December 1, 2003
Help Me, Oprah!
Q: I believe I was born to do my part in the social and spiritual fight toward achieving world peace. But I need help. I have written an appeal to Oprah Winfrey for an opportunity to appear on her show to perform a song that I wrote about world peace in the aftermath of the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001. Attached, please find a copy of the letter I recently e-mailed to Oprah. By faith, I believe you will embrace this effort and help me bring to the world my message of world peace.
—J. Bruce, Boston
A: Although I can’t speak for Winfrey, your letter is unlikely to influence her to do what you’d like her to do. This is not because Winfrey does not want world peace, it’s because your letter violates a basic rule of successful social interaction. It focuses entirely on what Winfrey’s granting of your request will do for you, as opposed to what it will do for her. Your letter to Winfrey speaks of your goals, your spiritual passion, your mission, your ministry—even your plans to use the proceeds of sales of your CD to pay for your graduate studies!
I strongly recommend you read Dale Carnegie’s seminal self-help book, How To Win Friends & Influence People, Revised Edition (Pocket Books; $7.99). You might want to initially focus on the section called “How To Win People to Your Way of Thinking.” Principle 8 in that section reads: “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” The key to getting Winfrey—or anyone else—to do what you’d like them to do is to sincerely communicate a clear understanding of their (not your) interests and motives.