I often went fishing up in Maine during the summer. Personally I am
very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some
strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn't
think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I
didn't bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a
worm or a grasshopper in front of the fish and said: "Wouldn't you
like to have that?"
Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?
That is what Lloyd George, Great Britain's Prime Minister during
World War I, did. When someone asked him how he managed to
stay in power after the other wartime leaders - Wilson, Orlando and
Clemenceau - had been forgotten, he replied that if his staying on
top might be attributed to any one thing, it would be to his having
learned that it was necessary to bait the hook to suit the fish .
Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course,
you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in
it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are
interested in what we want.
So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about
what they want and show them how to get it.
Remember that tomorrow when you are trying to get somebody to
do something. If, for example, you don't want your children to
smoke, don't preach at them, and don't talk about what you want;
but show them that cigarettes may keep them from making the
basketball team or winning the hundred-yard dash.
This is a good thing to remember regardless of whether you are
dealing with children or calves or chimpanzees. For example: one
day Ralph Waldo Emerson and his son tried to get a calf into the
barn. But they made the common mistake of thinking only of what
they wanted: Emerson pushed and his son pulled. But the calf was
doing just what they were doing; he was thinking only of what he
wanted; so he stiffened his legs and stubbornly refused to leave the
pasture. The Irish housemaid saw their predicament. She couldn't
write essays and books; but, on this occasion at least, she had more
horse sense, or calf sense, than Emerson had. She thought of what
the calf wanted; so she put her maternal finger in the calf's mouth
and let the calf suck her finger as she gently led him into the barn.
Every act you have ever performed since the day you were born was
performed because you wanted something. How about the time you
gave a large contribution to the Red Cross? Yes, that is no exception
to the rule. You gave the Red Cross the donation because you
wanted to lend a helping hand; you wanted to do a beautiful,
unselfish, divine act. " Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the
least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
If you hadn't wanted that feeling more than you wanted your money,
you would not have made the contribution. Of course, you might
have made the contribution because you were ashamed to refuse or
because a customer asked you to do it. But one thing is certain. You
made the contribution because you wanted something.
Harry A, Overstreet in his illuminating book Influencing Human
Behavior said; "Action springs out of what we fundamentally desire
... and the best piece of advice which can be given to would-be
persuaders, whether in business, in the home, in the school, in
politics, is: First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who
can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a
Andrew Carnegie, the poverty-stricken Scotch lad who started to
work at two cents an hour and finally gave away $365 million,
learned early in life that the only way to influence people is to talk in
terms of what the other person wants. He attended school only four
years; yet he learned how to handle people.
To illustrate: His sister-in-law was worried sick over her two boys.
They were at Yale, and they were so busy with their own affairs that
they neglected to write home and paid no attention whatever to their
mother's frantic letters.
Then Carnegie offered to wager a hundred dollars that he could get
an answer by return mail, without even asking for it. Someone called
his bet; so he wrote his nephews a chatty letter, mentioning casually
in a post-script that he was sending each one a five-dollar bill.
He neglected, however, to enclose the money.
Back came replies by return mail thanking "Dear Uncle Andrew" for
his kind note and-you can finish the sentence yourself.
Another example of persuading comes from Stan Novak of Cleveland,
Ohio, a participant in our course. Stan came home from work one
evening to find his youngest son, Tim, kicking and screaming on the
living room floor. He was to start kindergarten the next day and was
protesting that he would not go. Stan's normal reaction would have
been to banish the child to his room and tell him he'd just better
make up his mind to go. He had no choice. But tonight, recognizing
that this would not really help Tim start kindergarten in the best
frame of mind, Stan sat down and thought, "If I were Tim, why
would I be excited about going to kindergarten?" He and his wife
made a list of all the fun things Tim would do such as finger painting,
singing songs, making new friends. Then they put them into action.
