Tuesday, September 14, 2010

DC4W: Sympathize, see it from the other's point of view, and help them feel the idea is theirs

Technique Tuesday

Continuing our on-going series on Dale Carnegie for Writers (DC4W), the seventh, eighth, and ninth principles in the Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking, the third section in How to Win Friends and Influence People, are:

7. Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.

At one level, this principle comes down to proper deportment in our society. Whether in person or online, blatant self-promotion comes across as unseemly. Assuring an agent that you have the next bestseller or Oprah pick in your query will put you on the fast track to rejection.

Proper deportment, by the way, is another reason you want an agent. They can say they think your book will be big when they pitch to an editor because they are (in the social equation) a "disinterested" third party.

But there's something deeper at work here: people are always much more passionate about their own ideas than those they adopt from other people.

8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.

The applications of this principle in personal relations should be fairly obvious. But it's easy to loose sight of it when you run into opposition.

When you receive a rejection, put on your agent hat and consider why you might reject it.

When your editor asks for a change you're reluctant to make, try to imagine why you might ask for the same change if you were in her shoes.

But the most important application of this principle as a writer is to try to see your writing from the point of view of your reader.

9. Sympathize with the other person.

A sympathetic approach to a point of contention can go a long way toward smoothing over the situation. Even though it may be difficult to believe the publisher who just proposed a truly atrocious cover is on your side, the fact is that you both want the book to do well. Approaching the editor with an expression that shows you sympathize with the efforts they're making on your behalf given the constraints under which they operate is much more effective than throwing a tantrum about their lack of design sense.

Again, like principle 8, writers should sympathize with their readers. Many of the "rules" of writing can be reduced to asking yourself, "Am I writing this because it will help my reader enjoy the story, or am I writing it to show off?"

    [If you enjoyed this post you may also be interested in Professional Relationships, book 2 of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides.]
    Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net