Fred Smith observed three simple but important things about people.
The first principle is that you waste time trying to correct others’ mistakes.
Dale Carnegie made a similar observation in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He said, “Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, ‘You’re wrong’.”
First, he’ll probably get defensive. When that happens, he won’t hear anything else you have to say, no matter how helpful it is.
Second, because it can feel too good to be self-righteous. Remember, from time to time we all screw things up.
But you may say, “What if he is wrong?” He probably is. Find a way to motivate him to want to do it better next time. Ask questions and lead him to the solution you want.
The second principle is you can’t change anybody else.
It’s easy to look at someone else and see what we think he should change. I have a relative who is an alcoholic. This person has been drinking for many years. We have told him 10,000 times we think he should stop. And he will agree in word. But in deed he goes on drinking day after day.
If it’s hard enough to change ourselves, how can we hope to change anyone else?
The third principle is people are the way they are because they want to be that way.
I spent most of my youth as an extremely shy person. The truth is no one else compelled me to make that choice. I made that choice because in my mind it was the best way for me to survive in a cruel and seemingly heartless world.
And until I wanted to change, I didn’t.
When dealing with people, remember the lessons Fred Smith learned. You waste time trying to fix others’ mistakes. You can’t change anyone else. People choose the way they want to be.
Apply these principles and your life will be better. I guarantee it.