But I don't want to give the impression that I agree with everything Carlson has to say. I think his approach can be too simplistic and, at times, even dangerous. Here's an example from his chapter on relationships:
Think about someone you know whom you perceive to be an offensive or demanding person -- someone you have difficulty maintaining a positive feeling toward. Now, despite your difficulty, you know there are people who feel warmly toward that person. How do they do it? Are they blind to the facts? No. They do the same thing we all do for people we care about, without even knowing it. They look beyond the person's behavior. The person they like is not a static personality, set forever in stone, but someone whose behavior fluctuates according to his level of insecurity. They say, "Oh, Jim didn't mean what he said. He tends to lose his temper, and sometimes he says things he shouldn't." They see Jim, whereas you look at Jim's behavior.
We are all capable of looking beyond another's behavior, and do it all the time intuitively. We dismiss or defend the actions of people we love when we understand that they are feeling insecure. To improve our relationships we need to do the same thing with intention, to have a warm feeling for someone even though we don't feel they deserve it. As we practice this, our rapport and feeling of mutual respect will increase. [Page 81]
Now, there is certainly some truth in this, and in many cases it can probably work, but I would not recommend Carlson's approach in all situations. For one thing, it is not always possible or even desirable to separate the "behavior" from the person. A person, after all, is responsible for his behavior. More important, to intentionally overlook bad behavior on a regular basis is to reward and even enable that behavior.
Consider the case of a battered spouse. The thought process described by Carlson is exactly that of a wife whose husband has just physically abused her. "Oh, Jim didn't mean to hit me. He tends to lose his temper, and sometimes he does things he shouldn't." The battered wife doesn't look -- doesn't want to look -- at Jim's behavior. She wants to look at the "real" Jim, who is somehow distinct from the bad things he does. She wants "to have a warm feeling for someone even though [she doesn't] feel they deserve it."
Practicing this technique will not cause the "rapport and feeling of mutual respect" between the wife and her husband to increase. Quite the opposite. The more excuses she makes for Jim's behavior, the worse his behavior is likely to be.
Carlson would probably say he's not talking about really bad behavior, such as acts of violence. But there are other kinds of abuse. Jim might not beat up his wife physically, but he might subject her to chronic emotional abuse, which can be just as bad.
In general, Carlson strikes me as someone who has had little experience of the dark side of life -- someone who dramatically underestimates the amount of sheer malice that's out there in the world. His techniques work well in dealing with people who are basically decent and well-meaning, but I think they would fail -- in fact, I think they would bring about the opposite effect to the one that he intends -- when applied to people who are just plain bad.
And such people do exist. They're not the majority, but they're not an inconsequential minority, either.
In other words, there are wolves in the woods. And not all of them can be won over by simple acts of kindness. Some of them perceive kindness as weakness, and will take ruthless advantage of you if you let them. They will bite the hand you extend to them.
So by all means, read and profit from Carlson's book. But as always, caveat lector.