How is it that Bill Clinton has been so successful? During his eight years as the 42nd President of the United States, he instituted welfare reform to provide health care coverage for millions of children and managed a national budget that ended with a surplus. He left office with the highest approval rating of any president since World War II. After his presidency which ended in 2001, he has been described as the most influential world leader, involved in numerous peacekeeping and humanitarian projects, as well as authoring best-selling books. How has he done all this?
It turns out Bill Clinton has some magic tricks. These are techniques anyone can learn quickly, and tricks that will work as well for anyone else as they have for Bill Clinton. Well, maybe not quite as well. You probably won’t become President of the United States, but these techniques practically guarantee your life will improve.
You can use Bill’s magic techniques to find the right mate, make family life more peaceful, generate more money, have more and higher-quality friends, get the car, vacation, or home of your dreams, and raise well-adjusted children.
You may think I’m exaggerating. Especially when I tell you most of these techniques can be learned in five minutes. Well read on, and decide for yourself.
You may wonder who am I to tell you about these tricks. My background includes extensive training and research in a controversial field called NLP – Neuro-Linguistic Programming. In fact, I am a certified master NLP practitioner. NLP is somewhat like applied psychology, used by people to help themselves and others become the happiest, most successful, best people they can be. NLP is built from careful observation of thought and language, and during the past 38 years or so since it’s initial discovery, has helped hundreds of thousands of people get more of what they want. NLP covers a vast landscape, but is controversial because it has been used badly by people who have hung out shingles as professionals without being sufficiently trained. For this book, we’ll leave that as it may be, and focus on the good things you can do with NLP – and other of Bill’s techniques – without any special training.
I have studied Bill Clinton and many other successful (and some unsuccessful) people through the NLP lens, to understand what works and what doesn’t in living a life of joy, prosperity, and good health. The things I have learned that will be the most useful to you are recorded right here in this little book. You are welcome to this information, and I am honored that you care about yourself, your friends, family and associates enough to want to discover this new material.
Have fun! – Jeff Napier, author
One of the first things people will discoverabout Bill Clinton is a way that he listens. But as you’ll discover in a minute, there are some subtle but extremely powerful things he does while listening that people almost never notice.What people do notice is that when he is with someone, he gives that person one-hundred percent of his attention, whether the person is a fry-cook or another world leader.
Terrorists may be just about to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco. It might be critical for Bill Clinton to authorize the National Guard to apprehend the terrorists. But not while he’s listening to you. At that time, you are his only consideration in the world.
You can see it in his posture. He stands or sits directly in front of the person. He does not look at the clock, the other people around him, at a TV screen or at the floor. He looks right in the speaker’s eyes. Of course there’s a bit more to it than that, and I’ll describe some specific techniques in the next few paragraphs.
Careful analysis of Bill’s listening technique also reveals that he has a way of steering conversations so the subject stays on track and remains interesting. He also knows how to end a conversation. As you can imagine, in his line of work, it was important to keep most conversations short.
If Bill’s listening technique is the only thing you get from this book, you’ll find it can, all by itself, create wonderful changes in your life. Here’s why:
1. When you really listen to someone, in the ways I’m about to describe, they are honored beyond words. This is especially true since most people, in most countries of the world, don’t listen very well. When someone has truly been heard, they’ll remember you, and go out of their way to do things for you.
2. You communicate more fully, so you don’t go off on false leads, waste your time taking care of something that wasn’t wanted or needed, while not knowing what is actually expected.
3. You avoid misunderstandings, so you can work with others as a team, not as a group of adversaries. Furthermore, you are fully informed. You will know what’s going on better than anyone, sometimes even more than the person who is imparting the information to you.
4. You start to develop an understanding of the person to whom you’re listening that enters a deeper level. You emphasize. You might even do what you can to make that person’s life better, which in many ways obvious and not, circles around, eventually making your life better also.
5. You are in control of the conversation. You can get from it what you want.
6. For the same reason people read fiction or watch movies, you can find creative listening very interesting. Everyone has a story, and if you can find out something about a person’s story, it can be very satisfying to your curiosity.