"We all started finger-painting on the kitchen table-my wife, Lil, my
other son Bob, and myself, all having fun. Soon Tim was peeping
around the corner. Next he was begging to participate. 'Oh, no! You
have to go to kindergarten first to learn how to finger-paint.' With all
the enthusiasm I could muster I went through the list talking in
terms he could understand-telling him all the fun he would have in
kindergarten. The next morning, I thought I was the first one up. I
went downstairs and found Tim sitting sound asleep in the living
room chair. 'What are you doing here?' I asked. 'I'm waiting to go to
kindergarten. I don't want to be late.' The enthusiasm of our entire
family had aroused in Tim an eager want that no amount of
discussion or threat could have possibly accomplished."
Tomorrow you may want to persuade somebody to do something.
Before you speak, pause and ask yourself: "How can I make this
person want to do it?"
That question will stop us from rushing into a situation heedlessly,
with futile chatter about our desires.
At one time I rented the grand ballroom of a certain New York hotel
for twenty nights in each season in order to hold a series of lectures.
At the beginning of one season, I was suddenly informed that I
should have to pay almost three times as much rent as formerly.
This news reached me after the tickets had been printed and
distributed and all announcements had been made.
Naturally, I didn't want to pay the increase, but what was the use of
talking to the hotel about what I wanted? They were interested only
in what they wanted. So a couple of days later I went to see the
"I was a bit shocked when I got your letter," I said, "but I don't
blame you at all. If I had been in your position, I should probably
have written a similar letter myself. Your duty as the manager of the
hotel is to make all the profit possible. If you don't do that, you will
be fired and you ought to be fired. Now, let's take a piece of paper
and write down the advantages and the disadvantages that will
accrue to you, if you insist on this increase in rent."
Then I took a letterhead and ran a line through the center and
headed one column "Advantages" and the other column
I wrote down under the head "Advantages" these words: "Ballroom
free." Then I went on to say: "You will have the advantage of having
the ballroom free to rent for dances and conventions. That is a big
advantage, for affairs like that will pay you much more than you can
get for a series of lectures. If I tie your ballroom up for twenty nights
during the course of the season, it is sure to mean a loss of some
very profitable business to you.
"Now, let's 'consider the disadvantages. First, instead of increasing
your income from me, you are going to decrease it. In fact, you are
going to wipe it out because I cannot pay the rent you are asking. I
shall be forced to hold these lectures at some other place.
"There's another disadvantage to you also. These lectures attract
crowds of educated and cultured people to your hotel. That is good
advertising for you, isn't it? In fact, if you spent five thousand dollars
advertising in the newspapers, you couldn't bring as many people to
look at your hotel as I can bring by these lectures. That is worth a lot
to a hotel, isn't it?"
As I talked, I wrote these two "disadvantages" under the proper
heading, and handed the sheet of paper to the manager, saying: "I
wish you would carefully consider both the advantages and
disadvantages that are going to accrue to you and then give me your
I received a letter the next day, informing me that my rent would be
increased only 50 percent instead of 300 percent.
Mind you, I got this reduction without saying a word about what I
wanted. I talked all the time about what the other person wanted
and how he could get it.
Suppose I had done the human, natural thing; suppose I had
stormed into his office and said, "What do you mean by raising my
rent three hundred percent when you know the tickets have been
printed and the announcements made? Three hundred percent!
Ridiculous! Absurd! I won't pay it!"
What would have happened then? An argument would have begun
to steam and boil and sputter - and you know how arguments end.
Even if I had convinced him that he was wrong, his pride would have
made it difficult for him to back down and give in.
Here is one of the best bits of advice ever given about the fine art of
human relationships. "If there is any one secret of success," said
Henry Ford, "it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of
view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your
That is so good, I want to repeat it: "If there is any one secret of
success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view
and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own."
That is so simple, so obvious, that anyone ought to see the truth of it
at a glance; yet 90 percent of the people on this earth ignore it 90
percent of the time.
An example? Look at the letters that come across your desk
tomorrow morning, and you will find that most of them violate this
important canon of common sense. Take this one, a letter written by
the head of the radio department of an advertising agency with
offices scattered across the continent. This letter was sent to the
managers of local radio stations throughout the country. (I have set
down, in brackets, my reactions to each paragraph.)
Mr. John Blank, Blankville, Indiana
Dear Mr. Blank: The ------ company desires to retain its position in
advertising agency leadership in the radio field.
