An Unusual Technique for Coping with Office Politics

This little procedure takes just a few minutes, and can change your situation with your worst coworker, customer, employee, or even a family member in spectacular ways. It is not necessary to do this thing exactly ‘right.’ If you mix up a step or have something out of position, it is likely to work well anyway.

1. If your most vivid memories of this undesirable person involve sitting, arrange three empty chairs approximately as shown. If it was a standing situation, chairs are not needed.

2. Sit in chair A. Try to imagine your undesirable person sitting in chair B. With the parts of you that can do it, move yourself into your co-worker in chair B, and see the world through the other person’s eyes, hear the world through this person’s ears, and so on. For the next few minutes, you are this other person.

3. As that other person, you are looking at yourself in chair A. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel about the person in chair A? What do you think about that person in chair A?

4. Whenever you are ready, get up, and do something to break your state. Spell a word backward, walk in a circle, just anything to free your mind for a moment.

5. Sit in chair C and become an independent observer. You are not yourself or the other person. As the observer, what do you see, hear, think, feel about the interaction between yourself in chair A, and the person in B?

5a. Try imagining that your chair is very far removed from chairs A and B, and see if anything changes. How about if your chair becomes very close?

6. Break your state. Sit again in chair A, be yourself, and notice if anything has changed in your thoughts about the other person.

7. As necessary, feel free to repeat the steps of this procedure.

Coaching

If you like talking with people, you might consider becoming a coach.

The most rewarding thing about coaching is that it’s about helping people get what they want. They may hire a coach to improve an athletc skill, but more often, coaching is about personal transformation, or attaining goals such as a successful business, learning to have more fun, or attracting a lifelong mate. Maybe you’d enjoy helping people attain these things.
Even though there are many schools for coaching activities, such as business coaching and life coaching, most coaches aren’t credentialed. In most communities, and in most types of coaching, no licensing is required. This is good and bad. The bad is that anyone, even if they’re totally unqualified, can call themselves a coach. On the plus side, you may find that you are a very good coach, and there is nothing to stop you from helping people. Of course, if you can attend a coaching school, you’ll become an even better coach.

What is at least equally important as learning specific coaching techniques is an understanding of the field in which you are coaching, and an understanding of human nature.

As a coach, you are expected to teach the ins and outs of your specialty. If you are an ice skating coach, it is essential that you know the difference between a Lutz, a toe-loop, and an Axel jump.

If you are a business coach, it is more important that you have had some actual business experience, than to have simply attended a business coaching school. You have to know how to tell your clients when an idea needs shaping before it will be profitable, You need to be able to guide them into proper forms of advertising and publicity, avoiding those that would just waste their money. You need to know the difference between a good retail location, and one that will sink their business.

Yet some of the business school graduates just lead their clients through meaningless exercises, when what the client really needs is real-world business guidance.

It is important to know how to motivate people. In the old days, some coaches just yelled and nagged. Oh, they got the job done – sometimes. But modern coaches are generally more about the carrot than the stick.

Sometimes, what stops clients from doing what they need to do is deep in their subconscious. Sure, a person wants to lose weight, intellectually. But what if the weight is important to them in a hidden way? For instance, a person who may have been abused as a child may have learned that when overweight, they were no longer of interest to the abuser. Interestingly, as adults, although we can’t articulate these long-lost motives, they linger on levels we don’t normally access. The exceptional coach has some understanding of these underlying or core issues.

I recommend many of the self-help books by people like Dr. Phil McGraw and Bob Proctor. I’d also like to suggest a course in NLP – Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Many kinds of coaching can be done entirely by telephone. A typical arrangement is one-hour weekly phone conversations, billed at $300 per month.

Many clients have trouble with that. Their business and their lives are unscheduled. Forcing them to be ready for a phone call Wednesdays at 2pm might be a hardship.

For these clients, I have developed a different arrangement. What I have done is offer 1/2-hour weekly phone conversations, not necessarily scheduled, but when they, or I, have the time. In addition, they can call or email any time as questions come up.

You see, the decisions a client may face can pop up at any time, often urgently. Waiting until Wednesday, just doesn’t make sense.

