Accentuate the positive

Sep 24 2007 by Janet Howd Print This Article

It's seventy one years since Dale Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' spawned the multitude of 'How to' books and training sessions available today and eighty years since the first copy of his 'Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business' hit bookshop shelves.

Sexist language of the period aside, Carnegie's writing opened up huge inroads for people who quite literally wanted to come in from the backwoods and make their way in commerce and trade.

Those' How to' pioneers knew that to concentrate on quick fix solutions which would merely disturb rather than transform their lives was useless. The change they desired had to be permanent and they were prepared to go through enormous discomfort - some might say torture - to implement it.

Torture - not because 'How to' methods are physically or mental abusive - but because until the activities which allow new ways of doing a task or thinking about a system become habitual, change can be a painful and unnerving experience.

Each of us is the centre of our own universe, therefore how we appear to others as we undergo change is of crucial importance to us. Of course, other people (central to their own universes) are never taking as much notice of us as we assume they are, but that doesn't stop any one of us from feeling clumsy, lost, and acutely aware of how much we are being shown up, as we try to get the hang of new concepts or enhance physical attributes.

"This doesn't feel natural to me," is a phrase which coaches, mentors and trainers the world over hear constantly as their clients attempt to get to grips with novel thought processes and unexplored muscular activity.

The problem is that though we all accept that dancers, athletes, sports men and women and musicians should be put through unusual rigours until they reach a standard of facility which everyone can see has raised their game, we have real difficulty in accepting that similar re-alignment of thought and physique might benefit to us too.

Optimism is the most ideal partner of change, but we reject it and instead allow the expectation of negative outcomes to cast its shadow over every new thing we try.

To rid ourselves of that particular 'monkey on the shoulder,' we need - in the words of Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen - to:

Accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative.

Latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mister In-between.

Spread joy up to the maximum. Bring gloom down to the minimum.

Have faith, or pandemonium is liable to walk upon the scene.

"Easier said than done," I hear you exclaim. But that is where a coach, trainer or mentor may come in handy.

Articulating and manipulating the exercise of positive attributes is what good "How to' methodologists do. Their clinical disinterest tames the chaotic feelings that threaten to overwhelm us and lightens the burden of change.

As for us 'How to-ers': we must remain open to fresh thinking via open minded listening. We must constantly seek fresh ideas with which to persuade and convince a diversity of clients that they are on the right track and revisit our methods and materials to check that they remain sound.

We must also be aware that if personal chemistry is not present it is no sign of failure to point clients in the way of another practitioner.

If trainers, coaches and mentors share rather than impose, guide rather than grill, persuade rather than push, encourage rather than expose, and make a difference without making a display, their 'How to' businesses should be winning friends and influencing people for many years to come.

more articles

About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.