Dale Carnegie knew that the best way to correct someone’s mistake was to call attention to it indirectly, thereby getting the person to realize it for himself or herself.
To illustrate the point, Carnegie told the story of when the eloquent Congregationalist clergyman and social reformer, Henry Ward Beecher died. The following Sunday, Lyman Abbott was invited to speak in the pulpit left silent by Beecher’s passing. Eager to do his best, he wrote, rewrote, and polished his sermon with the meticulous care of a novelist. Then he read it to his wife.
It was poor—as most written speeches are. She might have said, if she had had less judgment, “Lyman, that is terrible. That’ll never do. You’ll put people to sleep. It reads like an encyclopedia. You ought to know better than that after all the years you have been preaching. For heaven’s sake, why don’t you talk like a human being? Why don’t you act natural? You’ll disgrace yourself if you ever read that stuff.”
That’s what she might have said. And, if she had, you know what would have happened. And she knew too. So, she merely remarked that it would make an excellent article for the North American Review. In other words, she praised it and at the same time subtly suggested that is wouldn’t do as a speech. Lyman Abbott saw the point, tore up his carefully prepared manuscript, and preached without even using notes.
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