"If You Want to Gather Honey, Don't Kick Over the Beehive"
On May 7, 1931, the most sensational manhunt New York City had ever
known had come to its climax. After weeks of search, "Two Gun" Crowley -
the killer, the gunman who didn't smoke or drink - was at bay, trapped
in his sweetheart's apartment on West End Avenue.
One hundred and fifty policemen and detectives laid siege to his
top-floor hideaway. They chopped holes in the roof; they tried to smoke
out Crowley, the "cop killer," with tear gas. Then they mounted their
machine guns on surrounding buildings, and for more than an hour one of
New York's fine residential areas reverberated with the crack of pistol
fire and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns. Crowley, crouching
behind an overstuffed chair, fired incessantly at the police. Ten
thousand excited people watched the battle. Nothing like it had ever
been seen before on the sidewalks of New York.
When Crowley was captured, Police Commissioner E. P. Mulrooney declared
that the two-gun desperado was one of the most dangerous criminals ever
encountered in the history of New York. "He will kill," said the
Commissioner, "at the drop of a feather."
But how did "Two Gun" Crowley regard himself? We know, because while the
police were firing into his apartment, he wrote a letter addressed "To
whom it may concern." And, as he wrote, the blood flowing from his
wounds left a crimson trail on the paper. In his letter Crowley said:
"Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one - one that would do
nobody any harm."
A short time before this, Crowley had been having a necking party with
his girl friend on a country road out on Long Island. Suddenly a
policeman walked up to the car and said: "Let me see your license."
Without saying a word, Crowley drew his gun and cut the policeman down
with a shower of lead. As the dying officer fell, Crowley leaped out of
the car, grabbed the officer's revolver, and fired another bullet into
the prostrate body. And that was the killer who said: "Under my coat is
a weary heart, but a kind one - one that would do nobody any harm."
Crowley was sentenced to the electric chair. When he arrived at the
death house in Sing Sing, did he say, "This is what I get for killing
people"? No, he said: "This is what I get for defending myself."
The point of the story is this: "Two Gun" Crowley didn't blame himself
Is that an unusual attitude among criminals? If you think so, listen to
"I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter
pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the
existence of a hunted man."
That's Al Capone speaking. Yes, America's most notorious Public Enemy -
the most sinister gang leader who ever shot up Chicago. Capone didn't
condemn himself. He actually regarded himself as a public benefactor -
an unappreciated and misunderstood public benefactor.
And so did Dutch Schultz before he crumpled up under gangster bullets in
Newark. Dutch Schultz, one of New York's most notorious rats, said in a
newspaper interview that he was a public benefactor. And he believed it.
I have had some interesting correspondence with Lewis Lawes, who was
warden of New York's infamous Sing Sing prison for many years, on this
subject, and he declared that "few of the criminals in Sing Sing regard
themselves as bad men. They are just as human as you and I. So they
rationalize, they explain. They can tell you why they had to crack a
safe or be quick on the trigger finger. Most of them attempt by a form
of reasoning, fallacious or logical, to justify their antisocial acts
even to themselves, consequently stoutly maintaining that they should
never have been imprisoned at all."
If Al Capone, "Two Gun" Crowley, Dutch Schultz, and the desperate men
and women behind prison walls don't blame themselves for anything - what
about the people with whom you and I come in contact?
John Wanamaker, founder of the stores that bear his name, once
confessed: "I learned thirty years ago that it is foolish to scold. I
have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over
the fact that God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of
Wanamaker learned this lesson early, but I personally had to blunder
through this old world for a third of a century before it even began to
dawn upon me that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, people don't
criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be.
Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and
usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous,
because it wounds a person's precious pride, hurts his sense of
importance, and arouses resentment.
B. F. Skinner, the world-famous psychologist, proved through his
experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior will learn much
more rapidly and retain what it learns far more effectively than an
animal punished for bad behavior. Later studies have shown that the same
applies to humans. By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes and
often incur resentment.
Hans Selye, another great psychologist, said, "As much as we thirst for
approval, we dread condemnation."