7. You can often uncover important secrets.
This set of techniques is called creative listening. Creative listening is free and unrestricted, takes just a few minutes to learn, and can be super-effective in so many ways:
* Helps others understand things they’ve been thinking about in entirely new ways, often resulting in perceptions shifted, problems solved, attitudes adjusted, and progress made.
* Understand things you’ve been thinking about in entirely new ways.
* Quickly establish rapport with clients, customers, teenagers, parents, etc.
* Express criticism in a constructive way without offending, and elicit changed behaviors.
* Help people feel better about themselves and their lives.
A creative listener does not have to do anything except ask questions. You can use creative listening not only in general ways, but can also help those who are in very specialized fields. You can use CL with a neighbor in your local coffee shop, in a professional session, or anything in-between. You can use it with friends, family, clients, customers, associates – anyone young or old.
In just a few minutes, you can learn enough to communicate more effectively with family, friends, and yourself. In just a few hours of practice, you can even use it professionally, offering your services for anyone who wants a sounding board to help figure things out.
Easy Steps to Creative Listening
Respectfully challenge ambiguities.
You’d be amazed at what people leave out of conversations. When we talk, we all tend to delete, distort, and generalize. Interestingly, many of these details have never really been analyzed by the speaker. So, when you ask for more detail, very interesting new thoughts can develop.
If the person you’re listening to says, “Everyone says.” – You might ask: “Who specifically says that?”
It can’t be done. – What exactly prevents it from being done?
She hates me. – In what specific way does she let you know that she hates you?
The relationship is in trouble. – How is it in trouble?
The situation is hopeless. – What is the situation, exactly? Or, What lets you know it’s hopeless?
You might think this rude or offensive, but in most cases, when you respectfully ask for more detail, the speaker is honored – knowing that someone truly wants to know what they are thinking.
Ask questions that cause people to think about things in new ways. In NLP, this set of questions is referred to as the Outcome Frame. It is often used by practitioners to help people learn new ways to understand things.
As you know, two people can have the exact same experience, and one person will love what happens, and the other will hate it. Like a family that goes on a camping trip. One member is loving seeing all the scenery, can’t wait to put up the tent, gather firewood, purify some water, play with the bow and arrow, and so on. The other is bored, feels every mosquito bite, is too cold or too hot, doesn’t like the extra ‘work’ and can’t wait to get back home. What caused the difference? It is not the camping trip itself. It is the way it is preceived. The way it is preceived. Interesting, isn’t it?
You can use the following set of questions with friends, associates, or even have someone ask them of you, to cause a major shift in preception. For example:
What would you like? This is a good place to start in many cases. Variations can include: What’s on your mind? What do you want?
What would having that do for you? This will often cause the speaker to zoom out and see the bigger picture – often for the first time.
And what would having that do for you? Sometimes the degree of zoom isn’t enough – even when you think it is. You’d be surprised what comes up when you zoom out twice.
How will you know when you have it? A surprising way to zoom in for a closer look.
When you have it, what will you lose that you value? This will typically bring the speaker to a dead stop for a minute, and can bring up all sorts of useful objections. Knowing those objections will reveal reasons for procrastination, hesitation, and de-focusing activities.
What’s the opposite of that? Another viewpoint that many people have never considered in ideas they may have thought about often. This can get them out of a loop.
How will your friends, family, or significant others react when you have it? Another way to find hidden blocks.
What stops you? This can bring a new perspective.
If your _____ was a bathtub to fill with something, what would you put in it? This is just an example, you could use all sorts of similar questions here – ones that the listener doesn’t expect, which will jump them off their typical track – often with spectacular results. It can often help them to think of something more useful or more productive.
Now that we’ve discussed it a bit, what would you like? Don’t be surprised if the answer is quite different from the original answer the first time you asked this question.
What good things come to someone who _____? Generally, this is a twist that opens new channels of consideration. The blank is often filled with what the person is doing now. For instance: What good things come to someone who does not practice the guitar?
