21 January 2016

The Chinese Ways of Influencing People

Dale Carnegie wrote a best seller names "How to Win Friends and Influence People" back in 1936. Among the Chinese, there is a saying that was attributed to Confucius (only a subset came from him) about how to influence too. Here is an analysis of the saying.
The Chinese Saying on How to Influence People:

The Translated English Version in mind-map:
The fastest and easiest way to get people to do what you want is to offer some benefits to him, typically gifts or money. In smaller way, it if about tipping. In bigger way it could be as bad bribery. It is quite typical in old Chinese times to give something to the man in charge to expedite your requests. It is like paying more for 1st class service. Such is usually not considered bribery in the Chinese society. However, in western world it will be, unless the service is classified into classes like the airplane tickets or hospital beds. 

The 2nd way is to touch the heart and go by relationships. Giving face, giving respect and honor are important to influence others. It is feelings before reasons. You need to earn the trust before you can be heard. This is like Stephen Covey 5th habit of seeking first to understand and then be understood. It is grace first before truth in the Biblical teaching. 

The 3rd way is the reasoning. Why should he or she do what you suggest. What are the benefits and what are the harms of not doing. 

The 4th way, if the above 3 ways still do not work, is to show your power or pull your rank as they say in the army. Because you are the boss, therefore he better listens. 

The 5th way, perhaps should be included in the 3rd way of reasoning, is to teach him how to fish besides giving him the fish to solve his immediate problem. This saying is repeated by Stephen Covey and others in their books as well. However, the Chinese saying goes a bit deeper. It is about motivating the person to want to learn about fishing in the first place. We have the saying of you can bring the horse to the pond but you cannot force the horse to drink.

The 6th way, if the all the above fails, is to bring out the laws. Using the laws for enforcement is usually the last resort for the Chinese. It is always best to start on friendly terms by giving respect and giving face. Even appealing to give and take, you help me this time and I will help in later times. We have the children story of the rat begging the lion not to kill him and later saves the lion from the net.

The remaining ways are methods to help the person to be better and stronger in character.  It is about (7) setting the example for others to see and follow, (8) encouraging the person to carry on and not to quit half way, (9) encourage people to change from inside out - building a strong character by soft motivation of drawing, appealing to social conscience, rather than outward enforcement by laws. Laws is effective in getting short-term adherence but is not effective in long term self-driven adherence. We don't steal not because we will be put in jail but because we are morally upright person. Even when there are no one watching, and no CCTV recording, we will not steal even if the easy opportunity arise. e.g. picking up lost wallets and returning to the owner.

The Carnegie's Methods:
For comparison and to complete the topic of influencing people, here is mind-map of 12 principles :
There is a more complete list at 

Which One to Follow? The East or the West?
There is no need to choose. Roughly speaking, the Chinese ways address the strategic issues, and the Carnegie's ways address the techniques. You should combine them and apply the right way according to the situation, the issues, and the personalities of the people involved. Such situational analysis first and tailoring to the specific of the people involved and affected is the mindset and way of the Chinese. It is the key and main teaching of Sun Zi's Art of War.  (See V Sun Zi and Other Strategists(Gui Gu Zi)

If you want to be winners, win friends and influence people, follow the teachings recommended here.

Lim Liat (c) 21-1-2016

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