A recent Wall Street Journal article brought up the issue of popularity with its tantalizing title, “The Secret of Popularity.” (1) Is becoming popular really a secret?
The author cites several recent books and research studies that all point to the idea that paying attention to others rather than oneself and understanding others’ views makes for more popular and happier people. This is hardly the stuff of triple vault, encrypted state secrets. Even beyond not-so-common common sense, the idea of giving time, attention and genuine interest to others is the glue that holds society together as well as being the grease that keeps it all running smoothly.
If this is a secret, it is hardly a best kept one. WSJ should know. On the same day, they published an article about Dale Carnegie and his 1936 bestseller “How to Win Friend and Influence People.” (2) His timeless advice about listening skills and communicating to others has sold 30 million copies worldwide. Carnegie encourages us, “if we want enduring relationships, if we would rather not spend our days talking past one another .. let’s try to understand [others].” Further he advises, “Always make the other persons feel important.” In our celebrity-obsessed, ‘selfie’ culture, this seems to be a long forgotten, old-fashioned yet tired and true method of winning friends and keeping them.
This ‘secret’ is even older than Carnegie. The article points out that Roman poet Publilius Syrus said, “We are interested in others when they are interested in us.” Not bad for the century before Christ, when psychologists, therapists and self-help books were thin on the ground. In fact, why not take it from the most popular book of all time. Doesn’t the Bible say something about treating others as you would have them treat you? That might even date back to the Garden of Eden. So not really a secret after all.
Linda Johnston, MD
(1) Jennifer Breheny Wallace – The Secret of Popularity. The Wall Street Journal July 22, 2016
(2) Jerry Cianciolo – Still Winning Friends and Influencing People. The Wall Street Journal July 22, 2016