Success of peace negotiations doesn’t rest on who’s right and who’s wrong


Dale Carnegie whose book How to win friends and influence people became a high school text* after Burma’s Independence, had admonished:

When dealing with people, remember that you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.

He learned that valuable lesson one night in London, after he unsuccessfully tried to correct a person who cited a quotation from Hamlet and mentioned it was from the Bible. However, the man stuck to his guns and absolutely refused to be corrected.

Carnegie’s friend who was sitting at the same table and was considered an expert on Shakespeare, when asked for his opinion, kicked him under the table and gave his verdict: Carnegie was wrong.

On their way back, his friend told him he was right after all. But he added, “Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save his face? Why argue with him? Always avoid the acute angle.”

Carnegie’s counsel: You can’t win an argument. You can’t, because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.

He then related about a truck salesman who was continually scrapping with the very people he was trying to do business with. To his credit, he often emerged the winner of his arguments. But there was another result: He wasn’t able to sell any of his trucks to the prospective customers.

So what does that teaches our leaders on both sides who will be meeting tomorrow? It is simple, according to Carnegie: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.Dale-Carnegie-GQ-12May14_rex_b

I remembered it when I was recently told by a friend (I disremember whose side he is on) about a negotiator:

“He is so clever that after he has made his statements, the other side feels trapped on every side. And as you know, sometimes a cornered animal may submit. But more likely it may try to attack you. So the best way to approach the other side is not to lecture the other side, but to call upon the other side’s high self esteem and disarm him.”

Of course, Carnegie has something to say about it: Appeal to the nobler motives.

The reader may also agree that the following quotations from the same book are applicable for our leaders:

  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Get the other person saying, “yes, yes,” immediately (Start with something that each and both can agree to, he explained, because human beings’ psychological patterns are such, when one says “No”, the entire organism—glandular, nervous, muscular—gathers itself together into a condition of rejection. On the other hand, when one says “Yes”, it will pull itself together into a condition of acceptance.)
  • Never say, “You’re wrong.”

He quoted Lincoln who quoted the age-old maxim that a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.”

There is nothing more to say. Because saying more would amount to lecturing. This editorial is only meant to be a reminder for all of us, not a lecture.

The rest, especially peace which has proven so elusive to the people of Burma, is up to our leaders, each one and all.

May there be peace.

*The text book was translated by the late Premier U Nu.

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