What a loser I was at 14-years of age and my wise father knew it. What could he do to turn me from being such a self-absorbed, self-destructive jerk? He came up with a very unusual punishment for something stupid I had done.
Dad sat me down and told me this time my punishment would not be a spanking or grounding or any of the other things they had used to get my attention. I was relieved but wondered what he had in mind. This time, he explained, my punishment would be a reading assignment. He told me about a very good book he wanted me to read, then handed me a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, the classic book written by Dale Carnegie in 1936. I held it in my hand and stared at the cover with glazed-over eyes. I couldn’t remember ever reading a book, so this was going to be a new experience for me.
He gently but wisely explained to me that I as I grew up I could develop either attractive or revolting ways to deal with other people, “ The choice is yours, ”He said, “I think you want to have more friends, right?” I mumbled a barely audible, “Yes.” He said, “Then I want you to read this book one chapter a day until you are done. Each evening before you go to bed, you must report to me what you read and what you learned from it.”
I thought to myself, “Read a book? I don’t bother to even read my school assignments, now this? Oh well, it sure beats a spanking.” So I agreed to Dad’s offer. Each day thereafter I read one chapter and in the evening I reported to him what I learned.
This turned out to be the best “punishment” I ever had for anything stupid I had done. It was not punishment at all, but an educational treat that lasted a lifetime.
I hope you are not or were not the kind of dim-witted socially inept screw up that I was at age 14, but you might be someone who could learn something from Dad’s advice and from the pages of that old classic of self-help literature, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
I cannot reprint the whole book for you, but I can share some bullet points from the second section of the book. The section is titled, “Six Ways to Make People Like You.” It was good advice when Andrew Carnegie wrote it in 1936, it was good advice when I read it in 1957, and it is good advice today:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
You can still buy copies of the book at your local bookstore. You can also get copies on Amazon.com for only a couple of dollars. Whether you get a copy of the original or one of the more updated versions, it should be in your library.
I promise you one thing, you will not feel punished as you read it; you will be blessed!
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