The Lessons Of ‘Influencing People’ And The “GROUNDHOG DAY” Movie
SUMMARY OF THE MOVIE — The movie, ‘Groundhog Day’ released in 1993, starring Bill Murray, is about an arrogant TV weatherman Phil Connors(Bill Murray), who goes to cover an annual event ‘Groundhog Day’ (A groundhog predicts the weather) in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Phil, finds himself caught in a time loop, repeating the same day, again and again, unable to end the nightmare. He tries to self-indulge in pleasure-seeking activities, tries to seduce his producer Rita but ends up in failure. Being stuck and depressed, Phil looks for ways to commit suicide to end the loop. Unfortunately, nothing works.
Finally, he starts helping people around him and escapes the time loop. The film emphasizes that happiness comes from placing the needs of others above one’s own selfish desires.
In the ‘Groundhog Day’ movie, Phil Connors is shown as an arrogant, self-centred and egotistical weatherman. He believes that he is highly talented than anybody else in his office. He has utter contempt for his colleagues, particularly the cameraman Larry. Phil has the most disdain for ‘Groundhog Day’ event held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, which he has to cover for the fourth time in his career, along with the new producer Rita.
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Phil intends to seduce his producer, Rita. Every day, he learns a little bit more about her likings, dislikings, desires and impresses her with the new knowledge, the following same day. He is overly anxious to have sex with her. But no matter how many times Phil attempts to seduce her, Rita figures out that it is a setup and Phil ends up in getting slaps from her.
Phil: Why not? I love you.Rita: You love me?You don't even know me.Phil: I know you.
Rita: I can't believe I fell for this.
This whole day has just been one long setup.Phil: It hasn't.Rita: And I hate fudge.Phil: No white chocolate. No fudge.Rita: What are you doing? Are you making some kind of list?
Did you call my friends and ask what I like and what I don't like?Is this what love is for you?Phil: This is real. This is love.Rita: Stop saying that! You must be crazy.I could never love someone like you. You only love yourself.
Rita Slaps Phil.
You cannot influence people to love you using any gimmicks or tricks or any fixed principles, as every individual is different.
In the movie, Phil becomes overanxious and this makes Rita feel suspicious about him as doubts creep into her mind. Rita senses that things are not as they seem and thinks that Phil is practically trying to get what he wants.
In any human relations situation, it does not pay to be overly anxious -Nobody likes an Eager-Beaver — When you show overanxious(be it in business or life), the other person would doubt your intentions, would show a natural tendency to stop any activity which you are interested at. They would back away from your friendship at the earliest opportunity.
You can force other people to be loyal, can force co-operation, can force them to do some work, but you cannot force them to like you or love you — Les Giblin
A self-centred person is defined as “one preoccupied with oneself or one’s own affairs,” without any concern for others or the outside world. They rarely make any effort to understand others’ thoughts and feelings.
NOTICE OTHERS — In one of the scenes — Phil, Rita and Cameraman Larry reach a Motel by a van in Punxsutawney and everyone gets out. Phil takes a look at the motel and vents out “I cannot stay at this hotel” whereas Rita is already helping Larry to unload the equipment from the van. Instead of helping Larry and Rita, Phil is focussed on his needs. Sometimes we are self-absorbed in our own interests, we fail to recognize the needs of people around us.
Later, Phil realises his mistakes, tries to learn about Larry.
1) In one of the later scenes — In a crowded area, Larry and Rita are setting up the equipment. Phil arrives, carrying two cups of coffee, pastry and hands over to both. Rita and Larry are pleasantly surprised at this Phil’s new gesture.
Phil: Larry? Skim milk, two sugars.Larry, with a surprised look mutters Larry: Thanks, Phil
Skimmed milk with two sugars and a pastry — Phil brought items which Larry likes(mmm..A triple surprise for Larry). Everyone is interested in themselves. Feed their interests, people would be impressed and talk high of you.
2) Phil helps Larry carry the camera gear(He recently started to notice how Larry struggles to carry the equipment) — Larry is surprised again.
Phil: Larry, Let me help you with the heavy stuff.You got your coffee. So, I'll get it.
3) Though Phil has earlier spent so much time with Larry, he never took efforts to learn anything about him. In the latter part of the movie, Phil tries to learn about Larry.
Phil: Larry, We never talk.Do you have kids?
“You can make people like you only when you start showing interest in them. You start showing interest in them only when you truly want to understand them. You start understanding them only when you start noticing them. You start noticing them only when you remove prejudices, biases from your mind”
We all may have prejudices, biases against people who are around us. Phil too was prejudiced about the people around him and all those prejudices were based on the ideas and knowledge he had. But as he started noticing others, his knowledge of them grew and he got genuinely interested in them. He began to understand other’s viewpoints and feelings. He started to respect everyone.
