Mrs. Ernest Gent, a friend of Dale Carnegie, once hired a servant girl, telling her to report for work the following Monday. In the meantime, Mrs. Gent telephoned a woman who had formerly employed this girl and received less than a stellar report.
When the girl reported for work that Monday, Mrs. Gent said, “Nellie, I telephoned the other day to a woman you used to work for. She said you were honest and reliable, a good cook and good at caring for the children. But she also said you were sloppy and never kept the house clean. Now I think she was lying. You dress neatly—anybody can see that. And I’ll bet you keep the house just as neat and clean as your person. You and I are going to get along fine!”
And they did. You see, Mrs. Gent had given Nellie a reputation to live up to; and she did live up to it. She kept the house shining. She would gladly have scrubbed and dusted an extra hour a day rather than be untrue to Mrs. Gent’s ideal of her.
In short, if you want to improve a person in a certain respect, act as tough that particular trait were already one of his outstanding characteristics. Shakespeare said: “Assume a virtue if you have it not.” And it might be well to assume and state openly that the other party has the virtue you want him to develop. Give him a fine reputation to live up to, and he will make every effort to live up to that reputation rather than see you disillusioned. This is the most powerful way to influence the conduct of a person without arousing resentment or giving offense.
Here’s an example of this important principle from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of Atlanta:
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