What would someone have to believe _____? Much like the question above, you can twist it backward, and be ready to hear some very interesting results.
What’s the first step to getting _____? This is a good way to zoom in, and see the first and most immediate objection.
What needs to be written in my notes? (Or, what should I make sure to remember about this?) This often elicits a more honest self-appraisal.
In asking all these questions, leave plenty of time for answers. Although at first awkward, you can wait even 15 seconds without saying another word. The person with whom you are speaking will feel the need to fill the silence, and may come up with something very interesting indeed, if given enough silent time.
At this point, they may preface a very important revelation with something like, “Well, I don’t want to waste your time with a silly thought.” Or, “It’s not worth talking about.” Or, “It’s nothing important.” Pursue it, this is the vein of gold in the mine.
You can ask these, and other questions, in any sequence that seems right. Indulge your curiosity. Don’t be afraid of questions that seem too personal or prying. If you ask these with good intention, and follow the steps below, not only will you get the answers you seek, but the person with whom you are speaking will feel quite honored that you care enough to ask such deep things.
If the conversation veers off-track, you can steer it back by saying something like, “Thank you,” or “Yes, I can see how that would happen,” but then ask for specific information to get the conversation back on track. For instance, if the person starts talking about exactly how he built a bookshelf, you might say, “I see you really enjoyed that project. So, what would you…?”
If you are trying to “help” someone, you can guide the conversation to what’s called a ‘well-formed outcome.’ Ultimately, you’d like the person you’re conversing with to state a desire in the positive, and have it be something s/he can realistically initiate and maintain by themselves.
For instance, “I’d like my mother to stop nagging me,” is not a well-formed outcome, because it is stated in the negative, and it depends on the mother changing.
A better outcome might be something like, “I’d like to start creating harmony between my mother and myself.”
It has been said that 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. You have experienced that. For instance, someone may say that their neighbor is ‘alright,’ but as they say it, you see their shoulders rise up, their facial features tighten, their respiration becomes shallow. In this situation, do you learn more from their words (‘alright’), or from their physiology? You can do a lot with this 93 percent.
Just like Bill Clinton does, you can build tremendous unconscious rapport by mirroring posture, gestures and audio tonality. You can watch videos of him, and once you are aware of this technique, you can see it in action. I don’t know whether Bill does it consciously, whether he was trained to do it, or if it comes natural to him, as it does to some people.
If you wait approximately seven seconds and then position yourself the same way, if you moderate your speed, volume and pitch to sound somewhat similar to the person with whom you are conversing, if you play back gestures, your listener will become more trusting, more willing to share deeper thoughts and emotions, and more willing to listen carefully to what you have to say. Don’t take my word for it – try it out. Surprisingly, you won’t be ‘busted’ unless you do it very blatantly. In most cases, you can mirror people very completely, and they never suspect a thing. If they do discover the mirroring, you can just say something like, “Oh, it’s a technique I’m trying that helps you become more comfortable.”
So, as your person sits in the chair with her left arm forward, you can sit in your chair with your right arm forward. A very primitive part of the human brain sees the mirroring, and says, “That person is like me. I can feel comfortable with that person.” The same is true for matching speaking speed, volume, and tonality. It is probably unwise to try to match a regional accent, since it is hard to be accurate enough to satisfy the other person’s primitive part of the brain.
Backtracking is a valuable technique. This means that you repeat certain key phrases back to the person you are conversing with, generally several seconds or even minutes later. For instance, if your user states that something good is ‘fantabulous,’ and if you use that same word in a similar context, this will raise their comfort level – they’ll feel honored and heard.
I had a conversation with a young surfer who used “tubular” as a generic adjective to describe something good. So, I said “tubular” a minute or so later when I was talking about a behaviour that I considered good, but which he didn’t originally care for. Sure enough, the new behavior became ‘tubular’ for him also.