ASK OPINIONS, DON’T FORCE — Earlier, Phil never asked opinions or suggestions for the team tasks. He is more of an imposing character. In the later scenes, you could sense a change — He would give his idea as a suggestion and ask other’s opinion, instead of forcing them -
Phil: Larry, I was just talking with Buster Green,the head groundhog honcho.He said if we set up the camera equipment over here,we might get a better shot.What do you think?
Larry(with a surprised look): Sounds good.
Phil: Rita, What do you think?Rita with a puzzled smile: Let's go for it
Phil started to ask opinions, suggestions. He began to encourage people, give credit for other’s ideas, suggestions — An important art of influencing people.
APPRECIATE — Another art of influencing people is ‘Genuine Appreciation”. No insincere flattery, but genuine compliments and praise. You need to appreciate things which not everyone would notice — Look for little good things in others which you can compliment on. Duck below the surface and dig deep. That’s the best part of building relationships.
Phil talks about Rita in one of the scenes and you could see how he has transformed and started appreciating little things in another person.
Rita: Phil,Do you know me too?Phil: I know all about you.You like producing, but you're hoping for more than Channel Pittsburgh.
Rita: Everyone knows that.
Phil: You like boats, but not the ocean.You go to a mountain lake in the summer with your family.There's a long, wooden dock and a boathouse...with boards missing from the roof...and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone.
You're a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones.You're very generous.You're kind to strangers and children.
And when you stand in the snow,you look like an angel.
In another scene, Rita hesitantly shares that she had studied 19th-century French poetry in college as the main course. She hesitated because the majority of people’s first reaction to this was that learning poetry was a total waste of time. Though Phil laughs at her initially, he slowly starts genuinely appreciating her for the choice of poetry and he later spends the time to learn poetry.
Anybody would become more agreeable, co-operative, understanding if we appreciate those little good things about them. Do we appreciate little things in our spouses, colleagues, subordinates, parents, friends?
ACCEPT AS THEY ARE — In an earlier part of the movie, Phil dislikes his old schoolmate ‘Ned’ due to his inherent mannerisms. As Phil evolves into a good Samaritan, he develops respect for ‘Ned’, buys insurance from him and helps ‘Ned’ to meet his sales target.
Phil understands that it is important to allow people to be themselves and he needs to accept them as they are. Everybody is unique due to the difference in childhood & teenage experiences, schooldays, neighbourhood and parents. Everyone has their weaknesses and strengths. It is futile to insist anyone to behave like what we have in mind.
CARE FOR OTHERS — Phil made so many unsuccessful attempts to seduce Rita. You could impress anyone only when we show genuine interests in others. After so many failures, he slowly realises that everyone in the world is important, not just Rita.
Phil starts helping as many people as possible in that small town — In a humble, friendly way he genuinely became interested in the welfare of others — He learnt to put the happiness of other people before his own — He made many friends in this pursuit — He soon became a popular person — He created a new life for himself.
Instead of Phil talking about himself to Rita — many other people talked about Phil in front of her — A wonderful transformation. Rita falls in love with selfless Phil, when he is not at all focussed on seducing or impressing her.
Even when Phil comes out of time loop, the first question he asks Rita, “What can I do for You?” — It is not about him anymore. It is about other’s needs.
If you care for others, people would care for you.
YOU ARE THEM, THEY ARE YOU — The more you observe others, the more you learn about them, the more you tend to live in their shoes, you feel more attached and you become part of them.
The real empathy comes when the boundaries between each other blurs.
In the movie, the old Phil disliked “Groundhog Event” and even called Punxsutawney city people as Hicks and Morons. Let’s look at Old Phil’s ‘Groundhog Day’ speech
Television really fails to capturethe true excitement...of a large squirrelpredicting the weather.I, for one, am very gratefulto have been here.From Punxsutawney,this is Phil Connors. So long
“I grateful to have been here” — he is still about himself, considers him as an outsider and not happy to be part of the city people.
But as he learns more about city dwellers, he develops due respect for them and their customs. He is comfortable being a part of the group than being an outsider. Below is the transcript of his “Groundhog Day” speech at the end of the movie.
Phil's speech at Grounhog Day Event: When Chekhov saw the long winter...he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope.
Yet we know that winter is justanother step in the cycle of life.But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney...
and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts...
I couldn't imagine a better fate...
than a long and lustrous winter.
From Punxsutawney,it's Phil Connors.
“Standing here among the people of Punxsutawney” — A markable difference showing how he values the city people and how he considers himself as one among them. Practise real empathy.
What is better than to conclude with a quote from a famous comedian Tim Minchin.
“Don’t Seek Happiness — Happiness is like an orgasm: if you think about it too much, it goes away. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy, and you might find you get some as a side effect.”
Note: The above content is part of the following book
REFERENCES: How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie, How to have confidence and power in dealing with people by Les Giblin, 15 signs of self-absorbed people -an article by Casey Imafidon in lifehack.org, Groundhog Day movie script from scipt-o-rama.com.