Chapter 13: Sweet Honey In Communication
When we are in a state of anger and we can take all our anger out on the person who caused it, we will surely gloat a lot! But what about the opponent? They will not be able to accept my harsh tone and spiteful attitude. Sympathy, love, and compassion are the best ways to get people’s approval.
Woodrow Wilson said: “If you throw two fists at me, I immediately throw two punches back at you. But if you come to me and say, ‘Let’s sit down and talk. If our opinions are different, how and why, these are the points to discuss’, then you will find that we are not as far apart as we thought. The points of disagreement are few, and the points of agreement are many. With just a little patience and sincerity, we will easily come to harmony.”
Perhaps no one feels the truth in Woodrow’s statement more deeply than John D. Rockefeller(21). In 1915, Rockefeller was the most hated man in Colorado. Miners at the Colorado Iron and Fuel Company, led by Rockefeller, launched a strike demanding a pay rise.
It was one of the bloodiest strikes in American industrial history, sending shockwaves across the nation. For two years, property and factories were destroyed, the strike participants were suppressed by the army, many people fell, and there was a lot of bloodshed.
While the atmosphere of hatred was so high, Rockefeller was able to successfully reconcile with the strikers. How did he do that?
After weeks of campaigning to open the way to reconciliation, Rockefeller gave a very sincere speech to representatives of the strikers. This talk deserves to be a masterpiece because the results are so amazing. It calmed the waves of hatred and aggression that threatened to calm, and paved the way for many to side with him. Rockefeller presented so humbly and sincerely that the strikers went back to work without saying a word about the raise, the reason they fought so fiercely.
Rockefeller talked to people who had just asked to hang him, but more kindly, more intimately than ever. His talk appeared many sentences such as: I am proud to be here, after visiting your homes, after meeting your wives and children. We meet each other not as strangers but as friends in a spirit of friendliness, for our common interests. It is because of your kindness that I am here.
Listen to Rockefeller begin: “This is the happiest day of my life. For the first time, I was fortunate to meet all the delegates of the people who are working in this large company, employees, managers and leaders. I am so moved to be here, I will remember this meeting for the rest of my life.
If this meeting happened two weeks ago and I’m standing here as a stranger to most of you, I can only recognize a few faces. But last week, I was fortunate to visit all the camps in the southern coal region, visit family and talk privately with everyone, meet many relatives, your wives and children, so now we meet in friendship.
And it is because of that cordiality that I am happy to discuss with you the common interests of both sides. I am here, in the meeting of company members and workers’ representatives, because of your kindness. I don’t have the good fortune to belong to any of these groups, but I would like to be closely associated with you, because in a sense I both represent the leadership and the interests of all of you”.
Isn’t this a great demonstration of the art of turning enemies into friends? Had Rockefeller taken a different approach, arguing harshly with the miners, pointing out their wrongdoing, the hatred and conflict would have increased further.
If a person’s heart aches with resentment or aversion to you, then even if you use all the best arguments in the world, you will not be able to make that person listen. The nagging fathers, the shouting bosses, and the nagging husbands and wives need to understand this.
And these are the words Lincoln said over a hundred years ago: “There is an old proverb that says ‘A drop of sweet honey catches more flies than a pail of bitter water. If you want someone to do as you please, you must first prove that you are his sincere friend. The honey in love will win hearts and be the wide road to human reason.”
When 2,500 employees of White Motor Company went on strike demanding a raise, Robert F. Black, then the company’s president, did not lose his cool. He did not condemn or threaten, but instead praised them for their “peaceful struggle” in the Cleveland press. Seeing that the strikers had nothing to do, he bought them two dozen baseball bats and gloves to let them play on the open ground, he also spent a area for those who like to play bowling.
This friendly attitude of Mr. Black spread to the strikers. They found the tools and started cleaning around the factory. Imagine the strikers cleaning the factory grounds while still fighting for a raise. What an unprecedented event in the stormy history of labor disputes in America. The strike ended after a week of peaceful agreement, causing no major resentment or discomfort on either side.
You’ve probably never been called in to deal with a strike or speak to a council. But if you want a lower rent, can a friendly approach help you?
O. L. Straub, an engineer, wanted a rent reduction, although he also knew that the landlord was a tough guy. Straub told the class: “I wrote him, telling him that I would be checking out as soon as my contract expires. The truth is I’d stay if the rent was reduced. But the situation looked desperate.
Other tenants have all tried but failed. I thought, I’m learning about how to treat people, why not try with him. He and his personal secretary came to see me as soon as they received the letter. I greeted him from the door with a cordial greeting and a goodwill attitude. I began by praising his room, complimenting him on how well he kept the house. That is completely true.
And I expressed my regret because I wanted to stay for another year, but I couldn’t afford it. Apparently he had never been so received by a tenant. He didn’t know how to answer. Then he started telling me about his difficulties. The tenants complained. One man wrote him fourteen letters. Some people criticized him very harshly. Another called for the contract to be canceled if he could not prevent the tenants upstairs from snoring like thunder in their sleep.
“It’s nice to have a satisfied tenant like you.”
And then, without waiting for my request, he offered to reduce the rent a little. I wanted to reduce it further so I mentioned how much I could pay and he happily accepted. When he came out, he turned and asked: “Do you need me to redecorate the room?”.
“If I had acted like everyone else, I would have failed like them. It was this friendly approach that helped me achieve results that exceeded my expectations.”
Another practitioner, Gerald H. Winn of New Hampshire, also got a good deal using this approach. The house he just built was flooded with rainwater, causing cracks in the foundation, broken fireplaces, etc. Repair costs must be more than two thousand dollars. The fault is that the owner of the land does not install a rainwater drainage system.
So Winn went to visit the landowner, without anger, reproach or complaint. Winn began to inquire about the landowner’s recent vacation in the West Indies. Finally, when the time was right, he talked about his “small” incident. The owner of the land immediately promised to contribute some of the cost.
But a few days later, when he went down to the Winn estate to inspect, he received compensation for all damages and installed a drainage system. If Winn hadn’t started with a friendly attitude, the landowner would have taken full responsibility even though it was his fault.
Years ago, as a boy walking barefoot through the woods to a rural school in northwestern Missouri, I read a parable about the sun and the wind. The two sides argue over which side is stronger. Wind said: “I will prove I am stronger. Do you see that old man over there? I bet I’ll make the old man take off his coat faster than you.” The sun hides behind a cloud so that the wind proves its authority. The wind was blowing hard, almost like a hurricane.
But the stronger the wind blew, the tighter the old man held on to his coat. Finally, the wind calmed down and gave in. At that time, the sun left the clouds, gently casting iridescent rays on the ground. Suddenly the old man’s forehead was covered with sweat, and he frowned and took off his coat.
The sun had taught the wind a lesson, that gentle suggestion is always more effective than forceful coercion.
Aesop, a Greek slave who lived during the reign of Croesus, wrote the immortal fables six hundred BC. But to this day, what he experienced and explained about human nature remains the truth.
The sun can make you take off your coat faster than the wind. A gentle, friendly attitude and sincere compliments can make people change their mind more easily than it can cause tension or discomfort.
Again, remember Lincoln’s quote: “A drop of honey catches more flies than a bucket of bitter water.”
“Kindness and gentle manners are manifestations of a noble soul” – R. Tagore
“Maturity begins when you care more about others than you care about yourself.” – John Mac Noughton
Rule 13 : Always start with a friendly attitude