Personal Stories – Improving Myself

Every Tuesday night for the past 6 weeks, I have spent 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours in a Dale Carnegie Course. There are 6 more weeks to go, and I am looking forward to each new night.

Last June, I convinced my firm to pay for the course. Actually, they give every associate a marketing budget, so I am really paying for it myself with my own budget. But it was big of the firm to approve the expenditure. My stated goal: to improve communication and leadership skills.

When I was in law school, I read Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Since then, I have strived to remember peoples' names, be positive, and get people talking about themselves. Usually, however, I forget peoples' names as soon as I hear them, take delight in coming up with witty complaints, and enjoy talking about myself. Taking the course is a real eye opener in how bad my good behavior can be.

As an example, being positive is easier done than shown.  I am usually smiling, enthusiastic, and optimistic about my ability to help clients with their legal problems. A few weeks ago, I met with a client and discussed a copyright matter. The more we talked, the more confident I felt about the case. My demeanor told a different story. I had such reverence for the client that I wasn't smiling or joking as usual. Instead I was straight faced, monotone, and likely displayed negativity. The client must have felt terrible about the case, the opposite of what I wanted them to feel. Dale Carnegie says that our actions speak louder than our words. Too bad that client meeting proceeded that class.

As another example, I pride myself on my ability to speak in public. I do not boast to speaking well, just speaking. But for some reason I learned never to volunteer. (Probably because of what I saw in all of the ersatz study government committees I observed in my many years of school). Well, in the Dale Carnegie class, I am learning the benefits of just jumping up and speaking to the group. Tonight, I even earned a reward for it, a coveted "break-out achievement" pen. What a proud moment, one that I had likely denied myself by choosing to put myself out there only when I had to.

There are tons of Dale Carnegie lessons best learned by actually taking the course: how to stop worrying, improving memory, breaking the ice at that first meeting, and the very important skill of remembering names. As an added benefit, I get to meet a ton of great new people. Somewhat isolated by parenthood, any additional human contact is a bonus in itself. As a final note, the book is somewhat outdated and the live instructors provide a very fresh and modern perspective to Dale's teachings.

Meliora!

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2 thoughts on “Personal Stories – Improving Myself

  1. artdavis October 3, 2007 at 2:46 pm Reply

    I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.– Xenocratesyeah, yeah, there's a pithy comment for every dimension… but I do like this one. Just to make the point that "jumping up and speaking" isn't necessarily well received if the content amounts to verbal diarrhea.I just realized that I totally lack the context and depth of your course content to leave a comment like this… but what the hell, I'll put myself out there.–Art

  2. bioadam October 4, 2007 at 9:55 am Reply

    Art my man, you have insane dancing skillz and a black belt in the martial arts. You don't need help communicating. If you can't win people over with some cool moves, you can just them to a pulp instead. I, on the other hand, lack the rhythm and coordination for dancing and fighting or the dance fighting seen in "West Side Story." Hence I need all the help I can get to avoid spewing out verbal diarrhea. 'Nuff said.

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