How to Lose Friends and Influence No One (Reflections from an expert)

After a rough week on social media, some of us are looking at our friends and family saying, “Who ARE you?!?!”  People are engaged in a political civil war.  Families are fighting.  Friends are fighting.  My kids are fighting.  (Just kidding – they are actually playing together and I’m afraid to breathe in case I jinx it.)  I feel like we need some perspective.  A friend posted on Facebook, “Nothing is as bad as it seems or as good as it seems.”  So true!  And while 47% of voting Americans are happy and coming out of the woodwork, 47% of Americans are defeated and some are truly scared.

This topic is taken from the popular book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  He lays out ways to increase your popularity, create new ways of thinking, and help you win people over to the way you think or do things.  I re-read it once a year because I manage to forget a few critical things and need a reminder.  It’s a great book and I highly recommend it.

This is a time to speak with intention but with grace.  Marriage counselors say you can be right, or you can be married.  You can run your mouth, or you can have friends.  You can be on the right side of history or right about your stand on an issue, but lose.  People were so consumed with being right this election that they forgot that the bottom line is to influence others to also form that opinion, so they lost.  Trump didn’t care if he was right – he just cared about changing people’s minds about voting for the other side.  And he won.  Having influence means “the power to change or affect someone or something.”  You can’t influence someone if they aren’t exposed to you.  Here are three things you can do in the next several weeks and months to anger your friends, cause them to “unfollow” you, and therefore influence no one.

  1. Be condescending towards anyone who doesn’t agree with you.  A few years ago I attacked a man (verbally people – I’m a peaceful person!) who didn’t agree with me on the vaccine debate.  I told him he was irresponsible for promoting the idea that vaccines cause people to die.  (Please don’t comment on this – I’m making a point.  I’m done talking about vaccines!)  So I’m kinda a master in this category.  I’m done burning bridges and learned a big lesson when that happened though – you can be right on an issue, but deliver your message wrong and lose.  I got into a couple mild debates on social media with people this week that I actually agreed with, but because I didn’t agree as extremely with them, they were frustrated with me.  (I’m a sympathizer in this civil war.)  It’s important that we don’t run around and do a victory lap, or go off the deep end and throw a tantrum like a child would do when they don’t get their way.  We have to be the adults in the room.  Political posts on social media don’t give you anymore influence  – it only tells you who is on your side.  Who does that help?  My husband tells me to just scroll right past.  I can’t do it. It’s so tempting!  I’ve made my own political posts but try extremely hard to keep it in perspective.  And I also try to say things that most people agree on politically. (Like how we all miss George W. Bush.  Seriously – did you see those paintings he drew of veterans?! Awesome.)
  2. Think that a social media post is more powerful than action.  This can mean many things for different situations.  In business (for those of us who utilize social media for sales), this could mean posting too many business posts instead of actually doing the work – phone calls, messages, letters.  In politics this could mean posting non-stop madeup conspiracy theories instead of actually having a conversation with a friend or getting involved on the local level.  Nothing is more important than action.  And too much of anything simply annoys your social circle.  Good thing there isn’t an eye roll option on Facebook!
  3. Forget at the end of the day we are all connected and you can’t just cut people out of your life.  You do not live in a bubble.  I do not live in a bubble.  (Well, actually I do –  you should check out the Community profile article the Star Tribune just did on Maple Grove.  They said we are a bubble.)  We all have more in common than we disagree on.  It’s irresponsible as parents, community leaders, and contributors to society to accept those that are only like us.  We shouldn’t feel obligated to befriend those who aren’t morally good people, but take your time deciding that.  Don’t make long term decisions based on short term circumstances.  You can’t influence someone who thinks the exact same way as you do.

Let’s get back to seeing the good in people.  Let’s get in the Christmas spirit.  Let’s give everyone a puppy.  Just think before you write or say something negative.  Will it benefit anyone?  Will it change anyone’s mind?  Influence is what gets things done.

(Family photo by Tracy Walsh Photography.)

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