If you are coaching a sport, music, or something else locally, one of the best ways to get clients is word of mouth. You need a few clients to get things started. Putting a flyer on local bulletin boards, especially if there’s one at a natural food store in your area, and handing out business cards is a good way to start.

If you want to coach by phone, perhaps to a national or international clientele, you can build a website. However you also need people to discover your website. Most websites are cul d’sacs. They get three visitors a month, one of which is the author’s mother. It is better to create a simple little website so people can read the details about what you do, and find your phone number. Then, come up with other ways to bring people to your website. One way is to have a catchy phrase on a business card that you put into as many hands as possible. For instance, if you sell things on eBay, you can include a card with each item. Of course most business cards are thrown out right away. But perhaps one percent will bring people to your website – if your text on the card is attractive to the people you want to attract. You might also consider Google AdWords as a way to bring potential clients to your website.

Another way is to just have phone conversations with anyone who is a potential client or who knows potential clients. Your calls don’t have to be sales pitches. In fact, they shouldn’t be. There is a concept that’s been called “Selling With Heart,” in which you really want to benefit the person with whom you’re talking. You can offer free advice, or just be a friend and listen. In time, if the coaching you can offer is something that will benefit the person with whom you’re talking, it will be almost entirely natural to talk about that, and ‘close the sale.’ That’s because you both will have discovered that you will both win. You get the client, the client gets the coaching. No high-pressure pitch was ever required, and probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.

The same thing can be done with email. You can be curious about everyone you exchange email with. You might wonder whether they are interested in advancing in their field. If so, you might wonder whether they’d be interested in coaching enough to pay for it. If so, you might explain that you’re just starting out as a coach, and would love to take them on as a client. If it doesn’t work out, you can just enjoy the conversation. And, interestingly, they’ll remember who you are and what you do. When they have a friend who needs your coaching, they’ll make the initial contact for you with enthusiasm.

You can enjoy gathering your local clients using the same general ideas. Once you make contact with people, the rest can be as easy as falling off a log. To meet new people with whom you might have conversations, it helps to be out in public as much as you can. Join activities at your church, chamber of commerce and other business networking groups, go to talks and lectures – lingering to talk with people afterward, actually talk with people you bump into at coffee shops, supermarkets, and so on.

This kind of networking can be horrible, if that’s your mindset. Or, it can be a lot of fun! Who can you remember that really enjoys talking with strangers? What is that person getting out of it? Why is it so enjoyable for that person?

Once you have perhaps three clients, they’ll start telling their friends about you, and business can grow, often quickly. But more often it grows slowly.

Whether you’re coaching by phone or in-person, you can do some things to speed up your business.

First, you’re probably in contact with a number of people who have an interest in what you can coach. You can offer them free advice or even coaching for a little while. You can imply, or state outright, that you’d like them to tell their friends that you’ve hung out your coaching shingle. I tell clients to ‘tell the truth’ about my service. I want them to be honest and forthright, since that’s the best kind of referral. Ultimately, most referrals come from friends, associates or family of clients.

You might consider teaching at community adult education centers or offering workshops and seminars. These positions often pay little, or nothing, but it can be a great way to pick up your first few clients.

The first clients are the only hard ones to get. One reason is that you may be nervous about doing everything right. Here’s a little trick that will help:

Start with friends and family (Keep good, clear boundaries) if appropriate, working for free. Or, advertise. If your first potential clients bulk about the price, or your lack of experience, offer your services for a very low cost, while letting them know that later on, if they’ve grown from what you’re doing, you intend to charge the full price.

Many practitioners frown on reducing prices or even working for free as you are starting out. They say that this only encourages the low-economy people, and you’ll find yourself stuck in that class forever. Not true. Well, it could be true, if you let it. But in fact, as you fill your schedule, you can start charging more, dropping or graduating clients who can’t pay the full amount, and only taking new clients who can afford to pay the full price. That will happen, guaranteed, if you wait long enough. Also, while you’re working with the free and low-price people, you’re gaining experience, so when the full-price people do come along, you’ll be more experienced, and they’ll be getting their money’s worth. And, as your practice builds, your confidence will build. Trust me on that!

