How to Win Friends & Influence People:

The Desmond Tutu Technique

By Shlomo Maital


  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

     Dale Carnegie made a stellar career based on his massive 1936 best-seller How to Win Friends and Influence People.    And truly his book has lots of good practical ideas for doing this.  His 6 ways to win friends: Become genuinely interested in other people. …Smile. …Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. …Be a good listener. …Talk in terms of the other person’s interest. …Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

       But the late Archbishop Demond Tutu,  who has just passed away, fondly known by people as “Arch”,  had a different method.   It was recounted by a close associate, former President of Ireland 1990-1997  Mary Robinson, in a BBC interview.

        DesmondTutu  had a permanent twinkle in his eye.  And he loved to make people laugh.  He once, recounted Robinson, confronted President Obama, an admirer, giving him a stern lecture on all Obama’s failings…..  then, seeing Obama’s crestfallen expression, burst into laughter, and explained it was just a joke. 

       The Tutu method is simple.  Enemies?  Foes?  Opposing forces?  First, make them laugh.  Any way you can.     You may not persuade them. But you certainly defuse the tension.  And you just may make a friend out of a former enemy.

        President Biden again spoke on the phone to Vladimir Putin, expert professional trouble-maker.  I doubt he used the Tutu method.  Probably there is no way Biden could make Putin even crack a smile.  But, what if Biden had opened by asking Biden if he had taken off his shirt for the cameras, when he last visited Siberia?   (Putin does this all the time, to project his macho image).  And, what if Biden had suggested that he, Biden, too was going to try it, to boost his abysmal approval ratings.  Would that get a smile?  Might not.  Might not prevent a disastrous invasion by Russia into Ukraine.  But —  it might have worked better than threatening “sanctions”.  I am smiling, just imagining Biden’s octogenarian physique.