Be “Interested” not “Interesting”

In his book “How to win friends & influence people”, Dale Carnegie delivers a marvelous idea that one does not need to be a good orator, exceptionally wise or charismatic to influence people but one just needs to be genuinely concerned about the other to influence him/her. He beautifully quotes the example of a dog, a dog has nothing exceptional about it yet it is man’s best friend. This is because a dog gives love to others and hence has become one of the most widely chosen animal companions over the globe. Unlike most other domestic animals, dogs don’t work for a living, hens lay eggs and cows give milk but dogs give nothing but love. He believes that why most people fail in the society is because they are self-centered; he quotes an extract from Alfred Adler’s book “What life should mean to you”:

“It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”

The words shared above carry three important aspects: Firstly, a self-centered man faces ordeals because no one will be willing to help such a man. Secondly, he would hurt others, this is because he is selfish, he doesn’t care about other peoples’ feelings, needs, aspirations, etc. All he cares about is himself; the only word that keeps on ringing in his mind is “I”. Thirdly, he is bound to fail and for a very obvious reason, he will never have a true friend and people will turn their backs on him when he needs them (just as he did to them).

Dale goes on with quoting examples of some of the most influential people in history who made a huge impact just because they genuinely cared about others. My personal favorite example was that of Sir Roosevelt, the president of America. The man knew all of the servants at the White House, by their names (Most presidents didn’t bother with that). He called them with their names and made them feel important. His servant’s wife once asked him about a bobwhite, since she’d never seen one before. Not only did the president describe it to her fully but also called her to see one outside her cottage’s window, which showed that he genuinely cared about his servants.

As a part of the Fellowship at Amal Academy, I received yet another task by the name of “The Interested Challenge”. In this task, I had to communicate with other people and talk with them about them. I had to resist talking about myself with others for twenty four hours. It did seem quite odd at first but it made sense gradually, it’s just like Dale Carnegie says that one needs to be interested in others rather than interesting to influence people. I started by just simply asking trivial questions like “how are you?”, “what are you doing nowadays?” etc. And it bore no fruit. People weren’t interested, that I could say for sure. Then I approached my juniors and asked them about their studies and the arrow finally hit the target. As it so happened, they needed help (they always needed help, I just tried to avoid them, this time it was me who approached them). They had trouble with “Chordate Diversity”, a subject that I have on my fingertips. But since I had to resist talking about myself (i.e. I know it quite well, it’s easy, etc.), I pretended that I had to revise it myself and therefore I sat down with them and opened the book and started explaining things to them, while pretending to revise it myself as well. While doing so, I asked them simple questions (without revealing that it was a task) like “how do you manage your time?”, “is life at a hostel really that bad?” or “what are your future plans?” etc. It’s not as if I never asked them these questions before, this time I showed genuine concern (and I actually was concerned) and the way they responded was different than usual.

One of them, a boy named Mateen went on to tell me how hard it was to be in a hostel. “I have to wash my clothes myself and then I iron them myself, I can give them to the dry cleaners but it costs too much. The food is good here, hygienic, but it’s the same menu ever week, it gets monotonous but I have to resist the temptation of eating from elsewhere because it’s economic here. I miss my family, I visited them two months ago and I wanted to stay there, but I am here so that one day I graduate and become able to support them better.” He never opened his heart before me like this, before that day…

I helped him with his presentation topic and the next day he phoned me (he doesn’t do that usually, he just texts) and told me that he had done very well. He thanked me, to which I replied that he didn’t need to but he said that none of the other seniors ever bothered and that I was different… And those words were what my brain caught as the whole point; this was the whole point from the very start. To influence others, one needs to be genuinely interested in them rather than being interested.

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