Excerpts from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People
Pre-meds need help, and not just psychiatric help (though, let’s be honest, plenty of them do). To get into medical school, pre-meds need the help of influential people: professors, doctors, and even other student-group leaders. Pre-meds are often assertive and competitive people, but that’s not always enough to secure letters of recommendation, internships, or research positions.
So how do you get the “in” that you need? How do you stand out from the mob of other students who are chomping at the bit for the same connections and opportunities? How do you charm the VIPs and powers-that-be?
In Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book, he explains how to interest people and make them like you instantly. Throughout its chapters, he challenges readers to divorce themselves from their own egos in order to cater to the egos of others:
“Remember that the people you are talking to are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems.”
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. People blunder through life trying to wigwag other people into becoming interested in them. Of course, it doesn't work. People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves - morning, noon and after dinner.”
Appealing to other people often requires a total shift in attitude or mindset, which sometimes requires a newfound sincerity and humility. When trying to make a positive impression, our natural human reaction might be to showcase our talents or boast about our accomplishments, but the truth is that our positive qualities aren’t as extraordinary as we think.
It’s highly likely that others in the mob have similar or even more noteworthy experiences, so the best way to be remembered by VIPs is to show that you’ve done your homework about the person you’re talking to and that you’re invested in the same topics, issues, and projects that they hold dear. Carnegie illustrates this point through the example of Teddy Roosevelt:
“Everyone who was ever a guest of Theodore Roosevelt was astonished at the range and diversity of his knowledge. Whether his visitor was a cowboy or a Rough Rider, a New York politician or a diplomat, Roosevelt knew what to say. And how was it done? The answer was simple. Whenever Roosevelt expected a visitor, he sat up late the night before, reading up on the subject in which he knew his guest was particularly interested. For Roosevelt knew, as all leaders know, that the royal road to a person's heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.”
So if there is someone you want to impress, do thorough research about his or her background, accomplishments, academic focus, projects, etc. Try to find commonality between your experiences and theirs, but make it a priority to establish your interest in them. They’re at the top of the mountain, so there’s no reason for them to meet you halfway down. You have to be willing to climb as high as is needed for them to hear you.
It’s good to pose thoughtful questions about their work, but keep it relatively informal at first.
Even if your primary goal is earn their approval, that shouldn’t be transparent. Develop a polite conversation around a mutual interest and ask if you could take them out to lunch and discuss it in more detail. You’d be surprised at how often this parlays into the desired position, letter, or “in” that you wanted all along.
Carnegie proposes several additional principles:
“In a Nutshell - Six Ways To Make People Like You
• Principle 1 - Become genuinely interested in other people.
• Principle 2 - Smile.
• Principle 3 - Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
• Principle 4 - Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
• Principle 5 - Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
• Principle 6 - Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.”
The full PDF of Carnegie’s book can be found here, and as always, it’s highly recommended. (attn: pages 83-95): http://www.yourcoach.be/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Dale-Carnegie-How-to-win-friends-and-influence-people.pdf