Chapter 19: Evoking Nobility
J. Pierpont Morgan observes that people often have two reasons to act: a real reason that people don’t realize or intentionally hide, and a good reason that is declared in public.
No matter how much you criticize, people still only act according to “real reasons”, while always wanting you to believe in “good reasons”. So why don’t you endorse that mentality? Praise their good cause no matter what the real reason behind it.
Mr. Hamilton J. Farrell of Glenolden, Pennsylvania, owns a boarding house. A guest asked to leave despite having four months left on his contract. “These people have lived in my house all winter, the busiest time of the year,” Mr. Farrell told the class, “and I know it will be difficult to find tenants in this room before the fall.
It can be seen that this loss of income is very large, it is infuriating. Normally, I should have rushed in and told him to read the contract carefully again to see that, even if he left now, he would have to pay the entire remaining four months’ rent as agreed and signed. However, in the end I decided to take a different strategy.
I said, “Mr. Doe, I heard you were going to leave, but I didn’t believe it. I also understood a little about human nature, and from the moment I met him, I was convinced that he was a man of great faith. I dare to bet like that. So I suggest this. Think again in a few days.
At the beginning of the month, when it’s time to pay the rent, if you still say you want to leave, I will agree with your decision. I will gladly let you go and admit that my opinion of you is wrong. But anyway, I still believe that he is a man of good faith, he will keep his promise.”
Then, at the beginning of the month, this person came to pay the rent and informed that he and his wife had discussed this carefully and decided to stay. They know there is no other way to preserve their honor than to stay until the end of the contract.”
On one occasion, the Marquis of Northcliffe, displeased to see a newspaper published his photograph without warning, wrote the newspaper a letter. But instead of writing, “Please don’t post my pictures, I don’t like that,” he used a more noble excuse when referring to people’s reverence and love for mothers.
He wrote: “Please do not publish my photos. My mom didn’t like it at all and I didn’t want to upset her at all.”
When Theodore Roosevelt did not want the press to publish pictures of his children, he also used noble excuses to evoke nobility in them. He referred to a principle ingrained in all of us: do not harm children. “You know what the kids are like,” he said. Some of you also have children. And you also know that posting pictures of children too much is not good for them.”
Cyrus Curtis, owner of The Saturday Evening Post and Women’s Home Journal, with a fortune of millions of dollars, was born as a poor boy in Maine. At the beginning of his business, he could not pay collaborators the same royalties as other magazines. To get articles from the top writers in the newspaper industry, he appealed to their noble motives.
For example, he persuaded Louisa Alcott, author of the immortal book Little Women, to write to him at the height of her career by signing a check for one hundred dollars, to give on her behalf to a charity, work she loves.
There can’t be a universal key for all locks, nor is there a universal rule that applies to everyone. If you are satisfied with the results achieved, then I think you should not change. If not, you can try new ways. Nothing is lost either.
I think you will enjoy reading the following true story by James L. Thomas, a former student of mine:
There are six customers of a car company who refuse to pay for repairs. They did not negate the entire bill, but each claimed that the bill was miscalculated in a few places. The company knows that the invoices are not wrong, and these customers also signed the repair contract before the work was carried out. But the company made the first mistake of saying it.
And here are a few measures that employees in the finance department still take to collect past due bills. Do you think they are successful?
1. They go to each person’s house and say loudly that they have come to collect money that has long expired.
2. They simply state that the company is absolutely right and thus the customer is completely mistaken, undeniably clear.
3. They say the company knows more about cars than the customers, so there’s no need to argue.
4. They argue with customers.
When the person in charge of finance was about to use the law with the client, fortunately the problem reached the general manager. He reviewed everything, found that those customers had always paid casinos before. So something is wrong with this, maybe the mistake is in the method of collecting money. So he assigned James J. Thomas to collect these “bad debts”.
Thomas recounts the steps he took:
1. I visit each customer, ask them what points they are not satisfied with the company.
2. I said that I have to go find out because the company can make mistakes too.
3. I say that no one knows their car better than themselves, moreover they have expert knowledge on the matter.
4. I let them speak, and listened with all care and sympathy.
5. Finally, when they have vented their feelings and become calm, I appeal to noble motives for them to reconsider the matter.
I said, “First of all, I feel this issue has been mishandled. The finance department caused him troubles. I am deeply saddened and as a representative of the company, I am deeply sorry. This will never happen again. When I listened to his presentation, I clearly noticed his polite and patient attitude.
So please help me. This is one thing he can do better than anyone because he knows best. This is your invoice, please review and correct it as the company president. Why do you want me to listen?”
The five guests all expressed satisfaction with the invoice correction. But only the details were changed, and the value of each invoice of several hundred dollars was preserved and paid in full. Only one person refused, not paying a dime. But here’s the rest of the story: Over the next two years, all six of them went on to buy new cars from our company.
Mr. Thomas added: “Experience tells me that the best foundation in any relationship is to always think that the client is honest and fair. But indeed most customers are like that, they are willing to pay fairly if they are really assured of the accuracy of the invoices.
There must be exceptions, of course, but I believe most individuals who are greedy or have a tendency to make it difficult for others will cooperate more if you show them that you consider them honest and straightforward, and polite”.
“If loved, people will learn to love and become more lovable”
“If you keep looking at someone’s bad side all the time, it will make him worse and worse. But if you encourage him to strive for good things, he will definitely do it” – Johann Goethe
Principle 19: Inspire nobility in others.