[Who cares what your company desires? I am worried about my own
problems. The bank is foreclosing the mortage on my house, the
bugs are destroying the hollyhocks, the stock market tumbled
yesterday. I missed the eight-fifteen this morning, I wasn't invited to
the Jones's dance last night, the doctor tells me I have high blood
pressure and neuritis and dandruff. And then what happens? I come
down to the office this morning worried, open my mail and here is
some little whippersnapper off in New York yapping about what his
company wants. Bah! If he only realized what sort of impression his
letter makes, he would get out of the advertising business and start
manufacturing sheep dip.]
This agency's national advertising accounts were the bulwark of the
network. Our subsequent clearances of station time have kept us at
the top of agencies year after year.
[You are big and rich and right at the top, are you? So what? I don't
give two whoops in Hades if you are as big as General Motors and
General Electric and the General Staff of the U.S. Army all combined.
If you had as much sense as a half-witted hummingbird, you would
realize that I am interested in how big I am - not how big you are.
All this talk about your enormous success makes me feel small and
We desire to service our accounts with the last word on radio station
[You desire! You desire. You unmitigated ass. I'm not interested in
what you desire or what the President of the United States desires.
Let me tell you once and for all that I am interested in what I desire
- and you haven't said a word about that yet in this absurd letter of
Will you, therefore, put the ---------- company on your preferred list
for weekly station information - every single detail that will be useful
to an agency in intelligently booking time.
["Preferred list." You have your nerve! You make me feel
insignificant by your big talk about your company - nd then you ask
me to put you on a "preferred" list, and you don't even say "please"
when you ask it.]
A prompt acknowledgment of this letter, giving us your latest
"doings," will be mutually helpful.
[You fool! You mail me a cheap form letter - a letter scattered far
and wide like the autumn leaves - and you have the gall to ask me,
when I am worried about the mortgage and the hollyhocks and my
blood pressure, to sit down and dictate a personal note
acknowledging your form letter - and you ask me to do it "promptly."
What do you mean, "promptly".? Don't you know I am just as busy
as you are - or, at least, I like to think I am. And while we are on the
subject, who gave you the lordly right to order me around? ... You
say it will be "mutually helpful." At last, at last, you have begun to
see my viewpoint. But you are vague about how it will be to my
Very truly yours, John Doe Manager Radio Department
P.S. The enclosed reprint from the Blankville Journal will be of
interest to you, and you may want to broadcast it over your station.
[Finally, down here in the postscript, you mention something that
may help me solve one of my problems. Why didn't you begin your
letter with - but what's the use? Any advertising man who is guilty of
perpetrating such drivel as you have sent me has something wrong
with his medulla oblongata. You don't need a letter giving our latest
doings. What you need is a quart of iodine in your thyroid gland.]
Now, if people who devote their lives to advertising and who pose as
experts in the art of influencing people to buy - if they write a letter
like that, what can we expect from the butcher and baker or the auto
Here is another letter, written by the superintendent of a large
freight terminal to a student of this course, Edward Vermylen. What
effect did this letter have on the man to whom it was addressed?
Read it and then I'll tell you.
A. Zerega's Sons, Inc. 28 Front St. Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201 Attention:
Mr. Edward Vermylen Gentlemen:
The operations at our outbound-rail-receiving station are
handicapped because a material percentage of the total business is
delivered us in the late afternoon. This condition results in
congestion, overtime on the part of our forces, delays to trucks, and
in some cases delays to freight. On November 10, we received from
your company a lot of 510 pieces, which reached here at 4:20 P.M.
We solicit your cooperation toward overcoming the undesirable
effects arising from late receipt of freight. May we ask that, on days
on which you ship the volume which was received on the above
date, effort be made either to get the truck here earlier or to deliver
us part of the freight during the morning?
The advantage that would accrue to you under such an arrangement
would be that of more expeditious discharge of your trucks and the
assurance that your business would go forward on the date of its
Very truly yours, J----- B ----- Supt.
