The “Ben Franklin Method” For Winning People Over
by Bob Burg
So often in this magazine we talk about giving before getting, and that is certainly a very important aspect of helping a person to feel comfortable with you, and want to do for you. Whether in social relationships or sales, being the first to reach out is an extremely effective human relations strategy, as well as just a generally nice way to be. But we learn from one of America’s more well-known founders, Benjamin Franklin, how taking the opposite approach can have excellent results as well.
In his book, “Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Other Writings”, the inventor, statesman, and diplomat tells of an incident with a man who opposed his being re-chosen as Clerk of the General Assembly of the Pennsylvania House. Although he did manage to keep the office, Ben knew that this person, whom he described as “a gentleman of fortune and education with talents that were likely to give him, in time, great influence in the House,” could be trouble later on. He aimed to insure that didn’t happen by making, of an enemy, a friend.
Let’s let Ben tell us how he did it:
“I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to him, but after some time took this other method. Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him expressing my desire of perusing that book and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately – and I returned it in about a week with another note expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility. And he ever afterwards manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.
“This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, ‘He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.’ And it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to resent, return, and continue inimical proceedings.”
Understand that both ways work (giving first and getting first); it’s just a matter of judging the method that will work best depending upon both the situation and the other person involved. Either way, what Ben said in his final sentence makes a whole lot of sense. To paraphrase: We’re better off making a friend than keeping an enemy.