One book that I come back to over and over again is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Written in 1936, there is still so much from this book that resonates today. For example, this quote always grounds me on if we are trying to help others move forward; we must look for the positive connections between our thinking:
In talking with people, don’t begin by discussing the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasizing—and keep on emphasizing—the things on which you agree. Keep emphasizing, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose.
In the past few years, I have tried to work on this process. Asking questions to understand commonalities to move people forward as opposed to trying to change someone’s mind, which often leads them away.
What is essential to this process is we focus more on truly listening and understanding each other. Carnegie also shares the importance of seeking to understand others:
Most people trying to win others to their way of thinking do too much talking themselves. Let the other people talk themselves out. They know more about their business and problems than you do. So ask them questions. Let them tell you a few things. If you disagree with them you may be tempted to interrupt. But don’t. It is dangerous. They won’t pay attention to you while they still have a lot of ideas of their own crying for expression. So listen patiently and with an open mind. Be sincere about it. Encourage them to express their ideas fully.
Through listening, we have to make sure that we are listening to not only understand but learn from those that we serve. It is not to use their ideas and points against them, but to show that you are growing through the process as well. Who says my thoughts are the right direction? Am I willing to shift my path in my thinking while listening, or am I just waiting for my turn to talk?
Something I truly believe is that when we discuss school, learning, and servant leadership, and a myriad of topics that have to do with education (and life) it is not about your idea, my idea, but the best idea, and that doesn’t matter where it originates. As Carnegie states, “listen patiently and with an open mind.” Growth should be both an individual and group process, and if we want to help others move forward, we have to model that the same is happening within the process.