After reading this letter, Mr. Vermylen, sales manager for A. Zerega's
Sons, Inc., sent it to me with the following comment:
This letter had the reverse effect from that which was intended. The
letter begins by describing the Terminal's difficulties, in which we are
not interested, generally speaking. Our cooperation is then requested
without any thought as to whether it would inconvenience us, and
then, finally, in the last paragraph, the fact is mentioned that if we
do cooperate it will mean more expeditious discharge of our trucks
with the assurance that our freight will go forward on the date of its
In other words, that in which we are most interested is mentioned
last and the whole effect is one of raising a spirit of antagonism
rather than of cooperation.
Let's see if we can't rewrite and improve this letter. Let's not waste
any time talking about our problems. As Henry Ford admonishes,
let's "get the other person's point of view and see things from his or
her angle, as well as from our own."
Here is one way of revising the letter. It may not be the best way,
but isn't it an improvement?
Mr. Edward Vermylen % A. Zerega's Sons, Inc. 28 Front St.
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201
Dear Mr. Vermylen:
Your company has been one of our good customers for fourteen
years. Naturally, we are very grateful for your patronage and are
eager to give you the speedy, efficient service you deserve.
However, we regret to say that it isn't possible for us to do that
when your trucks bring us a large shipment late in the afternoon, as
they did on November 10. Why? Because many other customers
make late afternoon deliveries also. Naturally, that causes
congestion. That means your trucks are held up unavoidably at the
pier and sometimes even your freight is delayed.
That's bad, but it can be avoided. If you make your deliveries at the
pier in the morning when possible, your trucks will be able to keep
moving, your freight will get immediate attention, and our workers
will get home early at night to enjoy a dinner of the delicious
macaroni and noodles that you manufacture.
Regardless of when your shipments arrive, we shall always cheerfully
do all in our power to serve you promptly. You are busy. Please don't
trouble to answer this note.
Yours truly, J----- B-----, supt.
Barbara Anderson, who worked in a bank in New York, desired to
move to Phoenix, Arizona, because of the health of her son. Using
the principles she had learned in our course, she wrote the following
letter to twelve banks in Phoenix:
My ten years of bank experience should be of interest to a rapidly
growing bank like yours.
In various capacities in bank operations with the Bankers Trust
Company in New York, leading to my present assignment as Branch
Manager, I have acquired skills in all phases of banking including
depositor relations, credits, loans and administration.
I will be relocating to Phoenix in May and I am sure I can contribute
to your growth and profit. I will be in Phoenix the week of April 3
and would appreciate the opportunity to show you how I can help
your bank meet its goals.
Sincerely, Barbara L. Anderson
Do you think Mrs. Anderson received any response from that letter?
Eleven of the twelve banks invited her to be interviewed, and she
had a choice of which bank's offer to accept. Why? Mrs. Anderson
did not state what she wanted, but wrote in the letter how she could
help them, and focused on their wants, not her own.
Thousands of salespeople are pounding the pavements today, tired,
discouraged and underpaid. Why? Because they are always thinking
only of what they want. They don't realize that neither you nor I
want to buy anything. If we did, we would go out and buy it. But
both of us are eternally interested in solving our problems. And if
salespeople can show us how their services or merchandise will help
us solve our problems, they won't need to sell us. We'll buy. And
customers like to feel that they are buying - not being sold.
Yet many salespeople spend a lifetime in selling without seeing
things from the customer's angle. For example, for many years I
lived in Forest Hills, a little community of private homes in the center
of Greater New York. One day as I was rushing to the station, I
chanced to meet a real-estate operator who had bought and sold
property in that area for many years. He knew Forest Hills well, so I
hurriedly asked him whether or not my stucco house was built with
metal lath or hollow tile. He said he didn't know and told me what I
already knew - that I could find out by calling the Forest Hills Garden
Association. The following morning, I received a letter from him. Did
he give me the information I wanted? He could have gotten it in
sixty seconds by a telephone call. But he didn't. He told me again
that I could get it by telephoning, and then asked me to let him
handle my insurance.
