2.A Sure Way of Making Enemies - and How to Avoid It
When Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, he confessed that if he could be
right 75 percent of the time, he would reach the highest measure of his expectation.
If that was the highest rating that one of the most distinguished men of the twentieth
century could hope to obtain, what about you and me?
If you can be sure of being right only 55 percent of the time, you can go down to Wall
Street and make a million dollars a day. If you can’t be sure of being right even 55
percent of the time, why should you tell other people they are wrong?
You can tell people they are wrong by a look or an intonation or a gesture just as
eloquently as you can in words - and if you tell them they are wrong, do you make
them want to agree with you? Never! For you have struck a direct blow at their
intelligence, judgment, pride and self-respect. That will make them want to strike back.
But it will never make them want to change their minds. You may then hurl at them all
the logic of a Plato or an Immanuel Kant, but you will not alter their opinions, for you
have hurt their feelings.
Never begin by announcing "I am going to prove so-and- so to you.” That’s bad. That’s
tantamount to saying: “I’m smarter than you are, I’m going to tell you a thing or two
and make you change your mind.”
That is a challenge. It arouses opposition and makes the listener want to battle with you
before you even start.
It is difficult, under even the most benign conditions, to change people’s minds. So why
make it harder? Why handicap yourself?
If you are going to prove anything, don’t let anybody know it. Do it so subtly, so
adroitly, that no one will feel that you are doing it. This was expressed succinctly by
Men must be taught as if you taught them not
And things unknown proposed as things forgot.