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Part Six: Improving Your Relationship: Dale Carnegie on Marriage: Kick Up Your Greeting Rituals

You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you. P. 65

Today is actually the second blog on the same quote from Dale Carnegie.  He has a whole chapter in his classic business book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, on the power of the smile to change the people around you.  The power of a smile certainly deserves more than one blog.

In our previous blog on this topic (see here), I discussed how the mood we bring to the family affects everyone else in the family.  It may as well be a positive one!  In this blog we’ll look at your first and last impressions with your spouse everyday.  There are four of them most days: hello in the morning, goodbye in the morning, hello in the evening, and goodnight in the evening.  Let’s call these Greeting Rituals.*

I’ve always thought, if I’m going to be married, I may as well enjoy it.  For sure.  How you say hello and goodbye to your husband leaves an impression upon him.  What kind of an impression do want to make?  If the last thing your wife sees in the morning is you looking down and depressed, it isn’t going to endear her heart to you!

Dale Carnegie tells the story of one of his students in his classes who was challenged to

smile every hour of the week and then come to class and talk about the results.  How did it work?  Let’s see…Here is a letter from William B. Seinhardt, a New York stockbroker.  His case isn’t isolated.  In fact, it is typical of hundreds of cases.

I have been married for over eighteen years,” wrote Mr. Steinhardt, “and in all that time I seldom smiled at my wife or spoke two dozen words to her from the time I got up until I was ready to leave for business.  I was one of the worst grouches who ever walked down Broadway.

When you asked me to make a talk about my experiences with smiles, I thought I would try it for a week.  So the next morning, while combing my hair, I looked at my glum mug in the mirror and said to myself, ‘Bill, you are going to wipe the scowl off that sour puss of yours today.  You are going to smile.  And you are going to begin right now.’  As I sad down to breakfast, I greeted my wife with a “Good morning, my dear,” and smiled as I said it.

You warned me that she might be surprised.  Well, you underestimated her reaction.  She was bewildered.  She was shocked. I told her that in the future she could expect this as s regular occurrence, and I kept it up every morning.

This changed attitude of mine brought about more happiness into our home in the two months since I started than there was during the last year.”

Good for Mr. Seinhardt.  What about you and your spouse?  Are you happy to see her whenever you see her?  When your husband calls, what kind of voice do you have on the phone?  I’m guessing for most of us we could kick this up a tad.

But you say: I don’t want her to think I’m a hypocrite.  I’m NOT really happy, you see.  It’s important to me that I convey who I am.  I WANT him to know I’m unhappy, so that he will change!

Ha!  Good luck.  Where did you ever get the notion that if you are in bad mood and scowl at your husband that that will somehow instill in him a desire to be more cooperative with you?  Do you warm up to people who are warm to you or who are indifferent or bored?  If someone scoffs at you do you think, Oh, I need to change so that person won’t scoff at me or do you think, that guy’s a jerk and avoid him like the plague?   Hello!

Remember the grade school principle, who stood authoritarian and stern at the end of the hall?  How inviting was that?  Didn’t you just want to be a good little student then?  Right.

Remember the Æsop’s Fable of the Wind and the Sun?  I read it in third grade (or so).  Check it out.  I’m thinking most of our homes could use a little more sun:

THE WIND and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger.  You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

If you want your spouse to be upbeat and positive then maybe you should try it on first.  If nothing else, your spouse could maybe learn from your example!  Maybe she doesn’t smile back, but, if you are happy to see her, she may actually be happy to see you someday!  I’m thinking we’d all be more apt to be helpful and cooperative to someone who is upbeat than to someone who looks down and dejected.

Every time you see your spouse, it’s a first impression for that moment.

But look.  Use a little discretion here.  I read recently in Ann Landers about a lady who complained because every time she saw her husband he said, I love you, and expected it in return.  Every time.  Even if he was leaving or entering the living room, or she got up to leave the room:  I love yous on her exit and upon her return. It was driving this wife crazy.  She’d repeatedly told him to just cool it with the love yous already, and he didn’t get it and poured them on without regard to her requests. She was so distraught over it, she was thinking of divorcing him!  YIKES!  I thought the obnoxious “love yous” was pretty funny and told my wife about it.  It was waaaay to much of a good thing.  We laughed.

And then all last weekend I kept telling her I loved her whenever I saw her.

It was great fun.

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