The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family
members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been
George B. Johnston of Enid, Oklahoma, is the safety coordinator for an
engineering company. One of his responsibilities is to see that
employees wear their hard hats whenever they are on the job in the
field. He reported that whenever he came across workers who were not
wearing hard hats, he would tell them with a lot of authority of the
regulation and that they must comply. As a result he would get sullen
acceptance, and often after he left, the workers would remove the hats.
He decided to try a different approach. The next time he found some of
the workers not wearing their hard hat, he asked if the hats were
uncomfortable or did not fit properly. Then he reminded the men in a
pleasant tone of voice that the hat was designed to protect them from
injury and suggested that it always be worn on the job. The result was
increased compliance with the regulation with no resentment or emotional
You will find examples of the futility of criticism bristling on a
thousand pages of history. Take, for example, the famous quarrel between
Theodore Roosevelt and President Taft - a quarrel that split the
Republican party, put Woodrow Wilson in the White House, and wrote bold,
luminous lines across the First World War and altered the flow of
history. Let's review the facts quickly. When Theodore Roosevelt stepped
out of the White House in 1908, he supported Taft, who was elected
President. Then Theodore Roosevelt went off to Africa to shoot lions.
When he returned, he exploded. He denounced Taft for his conservatism,
tried to secure the nomination for a third term himself, formed the Bull
Moose party, and all but demolished the G.O.P. In the election that
followed, William Howard Taft and the Republican party carried only two
states - Vermont and Utah. The most disastrous defeat the party had ever
Theodore Roosevelt blamed Taft, but did President Taft blame himself? Of
course not. With tears in his eyes, Taft said: "I don't see how I could
have done any differently from what I have."
Who was to blame? Roosevelt or Taft? Frankly, I don't know, and I don't
care. The point I am trying to make is that all of Theodore Roosevelt's
criticism didn't persuade Taft that he was wrong. It merely made Taft
strive to justify himself and to reiterate with tears in his eyes: "I
don't see how I could have done any differently from what I have."
Or, take the Teapot Dome oil scandal. It kept the newspapers ringing
with indignation in the early 1920s. It rocked the nation! Within the
memory of living men, nothing like it had ever happened before in
American public life. Here are the bare facts of the scandal: Albert B.
Fall, secretary of the interior in Harding's cabinet, was entrusted with
the leasing of government oil reserves at Elk Hill and Teapot Dome - oil
reserves that had been set aside for the future use of the Navy. Did
Secretary Fall permit competitive bidding? No sir, He handed the fat,
juicy contract outright to his friend Edward L. Doheny. And what did
Doheny do? He gave Secretary Fall what he was pleased to call a "loan"
of one hundred thousand dollars. Then, in a high-handed manner,
Secretary Fall ordered United States Marines into the district to drive
off competitors whose adjacent wells were sapping oil out of the Elk
Hill reserves. These competitors, driven off their ground at the ends of
guns and bayonets, rushed into court - and blew the lid off the Teapot
Dome scandal. A stench arose so vile that it ruined the Harding
Administration, nauseated an entire nation, threatened to wreck the
Republican party, and put Albert B. Fall behind prison bars.
Fall was condemned viciously - condemned as few men in public life have
ever been. Did he repent? Never! Years later Herbert Hoover intimated in
a public speech that President Harding's death had been due to mental
anxiety and worry because a friend had betrayed him. When Mrs. Fall
heard that, she sprang from her chair, she wept, she shook her fists at
fate and screamed: "What! Harding betrayed by Fall? No! My husband never
betrayed anyone. This whole house full of gold would not tempt my
husband to do wrong. He is the one who has been betrayed and led to the
slaughter and crucified."
There you are; human nature in action, wrongdoers, blaming everybody but
themselves. We are all like that. So when you and I are tempted to
criticize someone tomorrow, let's remember Al Capone, "Two Gun" Crowley
and Albert Fall. Let's realize that criticisms are like homing pigeons.
They always return home. Let's realize that the person we are going to
correct and condemn will probably justify himself or herself, and
condemn us in return; or, like the gentle Taft, will say: "I don't see
how I could have done any differently from what I have."