Those coaches who refuse to offer discounts at the beginning typically spend their first year with very little to do. You might as well be busy getting practice and helping some people, don’t you think?

Most experienced coaches offer a free initial session, or a free introductory phone call. When you’re starting, one technique that works particularly well is to extend that into an entire free month.

My version was to offer a free month. Then, at the end of the first month, if they liked it, or felt they were benefitting, they could pay for it, and then I’d give them the next month free, and so on. So, in a manner of speaking, they were always paying for the previous month, not the upcoming one.

This worked quite well. In fact, I had a number of clients that I thought had gotten nothing out of what I was offering (this was before I learned NLP). I was almost embarrassed, but they went ahead and purchased month after month. Some had smaller breakthroughs, but were happy with the progress. Others just liked having a professional to talk shop with. Some simply needed someone to listen.

Really. I had one fellow who I wanted to drop after three or four months because I was sure I wasn’t doing him any good. He made no measurable progress from one month to the next. He practically begged me to keep him on. Seems he really enjoyed the phone calls and was totally happy paying for my time.

That’s a reason that coaching builds exponentially for most people. The coach with one year of experience asks the 5-year coach, “How did you get so many clients?” The 5-year coach, forgetting how few and far between his first clients were, tells the 1-year coach, that it’s like falling off a log. The clients just come out of the woodwork.

Like many other businesses, it is easy to be discouraged at first. I have seen many cases of self-sabotage, even among business coaches, who you would think would know better. I myself, have suffered from it. The coach with one year experience still feels various forms of low self-confidence. (I won’t go into all the reasons here, see the NLP information.)

To tell you a brief story, when I was starting out as a business coach, I thought it would be great to have a business coach for myself. Of course I’d make more progress in developing my coaching business, plus I could learn techniques from my coach. So I called around. I called the people who I thought were the six best business coaches for me, based on their websites. I never reached a live person in my phone calls. It was answering machines every time. Of the six, four never called back! One did later in the day, and was apologetic that he didn’t know more about this, wasn’t useful in cases of that, and so on. OK, thank you very much! The last guy called back three days later, was brusque, and acted, well, like he was acting. I’m pretty sure he had very few clients, as do most people who call themselves business coaches. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t get him to tell me what he could do for me, how he could help, what he had done for others, etc.

So, why do so many coaches have few clients? Self-sabotage, the biggest form of which is patience. If you continue to put yourself out there, continue to treat everyone who calls well, and do it for a year or two, you will, eventually, have a full clientele.

There are other forms of self-sabotage. One version is “I don’t enjoy this sort of work.” You’ve got to ask yourself if you’d rather keep doing what you are doing, or visit an NLP practitioner and see what’s going on in the deeper levels so you can discover what’s stopping you from doing the work you love, or at least enjoy somehwat.

Another version goes something like, “I’m not good enough.” Or, “They’ll will figure out that I’m an impostor.” Or, “They’ll find out that I’m a fake – that I dont’e relaly know what I’m doing!”

Much of that is rooted in childhood issues. But let’s drill into the cognitive here-and-now part for a minute. First, I’d like you to imagine lining up in your imagination 20 men and women who are successful in the subject you’d like to coach. Now, point to the ones who know everything about everything in their field. Right, no one knows everything.

I was once on the set of a Warner Brothers movie. At one point, the very famous and powerful director asked the director of photography a question about the lighting. The director of photography answered back, “I don’t know, Joel.” Just like that. No embarrassment for not knowing. Just simple truth. Did the director fire him? Heck no. This director always works with that director of photography. He appreciates the honesty, knowing he won’t get a story when he needs facts.

Honesty is the best policy. If the director of photography took a guess or made something up, he might wreck the shot, and that would cost Warner Brothers thousands of dollars.

So what if you were always like that with your clients? At first, some might balk. You might even lose some that need more than you know. That’s OK. There will be others who like you very much, and respect and need the things you do know.