Backtracking is actually the opposite of a technique known as ‘active listening’ in which you rephrase what you’ve heard to prove that you understood it. Backtracking has the rather surprising effect of causing the listener believe that you really understood what was said. Whereas active listening is a powerful technique, it can get bogged down in discussing or possibly arguing phraseology.
For instance if Mary tells me, “My father is in danger of having a heart attack because he eats too much junk food.” I might respond with, “Oh, so you’re worried about what he eats?” This seems like good active listening, right? But no, Mary comes back with, “Well, not so much worried, but more like concerned.” Do you see how that went astray? She came back to the surface to correct my phraseology. Now I’ve got to work to get her back down to the deeper level.
You’ll find backtracking has a more profound effect that active listing in almost every situation. Try it for yourself!
I know someone to whom “interdependent” has major significance. As soon as I work the word “interdependent” into a conversation with him, he suddenly livens up, and gives serious consideration to whatever I say next.
Noticing physiology can let you know when it is time to shift gears. You can read when you’ve lost someone’s attention, when you have asked for too much detail, gone into an area that brings sadness, and so on. With practice, you can read where to focus more attention. For instance, as the conversation shifts to parents, you may see physiology changes that indicate something more needs to be discussed – or something needs to be avoided – about a mother or father. You may see a slight sheen of sweat, tightened lips, or a change in eyebrows. You may see breathing become shallow or even stop temporarily. Or, you may see a deep, calming breath, closing of the eyes longer than a blink, a more relaxing shift in sitting position, indicating you’ve come back to ‘safe’ territory in the conversation.
Remember what you are trying to accomplish. Quite often, your story, your attitude, your concerns creep into the conversation. In many cases, that’s counter-productive. The moment you start coaching or telling your story, your effectiveness as a creative listener weakens.
Depending on what you wish to accomplish, you may not have to say anything specific. Simply giving them the opportunity to talk freely can help them feel better, see things in new ways, and arrive at a more satisfactory conclusion, especially if you use steps 1 and 2. You may have heard women tell men ‘not to fix them.’ This is what they’re talking about. A typical man in modern society will look for suggestions to offer. A typical woman will more often refrain from offering anything other than a good ear. Have you ever offered unsolicited suggestions? How well did the recipient respond to your advice?
Breaking the spell: Just the other day, I found myself in a parking lot, next to a friend’s car, having a conversation that was supposed to be incidental, perhaps lasting a minute or two, but it went on for over an hour. I knew how to end the conversation early so I could get back to some ‘real’ work, but I didn’t want to. I was having fun. But if I had wanted to, I could:
Say something indicating a respect for the other person, but letting him know the time is over. Something like, “I’m sure you have things you want to do this afternoon.”
If sitting, you can stand up. If standing, you can walk toward your door, your car, or just take a few steps in the general direction of home. This is understood on a visceral level as “time to go.”
Resist the temptation to start the next topic or a segue yourself. For instance, “Yes, she is doing well. On the other hand, George . . .”
If the person has missed noticing all the signals, you can be direct, but polite. “Thank you. I wish I had time to talk more. Catch you soon!” That works every time, as long as you aren’t too shy to use it.
There are several ways to make money with creative listening.
The first, probably most obvious way, is to offer your services in person or by phone as a creative listener. You might consider charging $1 per minute to start. As you gain a reputation, and as more and more of your early clients call you back, I believe it would be quite realistic to charge $2/minute ($120/hour).
Reputation would be the best way to spread the word, but that takes time. To kick it off, you can do all the usual things: post flyers on local bulletin boards, attend meetings around where you live and hand out business cards to anyone and everyone along with an ‘elevator speech’ – a ten-second friendly introduction about what you can do for them with creative listening.
Or, you may prefer to work strictly by phone. This gives you a national, or even international pool of potential customers. You can advertise what you do in all the usual Internet ways: Via Google AdWords, create a blog, add it to your website, pay for space on other websites, and so on.
