Dale Carnegie might have difficulty recognizing the influencers of today. I’ve never read his book How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936 and 1981), but from what I’ve read about it – and there is plenty of commentary – it was about convincing people through trust, sympathy and sheer likeability. It – and Carnegie’s course, famously taken by Warren Buffet – is still popular among those who want to make a career out of sales.

There were many who also felt Carnegie’s approach was too shallow, even insincere, but the book remains acknowledged as the mother of all self-help titles.

I am not a big self-help book fan and I am not sure I’ve ever read one. But I do wonder about the term “influence” as it’s used today.  A recent Vice article defined the term this way: “It says ‘I can make you do what I want.’” 

If that’s an accurate definition, it’s something I can do without in the world of gardening. 

When I started out, I was looking for information more than persuasion. What could be planted in shade? Among tree roots? In between rose bushes? In clay soil?

What perennials have the longest bloom seasons? What ground covers would spread the fastest? 

I found decent answers to those questions mainly in the pages of books and from the comments of more experienced gardeners. I saw other answers in local gardens that I could tell had conditions like mine.

I don’t remember watching a single YouTube video on gardening – other than as part of conferences – over the 25 years I’ve been gardening, though I did make a couple how-tos on bulb forcing at the request of others. I do know that online videos have helped thousands resolve all kinds of home and garden – and other – dilemmas. It’s just not the way I do things.

But I am the exception. At the salon the other day, my stylist, a fellow gardener with whom I share many a bragging phone shot of blooming double hellebores or crazy coleus, was extolling the video offerings of a gardener she – and thousands of others – was following. This person was mainly touting the virtues of Proven Winners new hydrangea varieties.

My stylist was clearly making a point. Why didn’t I do videos like that? I could quit my day job and double my income. 

It will not happen for oh-so-many reasons, the most prominent that I would be terrible at it.

When I recommend hydrangeas, it is usually by species, variety, hybrid, or cultivar. Not brand, though if I know of a good supplier, I might mention it. I would definitely mention a local nursery. If this information influences the person I’m talking to or anyone who reads it online, then fine. Though usually, most people I give advice to go out and do the opposite or at least something very different. 

It was kind of questionable when Dale Carnegie used it and the term – at least for me – hasn’t improved. 

Want to win friends and influence me? If influencers help you, that’s cool – just don’t ask me to watch their videos or follow their feeds. I’ll have to struggle along without.

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