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.” I’m sure you’ve heard that saying. I take it to mean that the real skill is teaching in many cases. And a coach is often a teacher. However, often a teacher is only a chapter ahead of the class. Teaching isn’t really about passing knowledge along. It is about setting the environment up in such a way that students can learn. It is about inspiring and encouraging. Of course it helps to know the subject matter well. But there have been so many cases where students who are taught in the most general terms learn exactly what they need to learn.

A. S. Neill, who had an experimental school for children called Summerhill, never taught the children to read. Instead, he made books available, let them feel how exciting it would be to read, and just let the kids learn on their own. And they all did! It was the same with math, interpersonal skills, history, and so on.

So, a coach, like a teacher, makes learning possible. Many coaches really go to great lengths in letting their clients discover things for themselves. The coach asks properly designed questions, so that the clients feel they have discovered things and made their own decisions. Therefore, the clients own their actions, and can be proud of them, which of course encourages more productive actions.

In fact, a coach isn’t a teacher. At least that’s not the coach’s primary duty. First and foremost the coach is a supporter, encourager, confidant, cheering section, even a professional friend – everything it takes so that the client feels fully empowered to move forward confidently and successfully.

So, if you have a reasonable knowledge in your field, and if you have great people skills, you may not be an ‘impostor’ at all, but the very best person to coach others.

In fact, I have heard of coaches that graduated from coaching schools that were fired by their clients because ‘they just didn’t get it.’ These coaches presented all the techniques. They ran the clients through exercises, played little fun games, and talked the way they were taught. But they didn’t move the clients forward. Then there are coaches who are really unqualified – well, OK, they have a lot of experience in, and know the details of the field they’re coaching, but they haven’t been trained professiosnally. They just have a good handle on human nature. These are often the coaches who have clients that attain their goals.

You can see this all the time in sports. The best ice skating coaches are former ice skaters who have never learned a single thing about coaching. This is not to say that learning coaching skills wouldn’t make these coaches even better, of course.

So, do you have people skills? Do you have knowledge in a specific field? Maybe coaching is for you.

Creative Listening

A creative listener asks carefully designed questions to help people think about things in new ways. The results can be fantastic, resulting in inventive solutions to problems, overcoming frustration, worry and mild depression, or for learning new ways to relate with friends, family, and co-workers.

A creative listener does not have to be an expert in anything except asking questions. You can use Creative Listening not only in general ways, but can also help those who are in very specialized fields. You can use CL with a neighbor in your local coffee shop, in a professional session, or anything in-between. You can use it with friends, family, clients, customers, associates – anyone young or old.

The creative listener does not tell you what to do. The purpose is to help you sort things, make sure nothing is overlooked, take mental leaps, help you see and really feel the lighter side when necessary, and come away with a new perspective and hopefully with a renewed sense of purpose.

Creative Listening is essentially a tiny subset of NLP. It is free and unrestricted, takes about 10 minutes to learn, and is super-effective in so many ways:

* Helps others understand things they’ve been thinking about in entirely new ways, often resulting in perceptions shifted, problems solved, attitudes adjusted, and progress made.

* Understand things you’ve been thinking about in entirely new ways.

* Quickly establish rapport with clients, customers, teenagers, parents, etc.

* Express criticism in a constructive way without offending, and elicit changed behaviors.

* Help people feel better about themselves and their lives.

In just a few minutes, you can learn enough to communicate more effectively with family, friends, and yourself. In just a few hours of practice, you can become professional, offering your services as a Creative Listener to others.

Easy Steps to Creative Listening

Step 1

Respectfully challenge ambiguities.

You’d be amazed at what people leave out of conversations. Interestingly, many of these details have never really been analyzed by the speaker. So, when you ask for more detail, very interesting new thoughts can develop.

For instance:

If the person you’re listening to says, “Everyone says.” – You might ask: “Who specifically says that?

It can’t be done. – What exactly prevents it from being done?

She hates me. – In what specific way does she let you know that she hates you?

The relationship is in trouble. – How is it in trouble?

The situation is hopeless. – What is the situation, exactly? Or, What lets you know it’s hopeless?