You can offer discounts to local or phone people. I’d like to recommend something like this: Tell them to tell the truth about what you do, as they see it. Give them a certain number of business cards in trade for a certain amount of service, and tell them that via the honor system, they are expected to distribute the cards in meaningful ways. As you are just starting your business, any client at all is valuable. Even if they pay you nothing. You get to practice, and you’ve got someone who will naturally tell others about what you can do. But, if they have been given ten cards in trade for 20 free minutes from you, they’ll be even more inclined to spread the word.
As I mentioned, there are other ways to make money with creative listening. How many can you think of? For instance, you could teach it independently or via a community education system. Doesn’t a type of communication that eases tension and gains clarity in homes and workplaces seem like something worth teaching?
Or, here’s a crazy idea: You could ‘street perform’ creative listening. You’d bring two chairs or stools and perhaps an easel-mounted sign to a public place, and just get a volunteer and start a conversation. At the same time, you build and acknowledge a crowd, and eventually pass the hat. After your ‘performance’, pass your cards out to encourage people to call on you professionally – now that they’ve seen what you can do.
You can also mix creative listening in with your with your other activities. You may be a coach, teacher, or perhaps a computer repair technician, and find that creative listening helps your business in all the ways where good communication makes a difference – which is everywhere! It certainly helped Bill Clinton in the business of running a country.
Sometimes, you may feel a need to actively create change, but know the person who you want to change may be resistant. So how do you go about helping the resistant person change?One of the most common techniques world leaders use is speaking metaphorically. Telling someone they ‘ought’ to do something, even if it is in answer to a specific plea for coaching, tends to be less effective than spinning a metaphor. This kind of metaphor is typically a short story about someone who is similar but different, facing a similar but different situation. The person in the story just happens to take whatever the teller of the metaphor thinks is the ‘right’ action, and the story ends in success. Bill Clinton will tell at least one metaphor almost every time he speaks. Abraham Lincoln was a master of metaphor. You may think it is difficult to learn, but it turns out to be easy. What Bill does most of the time is to simply talk about something from his own experience that relates to the situation at hand. You may think it is not effective, but can often be more effective than yelling, threatening, or any sort of force.
Metaphors don’t always work. You need to watch your recipient’s physiology to see if the metaphor ‘went in’ or not. Sometimes it will bump against the long-held memories of childhood traumas, and other subconscious beliefs and resistance, but often a metaphor is just the right medicine.
You can talk about a person in a similar situation, real or imagined, and what that person did. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re speaking with a neighbor about his brown lawn. It may be bothering you like crazy, since everyone else on the block has nice green lawns.
You could tell him: “Hey, I don’t like looking at your brown lawn! Please water it.”
I think you can imagine the effect that would have.
Or, after spending a few minutes with steps 1 through 4 in the Creative Listening chapter, you could tell him a brief story about a fellow who collected plaster lawn gnomes, enjoyed his riding mower, and felt great satisfaction in having a green lawn. And say nothing more. Wait a week and see what happens.
Another example: Let’s say you’re talking with your teenage son about being too loud in public places. You might say, ‘Have you ever noticed how everyone cringes when my friend Fred shows up? I guess that’s just because he’s so loud.”
Metaphors don’t work every time, but neither does a direct statement. You can try a few different metaphors in a few different conversations, and eventually you’re more likely to be effective than with direct statement, especially with repeated direct statements, which turn all too easily into nagging.
Bill Clinton often uses three other speaking techniques worth practicing.
He developed the habit of speaking slowly. One can start by counting silently to three before answering or responding. Going a step further, speaking clearly and spreading the words through time, sometimes even eccentrically so, can make what you have to say stand out in comparison to the same thing spoken normally. It can also give the impression that you are particularly knowledgeable or intelligent.
The person who consistently speaks quietly, even to the point where people have to struggle to hear, also gains presentation points.
The third technique is waiting silently and patiently for someone to come up with an answer. The untrained person rushes to fill silences, sometimes even putting words into the mouths of the people with whom they are conversing. The person who waits as much as fifteen seconds, often gets a more honest, and sometimes totally unexpected response.
