Part One On Improving Your Relationship: Dale Carnegie’s Marital Advice: Avoid Criticizing Others
When my son Marty was home for Christmas, he brought his Kindle and when he wasn’t using it and we had a lull in the holidays I’d pick it up and check it out. He’d downloaded Dale Carnegie’s Book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the classic self-help book from 1936. I’d read it 40 years ago. What fun to pick it up again. There’s a reason it’s a classic. It deserves your attention. His principles make great marital advice.
It wasn’t long before Marty had gone back to his home in California that I’d ordered my own Kindle and downloaded a copy of Dale Carnegie’s book. While reading it I underlined this and that quote, thinking, Oh, there’s a blog. Oh, I need to write on that.
Carnegie was a writer, lecturer, and teacher and developed a course called the Dale Carnegie Course, a program to teach public speaking and improving leadership and self-confidence. He started his training course in 1912 and his organization is still going strong, having courses in 80 countries, in 25 languages with over 8 million people having attended his course. His How to Win Friends and Influence People was an immediate best seller and has sold over 15 million copies in 31 languages.
Carnegie’s fundamental principle is you have a profound effect upon others by how you treat them. You may as well treat them with dignity and grace while you are at it, because kindness will come back to you. Most people live their lives just the opposite: in reaction to others. Carnegie says, no. You take control of your life and set the stage. Certainly there are jerks in the world that will treat you meanly no matter what you do. Still, most people respond to kindness. If people are mean to you and you are nice back, the mood can suddenly change. Your positive spirit lightens up their mood.
How many marriages could use this philosophy! Perhaps yours, too? No doubt. Check out this quote and see if your marriage doesn’t take a swing in the positive direction if you actually applied this in your relationship:
Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.
B. F. Skinner, the world-famous psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior will learn much more rapidly and retain what it learns far more effectively than an animal punished for bad behavior. Later studies have shown that the same applies to humans. By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.
The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned.
Here’s a question you could ask yourself: You may blame your spouse for something. Do you think your spouse blames himself? What about you? When your spouse points out your faults, how do you react? Do you jump for joy and say thank you, thank you, and then cheerfully and willingly change the behavior he suggested? Or do you get mad, defensive and even more stubborn?
There you go.
Back in high school I read an Ann Lander’s newspaper column where a woman complained about her husband never changing. She’d remind him repeatedly about his faults to no avail. Ann Landers suggested an experiment. She told her reader to only compliment her husband for positive things and to ignore the negative things he did for a month and see what happens. This woman wrote back a month later to report her life and relationship had been transformed. Her husband all of a sudden seemed in a better mood and became chatty and became more considerate and helpful. She noticed her own mood was lifted and the spirit in their relationship was much improved. She started thinking about him positively for the first time in a long time.
When you point out faults in your spouse, that fault screams louder in your head. When you point out positive things, those positives take a place in your mind. What kind of spirit do you want to exemplify your life?
Carnegie goes on to write:
Let’s realize that criticism are like homing pigeons. They always return home. Let’s realize that the person we are going to correct and condemn will probably justify himself or herself, and condemn us in return.