You might think this rude or offensive, but in most cases, when you respectfully ask for more detail, the speaker is honored – knowing that someone truly wants to know what they are thinking.

Step 2

Ask questions that cause people to think about things in new ways. For example:

What would you like? This is a good place to start in many cases. Variations can include: What’s on your mind? What do you want?

What would having that do for you? This will often cause the speaker to zoom out and see the bigger picture – often for the first time.

And what would having that do for you? Sometimes the degree of zoom isn’t enough – even when you think it is. You’d be surprised what comes up when you zoom out twice.

How will you know when you have it? A surprising way to zoom in for a closer look.

When you have it, what will you lose that you value? This will typically bring the speaker to a dead stop for a minute, and can bring up all sorts of useful objections. Knowing those objections will reveal reasons for procrastination, hesitation, and de-focusing activities.

What’s the opposite of that? Another viewpoint that many people have never considered in ideas they may have thought about often. This can get them out of a loop.

How will your friends, family, significant other react when you have it? Another way to find hidden blocks.

What stops you? This can bring a new perspective.

If your _____ was a bathtub to fill with something, what would you put in it? This is just an example, you could use all sorts of similar questions here – ones that the listener doesn’t expect, which will jump them off their typical track – often with spectacular results. It can often help them to do something more useful or more productive.

Now that we’ve discussed it a bit, what would you like? Don’t be surprised if the answer is quite different from the original answer the first time you asked this question.

What good things come to someone who _____? Generally, this is a twist that opens new channels of consideration. The blank is often filled with what the person is doing now. For instance: What good things come to someone who does not start a camera store?

What would someone have to believe _____? Much like the question above, you can twist it backward, and be ready to hear some very interesting results.

What’s the first step to getting _____? This is a good way to zoom in, and see the first and most immediate objection.

What should I write here in my notes? This often elicits a more honest self-appraisal.

In asking all these questions, leave plenty of time for answers. Although at first awkward, you can wait even 15 seconds without saying another word. The person with whom you are speaking will feel the need to fill the silence, and may come up with something very interesting indeed, if given sufficient silent time.

You can ask these, and other questions, in any sequence that seems right. Indulge your curiosity. Don’t be afraid of questions that seem too personal or prying. If you ask these well, and follow the steps below, not only will you get the answers you seek, but the person with whom you are speaking will feel quite honored that you care enough to ask such deep things.

If the conversation veers off-track, you can steer it back by saying something like, “Thank you,” or “Yes, I can see how that would happen,” but then ask for specific information that’s back on track. For instance, if the person starts talking about exactly how he built a bookshelf, you might say, “I see you really enjoyed that project. So, what would you…?”

You can guide the conversation to what’s called a ‘well-formed outcome.’ Ultimately, you’d like the person you’re conversing with to state a desire in the positive, have it be something s/he can initiate and maintain, and have a manageable feasibility.

Step 3

It has been said that 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. You have experienced that. For instance, someone may say that their neighbor is ‘alright,’ but as they say it, you see their shoulders rise up, their facial features tighten, their respiration becomes shallow. In this situation, do you learn more from their words (‘alright’), or from their physiology? You can do a lot with this 93 percent.

You can build tremendous unconscious rapport by mirroring posture, gestures and audio tonality. If you wait approximately seven seconds and then position yourself the same way, if you moderate your speed, volume and pitch to sound somewhat similar, if you play back gestures, your listener will become more trusting, more willing to share deeper thoughts and emotions, and more willing to listen carefully to what you have to say. Don’t take my word for it – try it out. Surprisingly, you won’t be ‘busted’ unless you do it very blatantly. In most cases, you can mirror people very completely, and they never suspect a thing.

Backtracking is a valuable technique. This means that you repeat certain key phrases back to the person you are conversing with, generally several seconds or even minutes later. For instance, if your user states that something good is ‘tubular,’ and if you use that same word in a similar context, this will raise their comfort level – they’ll feel honored and heard. Backtracking is actually the opposite of a technique known as ‘active listening’ in which you rephrase what you’ve heard to prove that you understood it. Backtracking has the rather surprising effect of causing the listener believe that you really understood what was said.