He was not interested in helping me. He was interested only in
J. Howard Lucas of Birmingham, Alabama, tells how two salespeople
from the same company handled the same type of situation, He
"Several years ago I was on the management team of a small
company. Headquartered near us was the district office of a large
insurance company. Their agents were assigned territories, and our
company was assigned to two agents, whom I shall refer to as Carl
"One morning, Carl dropped by our office and casually mentioned
that his company had just introduced a new life insurance policy for
executives and thought we might be interested later on and he
would get back to us when he had more information on it.
"The same day, John saw us on the sidewalk while returning from a
coffee break, and he shouted: 'Hey Luke, hold up, I have some great
news for you fellows.' He hurried over and very excitedly told us
about an executive life insurance policy his company had introduced
that very day. (It was the same policy that Carl had casually
mentioned.) He wanted us to have one of the first issued. He gave
us a few important facts about the coverage and ended saying, 'The
policy is so new, I'm going to have someone from the home office
come out tomorrow and explain it. Now, in the meantime, let's get
the applications signed and on the way so he can have more
information to work with.' His enthusiasm aroused in us an eager
want for this policy even though we still did not have details, When
they were made available to us, they confirmed John's initial
understanding of the policy, and he not only sold each of us a policy,
but later doubled our coverage.
"Carl could have had those sales, but he made no effort to arouse in
us any desire for the policies."
The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking. So the
rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous
advantage. He has little competition. Owen D. Young, a noted lawyer
and one of America's great business leaders, once said: "People who
can put themselves in the place of other people who can understand
the workings of their minds, need never worry about what the future
has in store for them."
If out of reading this book you get just one thing - an increased
tendency to think always in terms of other people's point of view,
and see things from their angle - if you get that one thing out of this
book, it may easily prove to be one of the building blocks of your
Looking at the other person's point of view and arousing in him an
eager want for something is not to be construed as manipulating
that person so that he will do something that is only for your benefit
and his detriment. Each party should gain from the negotiation. In
the letters to Mr. Vermylen, both the sender and the receiver of the
correspondence gained by implementing what was suggested. Both
the bank and Mrs. Anderson won by her letter in that the bank
obtained a valuable employee and Mrs. Anderson a suitable job. And
in the example of John's sale of insurance to Mr. Lucas, both gained
through this transaction.
Another example in which everybody gains through this principle of
arousing an eager want comes from Michael E. Whidden of Warwick,
Rhode Island, who is a territory salesman for the Shell Oil Company.
Mike wanted to become the Number One salesperson in his district,
but one service station was holding him back. It was run by an older
man who could not be motivated to clean up his station. It was in
such poor shape that sales were declining significantly.
This manager would not listen to any of Mike's pleas to upgrade the
station. After many exhortations and heart-to-heart talks - all of
which had no impact - Mike decided to invite the manager to visit the
newest Shell station in his territory.
The manager was so impressed by the facilities at the new station
that when Mike visited him the next time, his station was cleaned up
and had recorded a sales increase. This enabled Mike to reach the
Number One spot in his district. All his talking and discussion hadn't
helped, but by arousing an eager want in the manager, by showing
him the modern station, he had accomplished his goal, and both the
manager and Mike benefited.
Most people go through college and learn to read Virgil and master
the mysteries of calculus without ever discovering how their own
minds function. For instance: I once gave a course in Effective
Speaking for the young college graduates who were entering the
employ of the Carrier Corporation, the large air-conditioner
manufacturer. One of the participants wanted to persuade the others
to play basketball in their free time, and this is about what he said:
"I want you to come out and play basketball. I like to play basketball,
but the last few times I've been to the gymnasium there haven't
been enough people to get up a game. Two or three of us got to
throwing the ball around the other night - and I got a black eye. I
wish all of you would come down tomorrow night. I want to play
Did he talk about anything you want? You don't want to go to a
gymnasium that no one else goes to, do you? You don't care about
what he wants. You don't want to get a black eye.
Could he have shown you how to get the things you want by using
the gymnasium? Surely. More pep. Keener edge to the appetite.
Clearer brain. Fun. Games. Basketball.
To repeat Professor Overstreet's wise advice: First, arouse in the
other person an eager want He who can do this has the whole world
with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.
One of the students in the author's training course was worried
about his little boy. The child was underweight and refused to eat
properly. His parents used the usual method. They scolded and
nagged. "Mother wants you to eat this and that." "Father wants you
to grow up to be a big man."
