Become Genuinely Interested in Other People

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 2, Chapter 1: “Do this and You’ll be Welcome Anywhere”

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years of trying to get other people interested in you.[1]

The principle of this chapter is that if you are genuinely interested in people and they know that, they will reciprocate in your personal and business dealings.  Among others, Carnegie relates a story of US President Theodore Rosevelt, who greeted each of the white house staff by name when he returned for a visit two years into his successor’s term. The head usher reportedly said “It is the only happy day we had in nearly two years…”

So how to apply this to guild relations? Not directly, at least not in the same way as is described in this chapter.  Not everyone plays WoW to form real-life friendships.  Some people may take their relationships in-game into the real world, while others may know only basic facts like real first name and occupation.  Yet the way we interact still follows basic societal norms.  I don’t think many of us have a completely different way of looking at interpersonal relationships that we use in-game but not in real life.

If you appreciate people being friendly in real life, you will probably appreciate them doing so in game.  If you dislike people who screw over the little guy, someone who does so in game will get to you there as well.  So we can apply the principles in this chapter to in-game relationships with ease – we just need to respect whatever boundaries someone may have about becoming interested in their personal life.

Don’t Be Creepy

Let’s take an example from the chapter.  While conducting an research interview with the president of a company, a man finds out that the president’s son collects stamps.  The interview doesn’t go well, but the businessman remembers that his company takes in letters from all over the world.  He gets a bunch of stamps from the receiving office and calls back the next day, whereupon he is ushered in and gets the information he was looking for.

Taking a genuine interest in someone’s personal life to gain a business advantage isn’t a bad idea – in business.  Taking an interest in a the real-life activities of a guild member’s child could come off as very creepy.

Some people play WoW to escape from real life.  When they’re in game, they control how much of life bleeds over.  If they casually mention something about real life, that isn’t necessarily an invitation for you to bring up the subject at some point in the future.  By doing so, you’re taking control of that line, and it could easily backfire.

Of course, if someone talks about real life and solicits opinion from guild members, that’s an entirely different situation.  I’ve known several guild members to go through real life tragedy where a loved one was sick or passed away, and I think it helps for someone to hear that their online family is concerned for their well-being.

Keep It In-Game

So where is the safe ground?  Simple – be genuinely interested in what people do in game.

While everyone in a guild shares some common goal, we all have little side projects that we work on.  Some of these (like What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been or The Loremaster) can take months or years to complete.   These aren’t the “because it’s there” achievements – if you’re putting serious effort into them, it’s important to you.  If you know that someone is working on them, ask from time to time how their progress is going.

A lot of people do PvP.  I never have, save for a few battlegrounds in my 30s on my first character (long enough to be branded a Master Sergeant under the original honour system).  I’ve never done arena, and the few times I’ve entered battlegrounds has been strictly for something that has PvE benefit.  I just don’t get enjoyment out of that aspect of the game.  Because I dislike PvP, I don’t really care what others get up to in it.

At times, I’ve been downright hostile to those who let their PvP interfere with organized PvE events.  As a healer, I remember the days of the “PvP virus” and never understood why someone couldn’t just wrap up 6 minutes before we started raid invites to ensure that their flag had dropped.

But my guild members who PvP obviously find value in that activity, or they wouldn’t do it.  Just because I don’t care for it doesn’t mean that I can’t be aware of their goals, and ask them how they’re doing.  Is someone gunning for a particular rating in arena, or to finish in one of the upper brackets to get a title or even the 310% mount?  It doesn’t weaken me to ask “hey, how’s the rating race going?”.  Sure, I could find out on the armory if I wanted, but that doesn’t have the same effect.

Compare the previous question to “hey, I notice your rating is 1950 this week – you think you’re going to get the mount by end of season?”.  The former encourages them to talk about something that interests them, even if the topic isn’t interesting to me personally.  The latter prompts little more than a “yes” or “no” answer.  Which do you think is going to leave the person with a sense of “they’re interested in me”?

In a Raid

The above examples tend to be best suited for whispers, or out-of-raid guild chat.  But don’t underestimate the value of recognizing individual interests in a raid setting.  Let’s say that your entire guild completed the Ulduar meta-achievement a while ago.  A new member who has all but a couple of the sub-achievements has joined your guild, and has mentioned how they’d like one of the rusted proto-drakes.  Sometime later you’re doing an alt-run through Ulduar just for the fun of it.  Nobody cares about perfect execution or how many people are left standing at the end of each fight.

When you get to the bosses that the new member needs, you can mention that said member needs a particular hard mode.  If the member isn’t in the raid but is online, you can ask someone to sit for one fight just to help this one person get their mount.  You can ask people to focus on the fight a little more to ensure that you get the achievement.

It’s a small gesture that might cost you a few minutes in staging time, but will pay off (I think) in the impression it leaves on the new member.  “Your guild is interested in what you’re doing” is the message being sent.

The positive effects of this kind of attitude isn’t limited to the person who benefits.  In the comments to the last article in this series, Gravity and Malevica discussed whether good leadership is enough to keep people in a guild or attract new members.  I’m of the opinion that while the easy epic period we’re in makes it harder to retain members, good leadership practice and attitude isn’t going to push anyone away, and will hopefully pay dividends in Cataclysm when leaving a guild has larger ramifications.

If I was in the hypothetical Ulduar raid, I’d be proud of my guild leadership for taking an interest.  Knowing that the members are considered more than just interchangeable cogs is important to me, and nothing shows me that more than to see things like this in practice.

Keeping Track of It All

Now, what about the mechanics of how to know what people’s goals are?  Not everyone has an encyclopedic memory.  Get yourself an addon like NotesUNeed if it helps.

When it comes to what I’ll term “professional development” – that being character development that benefits the role the person plays in the guild – you may not be able to keep up with everyone.  Unless you’re in a small guild or willing to take copious notes, even an addon may not let you stay up to date with what everyone is doing.

Delegating this type of interest to class or role leads may make more sense.  Just don’t try to delegate interest in your member’s personal interests.  Remember, the principle is to become genuinely interested.  Assigning the task of being interested in someone’s Loremaster progress to your dps lead isn’t genuine.

Interest in personal development happens either organically or not at all.

Leverage Your Forums

Another option is to leverage your forums.  I know it’s always a challenge to get more than a subset of your members to visit your forums on a regular basis.  This idea may help or it may not, but at the very least it will provide something for regular visitors that may migrate to guild chat in game and pull some people into the forums who weren’t visiting before.

First, create a “Who Are You and Why Are You Here?” thread, and encourage people to make a short post when they join the guild.  You’re not looking for a WoW autobiography, just something that gives some background on what you’ve done in game up to now and what your goals are.

Then, try to get people to answer the question “What Are You Doing Now?” regularly.  You may have noticed that does a regular column entitled WRUP: What Are You Playing?  They ask their columnists what they’re up to in game.  Are they chain running heroics on a new 80?  Leveling a new character with heirlooms through Azeroth one last time before everything goes boom?  Spending every non-raid day in arena in a final push for the season?  Try posting such a thread once a week – get a few regulars to post, and draw attention to it via your guild MOTD.

You’d be surprised how much people want to talk about what they’re doing when you give them a chance, and it only makes the job of keeping up with everyone’s non-raid aspirations easier.

Next thursday, we’ll cover chapter 2: “Six Ways to Make People Like You”, and look at the first chapter: “A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression”.

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

[1] Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. (1936), pp.56