Noticing physiology can let you know when it is time to shift gears. You can read when you’ve lost someone’s attention, when you have asked for too much detail, gone into an area that brings sadness, and so on. With practice, you can read where to focus more attention. For instance, as the conversation shifts to parents, you may see physiology changes that indicate something more needs to be discussed about a mother or father.

Step 4

Remember what you are trying to accomplish. Quite often, your story, your attitude, your concerns creep into the conversation. In many cases, that’s counter-productive. The moment you start coaching or telling your story, your effectiveness as a creative listener weakens.

Depending on what you wish to accomplish, you may not have to tell the person you’re talking with anything specific. Simply giving them the opportunity to talk freely can help them feel better, see things in new ways, and arrive at a more satisfactory conclusion, especially if you use steps 1 and 2.

So how do you make money with Creative Listening?

There may be more ways than one can count.

The first, probably most obvious way is to offer your services in person or by phone as a creative listener. You might consider charging $1 per minute to start. As you gain a reputation, and as more and more of your early clients call you back, I believe it would be quite realistic to charge $2/minute ($120/hour).

Reputation would be the best way to spread the word, but that takes time. To kick it off, you can do all the usual things: post flyers on local bulletin boards, attend meetings around where you live and hand out business cards to anyone and everyone along with an ‘elevator speech’ – a 20 second friendly introduction about what you can do for them with creative listening.

Or, you may prefer to work strictly by phone. This gives you a national, or even international pool of potential customers. You can advertise what you do in all the usual Internet ways: Via Google AdWords, create a blog, add it to your website, pay for space on other websites, and so on.

You can offer discounts to local or phone people. I’d like to recommend something like this: Tell them to tell the truth about what you do, as they see it. Give them a certain number of business cards in trade for a certain amount of service, and tell them that via the honor system, they are expected to distribute the cards in meaningful ways. As you are just starting your business, any client at all is valuable. Even if they pay you nothing. You get to practice, and you’ve got someone who will naturally tell others about what you can do. But, if they have been given 10 cards in trade for 20 free minutes from you, they’ll be even more inclined to spread the word.

As I mentioned, there are other ways to make money with creative listening. How many can you think of? For instance, you could teach it independently or via a community education system. You could ‘street perform’ Creative Listening. You’d bring two chairs or stools and perhaps an easel-mounted sign to a public place, and just get a volunteer and start a conversation. At the same time, you build and acknowledge a crowd, and eventually pass the hat. After your ‘performance’, pass your cards out, to encourage people to call on you professionally – now that they’ve seen what you can do.

You can also mix Creative Listening in with your with your other activities. You may be a coach, teacher, or perhaps a computer repair technician, and find that Creative Listening helps your business in all the ways where good communication makes a difference – which is everywhere!

The Criticism to Praise Ratio

It has been studied and documented that we hear thirty-two items of criticism for each item of praise! It starts when we are babies, ” Ooooh, your diapers stink!” or ” Can’t you keep out of trouble for even one minute?” Sure, we may not have known what the words meant, but even as babies, we felt the emotions behind those words. We grew up with much more negative input than positive. It is no surprise that we do the same thing to our friends, associates, and children.

What if it were reversed? What if you started offering genuine praise to anyone and everyone, every time you see something praiseworthy?

At first, people would probably think you flipped. But they would also enjoy the compliments. Eventually, they may catch on, or maybe they’d just start following your example, because people do tend to emulate what surrounds them.

The big picture results are obvious. Eventually we’d have a world in which everyone hears how well they do things, how nice they look, how their presence is so enjoyable, and so on. And, these people would have more confidence in themselves.

>Would they? Of course. If from a young age, you were told that you are good, and that you can accomplish what you like, you’d make the effort. You’d know that you can make a difference, that you can have what you want, that you deserve a good life, that it is worth your time to practice your skills. In such a world, if it existed, you’d have a much more successful and happier life. So would everyone, and at no cost, other than the energy to open your mouth and say kind things to everyone, and hold your tongue when what you have to say is not so positive.

