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Want people to follow you anywhere? Learn from the man who taught Alexander the Great.
By Jay Heinrichs
Illustration by Nigel Buchanan
The Book of Love was written by the philosopher Aristotle and rewritten by Southwest. Study them both and you’ll learn how to become a beloved brand—or a beloved person.
Aristotle was a provably brilliant teacher. Among his more notable pupils: Alexander the Great. After some early successes—like, you know, conquering the known world—Alexander carried out an even greater ambition: turning conquered peoples into proud citizens of the Greek Empire. (As any occupying force will tell you, this took some persuading.)
In short, Alexander captured nations—and hearts. The love part came straight from Aristotle. We know all this because the notes can be found in a book called Rhetoric. I like to call it the Book of Love.
The book teaches that the most powerful tool of persuasion is the leader’s public ethos, or image. If people love you, they’ll follow you anywhere. Aristotle taught that a compelling character is more persuasive than perfect logic. Mind you, this is the philosopher who invented logic as we know it. Image trumps logic. (He blamed our “sorry human nature.”)
So how does Aristotle’s Book of Love work for a person or an entire corporation? I can sum up the technique in three words: Caring, Craft, and Cause. C
Caring means your audience—family, friends, future employers, customers—believe you have their best interest at heart. Remember the movie Miracle on 34th Street? When the Santa at Macy’s learns that the store doesn’t have the toy a particular little boy wants, he tells the boy’s mother where she can find it. Word spreads that Macy’s favors kids over its own profit, and the store gets flooded with mail—and customers. Mr. Macy himself endorses the Santa policy, proclaiming, “This way Macy’s will be known as the store with a heart.”
Which may remind you of another company with a heart. Southwest empowers its employees to serve customers in personal ways. This is Caring at its strategic, and heartfelt, best.
Big Fat Greek Word: Aristotle called Caring eunoia (you-NOY-ah). Loose translation: selflessness. In persuasion, the impor-tant thing is not just to be selfless but to convince your audience that you are.
Caring Phrase: “The extra mile.” As in, “I’ve always gone the extra mile for clients.” Use it in a job interview.
Character-wise, Caring is to Santa as Craft is to MacGyver. It’s about knowing your stuff and making your audience know you do.
A crafty character knows when to use the rule book and when to depart from it. Take Apollo 13, in which NASA engineers jury-rig a CO2 scrubber—using, among other things, the cover of the flight manual. You don’t get more symbolically crafty than that.
This kind of ingenuity exists beyond movies. Early in its 43-year history, Southwest showed its Craft by creating the industry’s fastest turnaround time, the interval between arriving on one flight and pushing back for the next. As with Apollo 13, the innovation solved a problem: The airline had too few planes. Turning the existing ones around faster allowed Southwest to add flights. And so it threw out the industry rule book and created a new standard.
Great leaders are known as problem solvers. This does not mean simply being creative; it means being creative with a reason. Seek your inner NASA engineer, and let people see it.
Big Fat Greek Word: Phronesis (fro-NEE-sis) is Aristotelian for Craft. Literal translation: “practical wisdom.”
Crafty Phrase: “That depends.” Craft means fine-tuning solutions to specific problems. First, get specific with the problems. Where’s the best place to vacation? That depends on your audience’s interests, when you plan to go, and how easily bored your kids are. What’s the best smartphone for business enterprise? That depends on the business.
Cause is your audience’s belief that you stand for something larger. You share their values and represent them perfectly. Apple Computer’s cause under Steve Jobs was elegant awesomeness—design so great it seemed like a whole new art form.
A good cause can be summed up in just a couple of words. If your organization’s cause looks like a committee wrote it, then it’s not one; it’s a mission statement.
Southwest became famous for fostering the freedom to fly. By lowering fares in underserved markets, it let regular folks take to the skies. An excellent cause, not to mention a profitable one.
Big Fat Greek Word: Arête (AR-uh-tay), or “virtue.” A great cause embodies the values of the audience. You know when Hollywood Roman soldiers shout the slogan “strength and honor”? The actual Romans shouted, “Virtue and honor!” That’s because soldiers represent a cause: their country.
Good Cause Phrase: “The important thing is…” In Miracle on 34th Street, Santa tells the mother, “The important thing is to keep the children happy.” What is the most important thing to you—or rather, the cause that will make your audience love you?
Now do your homework. Perform a character check of your résumé. Search for elements of Caring, Craft, and Cause. Show instances where you’ve gone the extra mile in your work. Don’t just list achievements; list solutions to specific problems. Skip the objectives, and state a cause that appeals to employers.
Once you start thinking about projected character, you’ll find yourself trying to balance Caring, Craft, and Cause in your daily life. People will love you for it.
Jay Heinrichs is the editorial director of this magazine and the author of the best-selling Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion.
I’m chatty, but I’m also a really good listener
And other reasons why the world loves Mindy Kaling.
Here are some things people love about you: You hear your own music and boogie, march, or break-dance to it however you please. You write wonderful books and TV shows. You sing, you’re accessible and friendly, and you’re beautiful. Wow! Thank you! Those are very nice things to say. Is there a question there? Or do you just want me to agree that I’m awesome?
Here’s an actual question: When writing your character in The Mindy Project, how do you make her lovable? One of the biggest things was giving her a job that allows her to help people. She’s a doctor. She talks to nervous pregnant women, which shows, I hope, that she’s got some empathy. She also pays for her brother’s college education, she doesn’t come from a lot of money, and she works really, really hard. I think those things help the audience connect with her when she’s showing some of her less lovable aspects.
You wrote Steve Carell’s character for about 20 episodes of The Office. Initially he was harsh and unlikable. Why did audiences grow to love him? They needed time to get to know him better. In TV, just like in life, it’s about humans meeting other humans and taking a little while to discover the things they love about each other.
What do you think makes you lovable? More than “lovable,” I hear people tell me a lot—and I find this really gratifying—that they wish I were their best friend. It’s probably because even though I’m chatty, I’m a really good listener.
What do you find lovable in other people? The sense and appreciation that they’re not entitled to anything. I love people who are willing and happy to work hard for everything they want and believe in.
Anything else? A lot of people love cheerful people, but when I think of the most lovable people I’ve known, they’re not the ones who are instantly charming. They’re the ones who get more lovable over time, who have a lot of integrity and are very reliable. Those are the diamonds in the rough. —J. Rentilly
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