today – all you want is to bury your face in that feathery pillow!

What to do then? Maybe you could go along with the spouse to dinner. But that could leave you totally exhausted. Or else, you could take a rain check. And that could have consequences – partner dejected, you feeling guilty etc. It seems like there are only two choices, and that both are suboptimal.

But are there really only two choices?

No, there is a third. This is called Hamlet’s quandary, i.e. to share or not to share. We often get stuck in this quandary. Instead of trying to resolve this problem on our own, the third option would be to name the dilemma. “Darling I really want to go with you for dinner and I really appreciate you planning this for me on the back of my really rough week, but I’m super exhausted today. Could we figure out something that will work for both of us?”

This third more communicative choice, is likely to open up a new range of possibilities and outcomes. This is useful not just at home, but even in the workplace. Like when we have too much work already, but the boss wants us to work on the weekend. Or a client has asked for some important information, but we do not have the resources yet. The bottom-line is this, sharing more with people can increase our vulnerability, but that could potentially result in a much deeper connection with the other person. And this third choice is often overlooked.

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The one formula for success

In his amazing book How to Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie (DC) shares some amazing lessons on how to … well exactly what the book titles says!

It’s not a very large book, but it is divided into 6 parts, and a total of 37 chapters, each addressing one specific focus area for introspection, improvement and application.

Out of all these, DC himself says in part 4 chapter 8, that if there is only one thing that we take away from the entire book, then it is this one formula. Here is that paragraph reproduced verbatim.

If, as a result of reading this book, you get only one thing - an increased tendency to think always in terms of the other person's point of view, and see things from that person's angle as well as your own - if you get only that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be one of the stepping stones of your career.

Just imagine that. We think success is all about us, our hard work and meeting our targets and what not. Sure these are important, but there are millions of people doing all these things already – but they rarely rise to the top. Because they are too often focused only on themselves. DC has the solution. We only need to implement.

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Scales

We are often faced with situations where we need good constructive feedback.

Maybe you’ve written a poem or an article, but don’t know how well it’ll be received. Or you’ve got an idea – which you plan to discuss with the higher-ups, but are not sure if it’ll fly. Or maybe you just want to know if the dress you’re planning to wear is good. Perhaps we just want to know if the way we spoke at an important meeting was alright.

The reasons for seeking feedback could be many. But the challenge of receiving it is the same. Most responses will just be, “Yes, it was good.” or “Yes, it was nice.” What does one do with such generic feel-gooders?

I came across a nice hack which I feel is very useful. Instead of asking people whether they liked something or not, ask them to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. And tell them that 7 is not an option. And also ask them what it would take to get their rating up to a 10. You’ll be surprised by how much more specific and constructive the feedback can be!

One word of caution though, if your wife tries to use this tactic on you, the right answer is always 11. Kidding! Or not! 🙂

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Reply

Is there a way to make someone happy and praise them while also keeping the bar high? Here’s how my Guru did it once.

Many years ago, one of the satsangis went to him for advice. The satsangi was a bit nervous, as he told Guruji that this was his first time speaking in public on the Gita, and that he was a little scared. Guruji asked him which chapter was assigned to him. He said, “Chapter 7, Guruji.”

Guruji replied thus:
1. Wow, chapter 7, such a beautiful chapter, I’m so happy you got it! [infusing happiness]
2. You know what? My first talk too was on chapter 7. It is easy, and I know your capability, you can do it. [genuine praise]
3. I also prepared hard for it – I had read the chapter over 500 times, so that my session is worth my audience’s time. [setting the bar high]

Isn’t this such an inspiring reply, and something for us to learn?

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Free size

Here’s the thing about self-help and spirituality. One size rarely fits all. The goal is the same – to attain moksha or liberation. But the paths are many. Krishna tells Arjuna about karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga in the Gita. Even within these, the actual methods to be followed could be different. One might see great success following a 15-minute meditation plan a day. Others might struggle despite an hour of chanting.

In Dale Carnegie’s (DC) How to Win Friends and Influence People, there is a superb statement. The secret he says, is to interest people and build in them a genuine want, if you need them to do something for you. He gives a couple of solid examples too – such as how to get an irate tenant to pay his full rent rather than leave midway, and how a poor newspaper owner got a celebrity to write a star column on his paper.

But as he himself says, a common pushback would be, “Hey these examples are fine, but do these principles work for the tough monsters I have to face in my daily life?”

Here is DC’s amazing response. “You may be right. Nothing will work in all cases. And nothing will work with all people. If you are satisfied with the results you are now getting, then why change? If you are not satisfied, then why not experiment?”

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Carma

At the valet parking area of a renowned 5 star hotel, the owner of an old and tiny Hyundai i10 was waiting for his car to be brought to him.

He watched, as the valets buzzed about, servicing their guests and deftly moving from car to car. One valet drove up in great style in a brand new Mercedes Benz AMG GLE Coupe. The Coupe owner took the keys and handed the valet a crisp couple of notes. The smile on the valet’s face was telling of his satisfaction.

The compact car owner thought to himself, “Wow these valets have it so good. I can’t even dream of driving these sporty beauties. That Mercedes GLE is a special edition model – just 10 of them in the whole world!”