Bill Clinton himself is a metaphor for long-term persistence. He had to make it all the way through Yale Law School before he could enter politics in the most minor way. But he did stick with it, working as campaign manager for other politicians, eventually becoming a governor, being voted out of governorship, and then elected as governor again. Through thick and thin, he stuck with politics, and ended up as President.
Here’s another metaphor promoting long-term persistence. This is for the person who needs some coaching to follow through on a project. To keep going when it seems to the person like there is no hope. This is also good for someone who keeps doing the same thing, and expecting different results.
You can use this for yourself just by reading and absorbing it. (Although now that I’ve told you it is a metaphor for you, I may have spoiled its effectiveness.) You can use it with your own friends, family or clients. You can even spin your own custom version of this story.
This particular story happens to be true. I won’t mention the name of the person who is involved, because even though it happened a long time ago, and was told to me in front of some other people, he may or may not want to be associated with it.
It seems this fellow really, really wanted to be a successful science fiction author. Somehow, he figured he had to co-write. He contacted some of the best names in the business with his ideas, and ended up co-writing books with Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein and many the biggest sci-fi authors of the day.
Each book he co-wrote died in the market. They never made any significant royalties beyond the initial small advances. He kept trying to co-write these books for eighteen years, while he supported himself as an English professor at a community college.
After all these non-successes, none of the big names would co-write with him anymore. His name became poison in the science fiction business. They figured, “Write with him, and your book will die for sure.”
So, in desperation, he wrote a book independently, and submitted it to editors at the various publishers. One of the publishing houses picked it up, and it became an international best-seller.
Four very common words do not usually have the effect you’d expect. If you listen to some of Bill Clinton’s speeches, you’ll see that he generally avoids these words, resulting in better communication. You might want to listen to some of his speeches to see whether he ever uses these words, and if he does, whether he uses them ‘properly.’When you say don’t you are setting up a situation that is the opposite of what you literally say. For instance, if I tell you, “Don’t think about dragons,” what happens? Right, you immediately think about dragons. It seems that on some level, the mind understands that whatever follows “don’t” is important, but the “don’t” part itself is not emphasized. It’s as if parents who tell their children, “Don’t put your milk so close to the edge of the table,” are asking for trouble. Teachers who tell their students, “Don’t run in the hallway” are almost commanding them to run.
You can leverage this aspect of “don’t” to help people focus on new thoughts or behaviors. One of the most powerful uses is at the end of a conversation when you can offer a hypnotic suggestion such as this: “And, don’t be surprised if in the next few days, you’ll have wonderful revelations born out of our conversation today.”
But is a word that also has a special effect. Any part of a sentence before the word “but” is pretty much wiped out by whatever follows. For instance, if I tell someone, “I like what you wrote, but the last paragraph confuses me,” guess what happens? Right again! All the person hears is the critique. The entire complimentary part of the sentence is lost.
Another such word is why. When you ask “why” you get ‘story.’ Asking “why” is like an invitation or a challenge to defense – it puts the person who is asked in a space where they have to try to tell you why on a conscious level, and this is often counter-productive. A better question is “How,” or something like, “What let you know to. . .” or “When. . .”
Try is another problematic or powerful word. It really implies making an effort, but has nothing to do with success. Most of the time, when someone says “try,” an unsuccessful outcome is expected. You can learn to notice “try” in conversation, and understand the underlying implication. The person speaking may be indicating that lack of success is likely. How might you use, or not use “try” effectively when you’re speaking?
Hint: You can listen to Bill Clinton’s speech in support of Obamacare (whether or not you agree) and hear how he makes purposeful use of the word “try.” You’ll find it on YouTube using this search phrase: “bill clinton defends obamacare 2013,” or just click here on readers that support linking to the web.
How to Deal With an Undesirable Person
There is no evidence that Bill Clinton has made use of Perceptual Positions, but I believe it is in his style. If he were a priest, some sort of counselor, or even an NLP practitioner, you’d probably find him making good use of this technique.This little procedure takes just a few minutes, and can change your situation with a family member, acquaintance, client, or just about anyone, in spectacular ways. It is not necessary to do this thing exactly ‘right.’ If you mix up a step or have something out of position, it is likely to work well anyway.