>Such is not the world we live in now. But you can change it yourself. Not all by yourself, but you can start it in your sphere of influence, and people will catch on. You can influence your friends, your family. They will influence their friends and associates. Perhaps sooner than you think, everyone will start doing it. We see it happen with slang. Remember when ” bad” meant bad? That transition happened fairly quickly. And so can this, because this, too, is simply a matter of spoken words.

You may gain from this sooner than you’d think. Before the whole world changes to this new thirty-two-to-one praise to criticism ratio, it will help you in your life. As an example, if you start praising your mate much more than you scold, what will happen? Will your mate become lax? Perhaps dinner will be late, the library books will be overdue, the kitty pan won’t get changed when it should? Maybe, a little bit, at first. Can you stand it? More important, can you keep quiet, and let it happen, while you go on practicing your 32-to-1 game?

I think so, especially when you know that soon your mate will start copying you, consciously or not. Then, you’ll start feeling good, when your loved one tells you that your hair looks nice, or that you are such a great cook, rather than telling you that the lawn needs mowing really bad. Imagine a peaceful home life, where you know your mate likes the way you look, the way you cook, where you feel no pressure to mow the lawn right now. Why, you’d probably want to mow that lawn, just because you’ll get praise for it.

Let’s look at the bigger picture. It is a smaller world than you think. Within seven levels of acquaintance, almost everyone knows everyone else. This means that you may have a friend, who has a friend, who has a friend, and so on, who knows Dolly Parton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scott Hamilton, and so on. So, you can influence these people, and all people. Practice 32-to-1, and soon your friends will be doing it, and their friends will be doing it, and eventually politicians will be doing it, and we’ll have no more wars.

For best results, make sure your praise is always sincere. Contrived is embarrassing for giver and receiver.

Some people have a hard time receiving compliments, after all they don’t get them very often. Therefore, at first, keep your compliments small and simple, using only a few carefully chosen words.

People are more comfortable with compliments about things they are not known for. The professional musician would rather hear that you respect her political views, than that she plays her instrument well.

Another way to comfortably praise people is to offer compliments which they don’t have to work to acknowledge. If you praise someone noisily in a group of people, the recipient then feels he has to offer some sort of thanks, or deny it, equally loudly. On the other hand, if you slip praise into the middle of a paragraph, then the recipient can have the compliment without obligation. Here’s an example:

“John, Sally’s a great cook, look what she did with this potato salad! Sally, is there any more in the kitchen?”

Relayed praise is the best of all, worth ten times as much as direct praise. For instance, if you wrote a song that I liked, but Fred told you that he enjoyed it when I played it for him, you’d be more pleased than if I simply told you I liked the song, right?

Relayed praise can be amplified even further, if it comes from someone noted in the field. If I showed your song to a famous songwriter, who then told you it was really excellent, that would be even better than if plain old Fred said so.

Asking someone for their opinion or experiences is always a great way to let them know your respect their thoughts. And again, if done in the presence of others, the effect is magnified.

Be on the lookout for backhanded compliments. There is a strong temptation to say something like, ” I really admire your intelligence. That’s why it surprises me that you have so little understanding of our budget.” This is not a compliment. We know that but we are so used to correcting, offering critique, that if we don’t pay attention, these things slip out.

A good test is to see if you plan to gain anything when you praise someone. If you decide that you have nothing to gain, you aren’t trying to get someone to fix your flat tire, to change into a better looking outfit or to clean up their room, then your compliment is probably a good one.

Gossip currently follows the same thirty-two-to-one ratio. Gossip hurts the people who do it, almost more than the people about whom they talk. The reason is that someone who gossips can’t be trusted. Therefore, as their reputation builds, they are trusted with less and less information. Really severe gossips have few quality friends, because they have a hard time finding people desperate enough to risk spending time with them.

My recommendation with gossip, then, is to reverse its ratio also. Thirty-two times more often than you negatively gossip, look for good things you can tell others about your friends, family and associates.

“I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody.” – Benjamin Franklin. If it worked for him, it ought to work for us.

“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth the greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” – Charles Schwab, who was paid a million dollars per year for his management skills.