Little did he know the thoughts running in the valet’s mind. “Oh these rich folks – such show-offs. And having to drive their cars? Back and forth, back and forth, from the reception area to the parking lot, a 100 times a day. Can there be anything more repetitive and boring? With the money I make, I barely make ends meet. My school going son would love it so much if I could own even just a simple car. Even an old dilapidated Hyundai i10 would be perfect.”

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Lending a ear

Back in the 80s when the Internet was first created, people scarcely understood its potential. What is ubiquitous today, wasn’t obvious back then. Why did they think it was doomed to fail? Was it because technology was not ready yet? Not at all. It was because they assumed that creating content would be the work of the large corporations. So a Netscape or a Microsoft would have to create content and put it on the web.

Fast forward to today, and we know who the true content creators are, don’t we? Still unsure? Head over to YouTube, or the billions of blogs on Medium or WordPress, or the millions of webstores on Instagram or Facebook. Not just social media, but ‘social’ itself has become a thing. Stand up comedy has proliferated, as has 360 degree feedback processes. What is it that unites these? All of these are platforms that enable people to have a voice. They are so endearing because there is someone on the other side who is listening.

In the Kural, Thiruvalluvar says that the crown of all wealth a man can have is the art of listening. Despite knowing about the benefits of listening, people rarely listen. Group Discussions in MBA selection rounds are all ‘fishmarkets’ with the loudest prevailing over the rest. Is this the best way to select and groom future leaders? No surprise then that even in office calls today, most people end up cutting others mid-sentence. They also add, as if to sound cool, “Sorry to interrupt you, but here’s what I believe…”, or “Sorry to interject, but my view is…”. Would you like to be interrupted while speaking? Would anyone?

Listening needn’t just be about others. In today’s action-packed stress-laced world, we hardly listen to ourselves, our body and mind’s needs. This is not to say we must indulge ourselves, but we are mostly running after what will make us look good in the eyes of others. Instead, we could stop to listen to our hearts and evaluate what is right for us, rather than for thy neighbour.

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Hands on

The year was 1984. An elite group had assembled in a club for a Toastmasters dinner. There were CEOs, MDs, Heads of Departments and many other dignitaries in that audience.

My Guru, who was also present, was suddenly asked to give a short speech there. No he was not the CxO of any multi national organization. He was probably retired at the time, already beginning to renounce everything. So titles and statuses made no difference to him.

A normal person would ask, “Then what the heck did you speak about, to such a distinguished audience, Guruji?”

“Simple”, his unassuming reply. “The one common thing that anyone and everyone is interested in, is themselves. So I discussed palmistry 101 with them. The life line, the head line, the heart line, the money line and so on. Do you think there was even one person in that audience who’s eyes were not glued onto their own palms? Whether CEO or King, everyone is truly interested only in themselves.”

The topic itself was not important. But the focus and theme of communication, i.e. ‘people love themselves’, was so effectively made use of – that not a single person wanted the session to end, even after 30 minutes! Question to myself: when I want to capture someone’s interest, should I talk about my life? Or that person’s?

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LMGBTY

No this acronym is not about partner orientation.

These 6 words make up the most under used and under appreciated phrase in the English language.

“Let me get back to you.”

Oh the number of times I have made terrible decisions simply because I thought I had to give an answer right away. Almost never do we actually need to answer on the spot, apart from maybe a job interview. And then too, we can always take time to think about the ‘longer-term’ questions, such as on salary, benefits, relocation, change of role etc. Because rarely in life is anything so pressingly important.

Here are a few examples. When the husband gets an invite to a party he knows his wife doesn’t like – but he still impulsively says yes. When the boss asks you to finish a project over the weekend, and this weekend is for taking the kids out, but you still impulsively say ‘yes’. When the recruiter asks if you can join immediately, and you know you have a non-negotiable notice period, but still say ‘yes’. The answers to these questions may be driven by impulse, or even by fear – as though taking the time to think will lead to something disastrous – like losing a friend or a job. If it comes to that, it’s probably not the right job or friendship in the first place. On the flip side, our decision making is likely to improve significantly if we take the time to think a little about our decisions.

“LMGBTY please” may also serves as a good replacement for “I don’t know” as it may make us seem less dumb! We (and me for sure) could benefit from using it more often.

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PR skills 2.0

Successful people say that PR (public relations) skills are vital.

Research suggests that the contribution of technical skills to success is only ~15%, while ~85% of success comes from the increased ability to deal with people.

This is sequential though. Having only the 85% PR skills may not be enough, if the technical skills are lacking. So the 85% must be built on top of the 15%.

There is another type of PR skill that is crucial… for happiness. The Pause & Reflect skill.

We all know what to change in ourselves, i.e. I need to reduce my anger, my ego, my sarcasm or my stinging tongue. Nothing that needs an IQ of 240 to figure out. But we struggle to control ourselves in the heat of the moment.

What is the difference then between me and a realized soul? Both are living mundane lives, but the latter’s ability to pause and reflect on life’s teachings, and objectively apply these teachings to similar situations in the future – is the clincher.

We can learn from the wise, in order that we become the wise.

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