Tuesday, June 29, 2010

DC4W: Don't Criticize, Condemn, or Complain

Technique Tuesday

We'll start with the Fundamental Techniques in Handling People, the first section in Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The first principle is, "Don't criticize, condemn, or complain." Put another way, the simplest, most basic way to improve people's estimation of you is to stop being mean.

Carnegie gives examples of employers who saw a measurable increase in productivity and moral in their shops after they stopped shouting at their employees.

For writers, who interact with other people via the written word as much or more than they interact fact-to-face, the first thing this means is that we must discard any sense of entitlement. Yes, you've written a book--it's no trivial accomplishment. But the fact that you've written something doesn't obligate anyone else to read. You're not entitled to the attention of agents, publication, or commercial success.

If you approach the entire process with an attitude of humility, you'll have very little temptation to criticize, condemn, or complain.

What about all the things outside of your control as a writer?

Like the students who gripe about the cafeteria food they eat every day, it's satisfying, even soothing, to belly-ache about the publishing industry: to criticize the author who effortlessly churned out a sub-par book that's flying off the shelves; to condemn publishers who throw seven-figure advances at pointless celebrity books; to complain about the arcane query processes that blind agents to our masterpieces.

But stop and think for a moment. While it may feel good to rail against the publishing industry, just as it may feel good to chew out a slacking employee, these are the very people you want on your side. Wouldn't it be better to have employees whom you never need to shout at? Wouldn't it be better if the people in publishing wanted to work with you because you understand to some degree what they're going through?

The first step to winning friends for your writing and influencing people in the publishing industry is to stop criticizing, condemning, or complaining.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net