This chapter is written as if you are using the technique for yourself, but you can just as easily guide someone else through this process.
1. If your most vivid memory of this undesirable person involves sitting, arrange three empty chairs approximately as shown. If it was a standing situation, chairs are not needed.
2. Sit in chair A. Try to imagine your ‘undesirable’ person sitting in chair B. With the parts of you that know how to do it, move yourself into your co-worker in chair B, and see the world through the other person’s eyes, hear the world through that person’s ears, and so on. For the next few minutes, you are the other person.
3. As that other person, you are looking at yourself in chair A. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel about the person in chair A? What do you think about that person in chair A?
4. Whenever you are ready, get up, and do something to break your state. Spell a word backward, walk in a circle, just anything to free your mind for a moment.
5. Sit in chair C and become an independent observer. You are not yourself or the other person. As the observer, what do you see, hear, think, feel about the interaction between yourself in chair A, and the person in B?
5a. Imagine/sense that your chair is very far removed from chairs A and B, and see if anything changes. How about if your chair becomes very close?
6. Break your state. Sit again in chair A, be yourself, and notice if anything has changed in your thoughts about the other person.
7. As necessary, feel free to repeat the steps of this procedure.
“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us; Power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health and our happiness.” – Dale Carnegie
What comes next is something Bill Clinton uses almost all the time:Emile Coue (1857-1926) of France told people to say to themselves 20 times in a row, twice a day: “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” This has actually cured thousands of people of an assortment of minor and major ills.
In French if you prefer, “Tous les jours, a tous points de vue, je vais de mieux en mieux.”
Try it, it can’t hurt you (unless somebody overhears, but then you can do it silently), and it might just work to get you over the flu, a toothache, minor depression, whatever is bothering you.
This is a serious suggestion. Scientists have proven beyond doubt that people can improve their health with a positive mental attitude. In hospitals across the globe, cancer patients are now being taught to mentally picture (or actually draw pictures of) their cells surrounding and eating tumors.
So much of our language expresses negative experiences. What would happen if we started using positive words to describe things?
Going a step further:
It has been studied and documented that we hear thirty-two items of criticism for each item of praise! It starts when we are babies, “Oooh, your diapers stink!” or “Can’t you keep out of trouble for even one minute?” Sure, we may not have known what the words meant, but even as babies, we felt the emotions behind those words. We grew up with much more negative input than positive. It is no surprise that we do the same thing to our friends, associates, and children.
What if it were reversed? What if you started offering genuine praise to anyone and everyone, every time you see something praiseworthy?
At first, people would probably think you flipped. But they would also enjoy the compliments. Eventually, they may catch on, or maybe they’d just start following your example, because people do tend to emulate what surrounds them.
The big picture results are obvious. Eventually we’d have a world in which everyone hears how well they do things, how nice they look, how their presence is so enjoyable, and so on. And, these people would have more confidence in themselves.
>Would they? Of course. If from a young age, you were told that you we’re of value, and that you can accomplish what you like, you’d make the effort. You’d know that you can make a difference, that you can have what you want, that you deserve a good life, that it is worth your time to practice your skills. In such a world, you’d have a much more successful and happier life. So would everyone, and at no cost, other than the energy to open your mouth and say kind things to everyone, and hold your tongue when what you have to say is not so positive.
>Such is not the world we live in now. But you can change it yourself. Not all by yourself, but you can start it in your sphere of influence, and people will catch on. You can influence your associates, friends, and family. They will influence their associates, friends and families. Perhaps sooner than you think, everyone will start doing it. We’ve seen it happen with slang. Remember when “bad” meant bad? That transition happened fairly quickly. And so can this, because this too, is simply a matter of spoken words.
