The Secret Of Dealing With People

I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody.
— Benjamin Franklin
The Secret Of Dealing With People

The Secret Of Dealing With People


Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

We've all been there, hitting send on an anger-fueled text that we immediately regret. In a fit of I'm angry and want to let it out, I smashed send on a clever mocking of an acquaintance’s uncanny resemblance to a circus clown. My hyper focus blinded my sensibility to realize it was a) stupid and, b) being sent to the person, not my intended friend. Instant karma. I was still pulling my heart off the ground when I heard the ping of the response. Good ol' Abraham Lincoln learned a similar valuable lesson before he learned the big secret of dealing with people.

Abe and I should have known better. Communicating when you're upset, annoyed, or frustrated, rarely ends in hugs. I’d had a heated exchange, but didn't take the time to cool off. Rage was still steaming off my head like asphalt in the Las Vegas sun. I skipped the middleman, my friend, and shot the text directly to the focus of my anger. I of course didn't have the courage to confront the person. But clearly the universe had other intentions. It forced me to confront the stupidity and overblown temper tantrum I had let cloud my judgement. I let a disagreement get the best of me.

A high-ranking Secretary under Abraham Lincoln declared as he lay dying "There lies the most perfect ruler of men that the world has ever seen." I'd be happy with, "Cool guy. Did some cool stuff too." Yet, Lincoln was a bit of a shit disturber in his early days practicing law. He got a kick out of attacking his opponents in letters published to newspapers.

In Dale Carnegie's must-read classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie tells of a specific letter that landed Abe in some serious shit. I walked away with my tail between my legs. Abe was lucky to escape with his life.

"In the Autumn of 1842, he ridiculed a vain, pugnacious Irish politician by the name of James Shields. Lincoln lampooned him through an anonymous letter published in the Springfield Journal. The town roared with laughter. Shields, sensitive and proud, boiled with indignation. He found out who wrote the letter, leaped on his horse, started after Lincoln, and challenged him to fight a duel. Lincoln didn't want to fight. He was opposed to dueling; but he couldn't get out of it and save his honor. He was given the choice of weapons. Since he had very long arms, he chose cavalry broad swords, took lessons in sword fighting from a West Point graduate; and, on the appointed day, he and Shields met on a sand bar in the Mississippi River, prepared to fight to the death; but, at the last minute, their seconds (wives) interrupted and stopped the duel.

That was the most lurid personal incident in Lincoln's life. It taught him an invaluable lesson in the art of dealing with people. Never again did he write an insulting letter. Never again did he ridicule anyone. And from that time on, he almost never criticized anybody for anything."

I of course continue to ridicule and criticize others. Maybe if my text had led to a duel, I'd show more discipline. But I'm human. We make mistakes. We all do. I try my damndest to speak no ill of others, but I slip up. It's a habit that takes breaking. The big secret of dealing with people is as simple as showing a little empathy. It goes a long way when it comes to striving for a happy, healthy, purpose-driven life.

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