Did the boy pay any attention to these pleas? Just about as much as
you pay to one fleck of sand on a sandy beach.
No one with a trace of horse sense would expect a child three years
old to react to the viewpoint of a father thirty years old. Yet that was
precisely what that father had expected. It was absurd. He finally
saw that. So he said to himself: "What does that boy want? How can
I tie up what I want to what he wants?"
It was easy for the father when he starting thinking about it. His boy
had a tricycle that he loved to ride up and down the sidewalk in front
of the house in Brooklyn. A few doors down the street lived a bully -
a bigger boy who would pull the little boy off his tricycle and ride it
Naturally, the little boy would run screaming to his mother, and she
would have to come out and take the bully off the tricycle and put
her little boy on again, This happened almost every day.
What did the little boy want? It didn't take a Sherlock Holmes to
answer that one. His pride, his anger, his desire for a feeling of
importance - all the strongest emotions in his makeup - goaded him
to get revenge, to smash the bully in the nose. And when his father
explained that the boy would be able to wallop the daylights out of
the bigger kid someday if he would only eat the things his mother
wanted him to eat - when his father promised him that - there was
no longer any problem of dietetics. That boy would have eaten
spinach, sauerkraut, salt mackerel - anything in order to be big
enough to whip the bully who had humiliated him so often.
After solving that problem, the parents tackled another: the little boy
had the unholy habit of wetting his bed.
He slept with his grandmother. In the morning, his grandmother
would wake up and feel the sheet and say: "Look, Johnny, what you
did again last night."
He would say: "No, I didn't do it. You did it."
Scolding, spanking, shaming him, reiterating that the parents didn't
want him to do it - none of these things kept the bed dry. So the
parents asked: "How can we make this boy want to stop wetting his
What were his wants? First, he wanted to wear pajamas like Daddy
instead of wearing a nightgown like Grandmother. Grandmother was
getting fed up with his nocturnal iniquities, so she gladly offered to
buy him a pair of pajamas if he would reform. Second, he wanted a
bed of his own. Grandma didn't object.
His mother took him to a department store in Brooklyn, winked at
the salesgirl, and said: "Here is a little gentleman who would like to
do some shopping."
The salesgirl made him feel important by saying: "Young man, what
can I show you?"
He stood a couple of inches taller and said: "I want to buy a bed for
When he was shown the one his mother wanted him to buy, she
winked at the salesgirl and the boy was persuaded to buy it.
The bed was delivered the next day; and that night, when Father
came home, the little boy ran to the door shouting: "Daddy! Daddy!
Come upstairs and see my bed that I bought!"
The father, looking at the bed, obeyed Charles Schwab's injunction:
he was "hearty in his approbation and lavish in his praise."
"You are not going to wet this bed, are you?" the father said. " Oh,
no, no! I am not going to wet this bed." The boy kept his promise,
for his pride was involved. That was his bed. He and he alone had
bought it. And he was wearing pajamas now like a little man. He
wanted to act like a man. And he did.
Another father, K.T. Dutschmann, a telephone engineer, a student of
this course, couldn't get his three-year old daughter to eat breakfast
food. The usual scolding, pleading, coaxing methods had all ended in
futility. So the parents asked themselves: "How can we make her
want to do it?"
The little girl loved to imitate her mother, to feel big and grown up;
so one morning they put her on a chair and let her make the
breakfast food. At just the psychological moment, Father drifted into
the kitchen while she was stirring the cereal and she said: "Oh, look,
Daddy, I am making the cereal this morning."
She ate two helpings of the cereal without any coaxing, because she
was interested in it. She had achieved a feeling of importance; she
had found in making the cereal an avenue of self-expression.
William Winter once remarked that "self-expression is the dominant
necessity of human nature." Why can't we adapt this same
psychology to business dealings? When we have a brilliant idea,
instead of making others think it is ours, why not let them cook and
stir the idea themselves. They will then regard it as their own; they
will like it and maybe eat a couple of helpings of it.
Remember: "First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He
who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks
a lonely way."