On the morning of April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln lay dying in a hall
bedroom of a cheap lodging house directly across the street from Ford's
Theater, where John Wilkes Booth had shot him. Lincoln's long body lay
stretched diagonally across a sagging bed that was too short for him. A
cheap reproduction of Rosa Bonheur's famous painting The Horse
Fair hung above the bed, and a dismal gas jet flickered yellow
As Lincoln lay dying, Secretary of War Stanton said, "There lies the
most perfect ruler of men that the world has ever seen."
What was the secret of Lincoln's success in dealing with people? I
studied the life of Abraham Lincoln for ten years and devoted all of
three years to writing and rewriting a book entitled Lincoln the
Unknown. I believe I have made as detailed and exhaustive a study of
Lincoln's personality and home life as it is possible for any being to
make. I made a special study of Lincoln's method of dealing with people.
Did he indulge in criticism? Oh, yes. As a young man in the Pigeon Creek
Valley of Indiana, he not only criticized but he wrote letters and poems
ridiculing people and dropped these letters on the country roads where
they were sure to be found. One of these letters aroused resentments
that burned for a lifetime.
Even after Lincoln had become a practicing lawyer in Springfield,
Illinois, he attacked his opponents openly in letters published in the
newspapers. But he did this just once too often.
In the autumn of 1842 he ridiculed a vain, pugnacious politician by the
name of James Shields. Lincoln lampooned him through an anonymous letter
published in the Springfield Journal. The town roared with
laughter. Shields, sensitive and proud, boiled with indignation. He
found out who wrote the letter, leaped on his horse, started after
Lincoln, and challenged him to fight a duel. Lincoln didn't want to
fight. He was opposed to dueling, but he couldn't get out of it and save
his honor. He was given the choice of weapons. Since he had very long
arms, he chose cavalry broadswords and took lessons in sword fighting
from a West Point graduate; and, on the appointed day, he and Shields
met on a sandbar in the Mississippi River, prepared to fight to the
death; but, at the last minute, their seconds interrupted and stopped
That was the most lurid personal incident in Lincoln's life. It taught
him an invaluable lesson in the art of dealing with people. Never again
did he write an insulting letter. Never again did he ridicule anyone.
And from that time on, he almost never criticized anybody for anything.
Time after time, during the Civil War, Lincoln put a new general at the
head of the Army of the Potomac, and each one in turn - McClellan, Pope,
Burnside, Hooker, Meade - blundered tragically and drove Lincoln to
pacing the floor in despair. Half the nation savagely condemned these
incompetent generals, but Lincoln, "with malice toward none, with
charity for all," held his peace. One of his favorite quotations was
"Judge not, that ye be not judged."
And when Mrs. Lincoln and others spoke harshly of the southern people,
Lincoln replied: "Don't criticize them; they are just what we would be
under similar circumstances."
Yet if any man ever had occasion to criticize, surely it was Lincoln.
Let's take just one illustration:
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought during the first three days of July
1863. During the night of July 4, Lee began to retreat southward while
storm clouds deluged the country with rain. When Lee reached the Potomac
with his defeated army, he found a swollen, impassable river in front of
him, and a victorious Union Army behind him. Lee was in a trap. He
couldn't escape. Lincoln saw that. Here was a golden, heaven-sent
opportunity - the opportunity to capture Lee's army and end the war
immediately. So, with a surge of high hope, Lincoln ordered Meade not to
call a council of war but to attack Lee immediately. Lincoln telegraphed
his orders and then sent a special messenger to Meade demanding
And what did General Meade do? He did the very opposite of what he was
told to do. He called a council of war in direct violation of Lincoln's
orders. He hesitated. He procrastinated. He telegraphed all manner of
excuses. He refused point-blank to attack Lee. Finally the waters
receded and Lee escaped over the Potomac with his forces.
Lincoln was furious. "What does this mean?" Lincoln cried to his son
Robert. "Great God! What does this mean? We had them within our grasp,
and had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours; yet nothing
that I could say or do could make the army move. Under the
circumstances, almost any general could have defeated Lee. If I had gone
up there, I could have whipped him myself."
In bitter disappointment, Lincoln sat down and wrote Meade this letter.
And remember, at this period of his life Lincoln was extremely
conservative and restrained in his phraseology. So this letter coming
from Lincoln in 1863 was tantamount to the severest rebuke.
Excerpted from "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Copyright © 1998 by Dale Carnegie. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.