21 Things

21 things

At the beginning of my sponsorship career, what I THOUGHT I knew was far outpaced by what I DIDN’T know I DIDN’T know.

I tried to be a hard ass because that’s what I thought sponsors were supposed to be like. I got in newcomer’s faces. I told them they were stupid and should shut their mouths and open their ears and do what I said… Or else they would drink and probably die.

The results were tragic. Few stayed sober. Those who (miraculously)  DID stay sober NEVER stayed with me. And they didn’t have nice things to say about me afterwards, either.

I was a jackass, though a well-meaning one.

Thankfully, after having yet ANOTHER sponsee tell me to go  straight to Hell, Pastor B made a suggestion and amazingly,  I was beaten down enough by all those people I WAS TRYING TO HELP telling me off that I actually listened. Pastor B sat me down in his office and said he thought it would be wise if I read Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People.

I grumbled. I complained. “That’s not in Working With Others!” I told him. He shrugged and told me I might want to read it anyway.

Grudgingly, I read a copy mom had sitting around her house. And gradually, the lightbulb flickered on.

From that book I learned this: Gentle influence and careful suggestion is more effective than bullying command. I learned it didn’t matter if I was right if the person I was trying to help couldn’t listen to me because of the way I was speaking to him. I learned no one can absorb information that comes from a position of “I know better than you.” I learned I couldn’t act like an asshole AND help people effectively recover from the disease of alcoholism.

I learned I had a long way to go.

Dale Carnegie wrote this:

“If you want to get real, lasting benefit out of this book, don’t imagine that skimming through it once will suffice. After reading it thoroughly, you ought to spend a few hours reviewing it every month. Keep it on your desk in front of you every day. Glance at it often. Keep constantly impressing yourself with the rich possibilities for improvement that still lie in the offing.”

If you’re anything like me, you want to read the book right now, don’t HowToWinFriendsCover-webyou?

We in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have similar books, and what’s more, we have something better: a system of living well. Just like Carnegie’s book, our system of Good Orderly Direction  incorporates ideas that cannot be “picked-up and skimmed through.” Almost everything Carnegie says about HIS self-help book, we should be saying about OUR us-help program.

What’s more, Carnegie is clear about the  work involved. He insists -over and over again – that the work is worthwhile and the results are worth it. We should talk about the 12 steps the same way.

Three examples:

“Remember that the use of these principles can be made habitual only by a constant and vigorous campaign of review and application. There is no other way.”

“Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. So, if you desire to master the principles you are studying in this book, do something about them. Apply these rules at every opportunity. If you don’t, you will forget them quickly. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.”

“You are attempting to form new habits. Ah yes, you are attempting a new way of life. That will require time and persistence and daily application.”


What an amazingly positive way to talk about changing your life! Let’s learn from the master and incorporate this SAME WAY OF TALKING ABOUT THE TWELVE STEPS!

21 Things Every Sponsor Should

To get us started, I’ve provided  some highlights, a few ideas we can incorporate in our programs and our dealings with our members, suggestions that any new sponsor (and quite a few old-timers) would do well to learn and understand:

  1. “There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything … And that is by making the other person want to do it.”
  2. ” … the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important’ … ‘the craving to be appreciated.'”
  3. “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people,” said Charles Schwab, “the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.”
  4. “Try leaving a friendly trail of little sparks of gratitude on your daily trips.”
  5. ” … the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
  6. Quoting Henry Ford: “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
  7. Quoting a performer: “I am grateful because these people come to see me. They make it possible for me to make my living in a very agreeable way. I’m going to give them the very best I possibly can.”
  8. “If we want to make friends, let’s put ourselves out to do things for other people – things that require time, energy, unselfishness and thoughtfulness.”
  9. Chinese proverb: “A man without a smiling face must not open shop.”
  10. “Your smile is a messenger of your good will. Your smile brightens the lives of all who see it. To someone who has seen a dozen people frown, scowl or turn their faces away, your smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds. Especially when that someone is under pressure from his bosses, his customers, his teachers, parents or children, a smile can help him realize that all is not hopeless … that there is joy in the world.”
  11. It’s all about listening to the other person.
  12. “The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.”
  13. Advice Dale received after correcting someone publicly at a dinner party: “Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save his face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? Always avoid the acute angle.”
  14. “Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he is absolutely right.”
  15. “Suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is non compos mentis. Then what? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph. And – a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”
  16. “In talking with other people, don’t begin by discussing the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasizing – and keep on emphasizing – the things on which you agree. Keep emphasizing, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose.”
  17. Appeal to nobler motives.
  18. Merely stating a truth isn’t enough. The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, dramatic.
  19. Quoting Charles Schwab: people get things done because they want to excel. “The desire to excel! The challenge! Throwing down the gauntlet! An infallible way of appealing to people of spirit.”
  20. “That is what every successful person loves: the game. The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win.”
  21. “Be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it – and he will practice until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.”

There are many more gems in this little book. You can download a copy here.

For now, let’s think about how we can apply these 21 ideas to improve our relationships with sponsees and one another.


UPDATE: Since I posted the blog entry, This American Life did a show on the same topic. It’s worth a listen.



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