When you tell somebody they are wrong you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgment, pride, and self-respect. That will make them want to strike back, but never make them want to change their minds. If you are going to prove something, don’t let anybody know it. Do it so subtly, so adroitly, that no one will feel that you are doing it.
In his book, “How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking,” Carnegie demonstrates this tact with the following story:
I once employed an interior decorator to make some draperies for my home. When the bill arrived, I was dismayed.
A few days later, a friend dropped in and looked at the draperies. The price was mentioned, and she exclaimed with a note of triumph: “What? That’s awful. I am afraid he put one over on you.”
True? Yes, she had told the truth, but few people like to listen to truths that reflect on their judgment. So, being human, I tried to defend myself. I pointed out that the best is eventually the cheapest, that one can’t expect to get quality and artistic taste at bargain-basement prices, and so on and on.
The next day another friend dropped in, admired the draperies, bubbled over with enthusiasm, and expressed a wish that she could afford such exquisite creations for her home. My reaction was totally different. “Well, to tell the truth,” I said, “I can’t afford them myself. I paid too much. I’m sorry I ordered them.”
When we are wrong, we may admit it to ourselves. And if we are handled gently and tactfully, we may admit it to others and even take pride in our frankness and broad-mindedness. But not is someone else is trying to ram the unpalatable fact down our throat.
Here’s an example of this principle in action from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training Benelux:
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