You may gain from this sooner than you’d think. Before the whole world changes to this new thirty-two-to-one praise to criticism ratio, it will help you in your life. As an example, if you start praising your mate much more than you scold, what will happen? Will your mate become lax? Perhaps dinner will be late, the library books will be overdue, the kitty pan won’t get changed when it should? Maybe, a little bit, at first. Can you stand it? More important, can you keep quiet, and let it happen, while you go on practicing your 32-to-1 game?
I think so, especially when you know that soon your mate will start copying you, consciously or not. Then, you’ll start feeling good when your loved one tells you that your hair looks nice, or that you are such a great cook, rather than telling you that the lawn needs mowing really bad. Imagine a peaceful home life, where you know your mate likes the way you look, the way you cook, where you feel no pressure to mow the lawn right now. Why, you’d probably want to mow that lawn, just because you’ll get praise for it.
Let’s look at the bigger picture. It is a smaller world than you think. Within seven levels of acquaintance, almost everyone knows everyone else. This means that you may have a friend, who has a friend, who has a friend, and so on, who knows David Letterman, Miley Cyrus, Barack Obama, and so on. So, you can influence these people, and all people. Practice 32-to-1, and soon your friends will be doing it, and their friends will be doing it, and eventually politicians will be doing it, and we’ll have no more wars.
For best results, make sure your praise is always sincere. Contrived praise is embarrassing for giver and receiver.
Some people have a hard time receiving compliments, after all they don’t get them very often. Therefore, at first, keep your compliments small and simple, using only a few carefully chosen words.
People are more comfortable with compliments about things they are not known for. The professional musician would rather hear that you respect her political views, than that she plays her instrument well.
Another way to comfortably praise people is to offer compliments which they don’t have to work to acknowledge. If you praise someone noisily in a group of people, the recipient then feels he has to offer some sort of thanks, or deny it, equally loudly. On the other hand, if you slip praise into the middle of a paragraph, then the recipient can have the compliment without obligation. Here’s an example:
“John, Sally’s a great cook, look what she did with this potato salad! Sally, is there any more in the kitchen?”
Relayed praise is the best of all, worth ten times as much as direct praise. For instance, if you wrote a song that I liked, but Fred told you that he enjoyed it when I played it for him, you’d be more pleased than if I simply told you I liked the song, right?
Relayed praise can be amplified even further, if it comes from someone noted in the field. If I showed your song to a famous songwriter, who then told you it was really excellent, that would be even better than if plain old Fred said so.
Asking someone for their opinion or experiences is always a great way to let them know your respect their thoughts. And again, if done in the presence of others, the effect is magnified.
Be on the lookout for backhanded compliments. There is a strong temptation to say something like, “I really admire your intelligence. That’s why it surprises me that you have so little understanding of our budget.” This is not a compliment. We know that but we are so used to correcting, offering critique, that if we don’t pay attention, these things slip out.
A good test is to see if you plan to gain anything when you praise someone. If you decide that you have nothing to gain, you aren’t trying to get someone to fix your flat tire, to change into a better looking outfit or to clean up their room, then your compliment is probably a good one.
Gossip currently follows the same thirty-two-to-one ratio. Gossip hurts the people who do it, almost more than the people about whom they talk. The reason is that someone who gossips can’t be trusted. Therefore, as their reputation builds, they are trusted with less and less information. Really severe gossips have few quality friends, because they have a hard time finding people desperate enough to risk spending time with them.
My recommendation with gossip, then, is to reverse its ratio also. Thirty-two times more often than you negatively gossip, look for good things you can tell others about your friends, family and associates.
“I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody.” – Benjamin Franklin. If it worked for him, it can work for us.
“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth the greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” – Charles Schwab, who was paid a million dollars per year for his management skills.
When the trucking company PIE renamed their truckers, warehouse men and clerical workers “craftsmen,” they raised their pride and cut a sixty percent rate of shipping mistakes down to ten percent. This simple change in terminology saves the company $250,000 per year.
“Being president is like running a cemetery: you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening.” – Bill Clinton
“I may not have been the greatest president, but I’ve had the most fun eight years.” – Bill Clinton