News Community Obituaries Recreation Opinion Religion Special Sections Photos Contact Us Email Updates

In 1930 Dale Carnegie first published "How to Win Friends and Influence People," with its message of having amicable interactions with others, and since that time it has sold 30 million copies.

Carnegie explained countless ways in which you can improve life for yourself as well as those with whom you associate.

Treating others with respect is a common expectation. So is approaching a person or organization with a cordial attitude.

In spite of that, there are many times in which we feel that using heavy-handed rhetoric is justified, or we may feel that if we are angry that it should be a natural part of the dialogue.

According to Carnegie and others, however, it is best to remain calm and kind.

In his book Carnegie wrote, "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain--and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving."

That's good to remember when you approach a business or an individual because you aren't satisfied, or because you have been wronged, or, at the very least, because a perception exists that you have been wronged.

It is also good to remember a few items that will help resolve the matter graciously.

• If there is a possible disagreement coming, simply ask questions. There is nothing on earth that is wrong in asking why something is the way it is, or why a certain action has taken place, provided it is done with the right demeanor and with no malice intended. (Sarcasm or an accusatory tone can't be utilized here).

A person can ask a question with the intention of arriving at some peaceful, common ground or a person can ask a question that puts the other party on the defensive. You want the former; not the latter.

• Suggest alternatives. Having another option to consider indicates that you have thought about it. Be ready to give reasons as to why the alternative might be in everyone's best interest. You can have a good idea to suggest, but if it looks like the idea will only benefit you, then it's hard to win the other person over. In addition, suggesting alternatives keeps you from sounding like the person who always complains but never has any solutions.

People who have ideas or alternatives can come across as a reasonable person who merely seeks a peaceful resolution. People who only complain may be perceived as always looking for a conflict.

And let's be honest here, there are always some people who are happier with a conflict than they are with peace. You don't want to be one of those.

• Consider the other customers or clients who may be affected by your request. Sometimes the person you approach cannot say yes to you because it would mean saying no to many others.

• Realize that there are usually factors or circumstances in play that you know nothing about.

Do you ever hear someone complain about "they"? I don't know why they don't have more people out here taking tickets. Why don't they make it so that a nursery is provided during that meeting? Why don't they have a better choice in seating for people who come in large groups?

There are always reasons why they do not do those things. In short, it is usually impossible to schedule everything according to the unique needs of the one person who is complaining about why they don't do something.

• Remember that when you are upset it is tempting to really tee off on some people, especially if you are communicating through email or on social media. Don't.

• Along the same lines, remember that when you are communicating your concerns, be nice. It is not going to help your cause if you just let the venom flow. Don't use words such as "stupid" or "idiotic," and don't say "that sucks." Carnegie wrote clearly that when you need something from someone else, your goal is to win them over to your way of thinking, not to make enemies.

One survey respondent began his comments by writing, "Read this and learn something ..." You do not help your case when you start off by being condescending.

• When you bring a new idea to the table, be prepared to provide justification for it. Have evidence to support your claim and have a good rationale to your thinking. If you simply say "That's not fair," it comes across as a young person who is used to getting his or her way. You don't want to be the spoiled child in the room; you want to be a respected adult who is the voice of calm and reason.

Carnegie is very helpful in such matters, especially when we simply use common sense and employ good manners. And we can all help each other if we approach any conversation with dignity and the appropriate decorum.

• • •

David Wilson, EdD, of Springdale, is a former high school principal and is the communications director for the Transit and Parking Department at the University of Arkansas. His book, Learning Every Day, is available on Amazon. You may e-mail him at The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: Being productive with criticism

Sponsor Content