Dale Carnegie Course: Week 2

This week we did more memory exercises, specifically a pegging technique for remembering a list of up to 9 things, in order. The technique was introduced by way of a demonstration: 2 group leaders who had done the course before got up and stood behind an easel. The facilitator then got us to call out a bunch of random objects like “a blue BMW 8-series with donuts for wheels” and assign them a number. The group leaders then had to recall all 9 objects, with all the details, from memory. By having someone call out the number assigned to the object. Or just one detail of the object. Or “the objects you haven’t told us about yet.” Pretty cool, huh?

This sort of thing looks like magic if you don’t know the trick. It’s also very effective to show off something amazing and then say “Ok, now I’m going to teach you all how to do this, and everyone in this room will be able to do it at the end of an hour.” And then they do.

The thing that surprises me the most is how I’m now thinking differently about what I’m capable of. It’s really easy to assume that something is ‘too hard’ and to simply not try to do it. I wonder how many other things I’ve always thought weren’t possible actually aren’t all that hard?

A further tip: you can read about these techniques on the internet, or buy a set of audio tapes for just 5 monthly repayments, but it’s not as effective as having someone demonstrate how to do something, and then coach you on how to do it. I learned the linking and chaining memory technique from the internet, but it took me about 6 hours, and I never practised, so I’m not much good at it. I learned the 9 item pegging technique in an hour.

We also did some more introductory exercises in public speaking, by telling a small anecdote about a defining moment in our own lives. The idea is that you can speak more easily, fluidly and with more concrete detail about something you have personal experience of, and that sort of presentation is much more likely to be interesting. It works. The people in my group have led fascinating lives, and we have more in common that I would have believed possible at the beginning of the first week.

I’ve read plenty of self-help books, even Dale Carnegie’s seminal work How to Win Friends and Influence People, and all of them combined have not made as big an impact as just two weeks of this course. I could be jaded and cynical about how we’re being cleverly manipulated by the process, but I’m not. Being cleverly manipulated is the entire point of the process, and I love it. Just reading about it wouldn’t work. It is in the doing, the gradually bigger steps, that we’re being taught the skills that are in the books. We’re learning how to be that guy in the office who everyone likes; that confident, stylish presenter who gave that awesome talk you still remember.

The magician knows the trick, but they still perform the show.

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