Watch Your Mouth

June 28, 2007
Two books, one old and one new, discuss impact of words on our lives

How much of an affect can a book have on your life? Two books come to mind that have made an impact on my business and personal life. One has been read by millions and used for decades; the other is relatively new and has attracted a much smaller audience.

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie was first published in 1936. When I read it, I was working in a junkyard as a mechanic and was approaching a time in my life where my career path was going to change. The guy who ran the yard gave me the opportunity to read his copy. At that point, I had not heard of the landmark book. I read it and have never looked back.

The book details common sense in dealing with people you come in contact with throughout life. The lessons and examples have implications far beyond business. I think it is a manual for the common person in psychology. It points out the most basic needs and desires of the human animal. If you read it today, the stories and examples are very dated, but the lessons are absolutely timeless.

The most significant concept I gleaned in my first read, more than 30 years ago, would have to be the value of a person's name. Carnegie writes, "The sweetest sound to a person's ears is his own name."

What does he mean by that? You may have never given this a thought, but calling someone by their name has a tremendous impact in any situation. Whichever side of the buying/selling transaction you find yourself on, this valuable skill can be your ally. By simply using their name in your dealings, you have moved things to a different and better level of contact.

Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting doing this because you want to "get over" on someone. I say to incorporate using names in your everyday life to enrich everyone. I make a conscious effort to speak the customer's name when transacting business, and oftentimes notice that it can return their wandering focus back to me. Being waited on in a store or restaurant can be more pleasing if you use a server's name. I also observe the power of this concept when customers call me by name. It does please me and enhances the level of our connection.

The second book I only discovered last year. "Words that Hurt, Words that Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well" by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin discusses how much of our conversations each day revolve around discussions of other people. It will amaze you when you stop and think how often and how much of each day we engage in this behavior. Telushkin challenges readers to refrain from doing so.

Unfortunately most of these discussions are not of a positive nature. For some reason, people enjoy seeing someone of a higher social status brought "down a rung." These discussions rarely cover someone we consider beneath us. This covers gossip and even more sinister tales.

Avoid this in your business dealings at all costs. The unseen damage caused by this behavior can be significant. Don't soil your, or anyone else's, reputation just to make conversation. It is a small community we operate our enterprises within and news travels. Don't say or repeat anything that can harm you or someone else. There are enough misunderstandings encountered just minding your own business!

We have an opportunity, an obligation, to treat everyone we meet with decency and respect. I urge you to read these two books and embrace the concepts. We have the privilege to connect with hundreds of people each week and make a significant and positive difference in their lives.

Nik Satenstein is a mobile tool distributor based in West Chester, Pa., for Matco Tools. You can contact Nik by email at [email protected].

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