I’m recently getting into a job role with more public speaking responsibilities and I've needed to dust off all my reading related to public speaking and find new material as well. Carnegie’s books are classics and simply great -- easily accessible and chock full of affirmation, they’re definitely early “self help” for public speaking and human relations in general. His books were written long before the term "self help" was ever thought up. In watching Carnegie’s A&E biography online today, I learned something new about him. He had an unhappy first marriage that ended in divorce. Although my heart goes out to him and his wife and anyone who’s been down that road, it somehow reassuring to know that someone of Carnegie’s caliber could also make a major life relationship mis-step. I mean, we’re talking about one of the early and foremost authorities and teachers on human relations. Well, it just goes to show you that the heart can take full control of captaining one’s ship of life, leaving the mind a confused second in command. It’s sometimes only years later that one finds that happiness is not only kept afloat by the heart and mutiny ensues. So much for my analogy, I’m sure you know what I mean. May you not be one of those who loses years as Carnegie (and I) did.
Today I’d like to speak to you about family and friends. Hopefully you’re keeping in touch with them, they’re very important. Communication, as Carnegie would say, is key here as well. Be sincere. Keeping those treasured friends and deep relationships is all so important in life. With this said, when it comes to sincerity and their input to you, I want to be the first to caution you – always take the opinions of family and friends on your relationship with a serious grain of salt. The truth hurts, and sometimes it is withheld when it is most deeply needed. Strive for truth.
I’m just going to be honest and direct here -- don’t count on your friends *or* family to give you their truly honest, tough love opinion when it comes to a decision on commitment and marriage. As with all things in human relations, you need to be careful on how you approach them and ensure you are creating an atmosphere of sincerity and trust and ensure you let them know you are letting them know you want their honest opinion. That is not an easy thing. You need to be very careful because if they see that you’re “in love” and strongly leaning towards marriage, the last thing that they will want to do is be labeled as the one “nay-sayer” to be remembered as saying something negative -- that you shouldn’t have married so and so, when you actually go and do it no matter despite their words of caution.
No matter what you do, ask for people’s opinion on your “match” and your chances of making it for the long run. Seriously, in an age when the divorce rate for first marriages hovers around 50%, and even higher for second marriages, you need all the help you can get. I may be the first to tell you this and I’ll speak more about it in a future post, but seriously – marriage is *not* a requirement for happiness in life. In fact, it can be just the opposite. Don’t take my word for it, just ask Dale Carnegie. Make sure that you’re talking to people properly about this important topic, and talk to a real blend of people that will give you the best chance of getting honest responses, both from people who have been divorced and those that are in seemingly functional and happy marriages. You need to think long term here, and not just letting your heart run roughshod with optimism.
When you do find the people on your list who can really tell it like it is, after having been married for many years, make sure that you’re also asking the right questions so you can get the full picture. Don’t expect that they will lay it out for you. Be receptive and ensure that you’re letting them know that they you will always appreciate their honest opinion, no matter what they say. It’s up to you to ensure you’re talking to the people whose opinion you would truly respect in the first place, not just Aunt or Uncle So-and-So, who you barely know and somehow never divorced… for those people you ask who are married, you need to make sure that they’re truly in a happy, healthy marriage, not just one where they decided years ago to be room-mates. You know the type.
I leave you with some final words from Dale Carnegie. Seek the truth on your relationships, and honor and respect all your relationships, especially of friends and family who were with you long before your beloved came along. Be honest with everyone, and most importantly, with yourself.
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People