Title: How to Win Friends and Influence People Authors: Dale Carnegie Published: 1990 Length: 304 pages
Of the books that I have read recently, this one seemed to be a contentious one. I discussed this book with a friend who is in sales, and we came to completely different conclusions on the book’s premise. His idea was that the book contained a bunch of ways to manipulate people to get what you want, whereas I felt like the book provided methods to better understand, empathize, and work with people.
Throughout, Carnegie displays quite a bit of humor and wit, and gives memorable anecdotes to drive the points he makes home. Some things are trite on the outside, but they are quite useful once internalized. Here are some of the major points.
Carnegie starts out by talking about why he wrote this book. He had been searching for “a practical, working handbook on human relations,” but could not find anything. So he looked through history and tried to figure out how influential people in the past worked with the people in their lives, and wrote this book. Carnegie talks about research done that showed that “even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15 percent of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering – to personality and the ability to lead people.” I thought this was interesting, and personally agreed.
The most important theme that Carnegie emphasizes is that no one thinks that they are wrong. Everyone, even a criminal, acts rationally based on his or her world model. Hence, criticizing people or arguing with them will only serve to harden their resolve and make them less likely to want to be around you. Seek to understand and empathize, and you can see where they are coming from.
The only way to get someone to change their ways or do something you want them to do is to have them want to do it. Giving honest and sincere appreciation and being “hearty in your praise and lavish in your approbation” are two great ways to show someone that you do like what they are doing. However, people have a great skill in seeing through baloney, so the praise you give must truly come from the heart.
Carnegie asserts that you must never complain. No one likes a complainer. He states that there is no better way to ruin a marriage than to constantly nag your partner. I can’t speak from experience, but that seems correct.
Avoid arguments and telling people they are wrong. If you must, do it constructively and explain how you have made the same mistake in the past and that it should be easy to correct. Good people aren’t going to mess things up on purpose. Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding, and you should be quick to point out when you are or were wrong. If you are to point out shortcomings, call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly and in a private venue.
When someone has complaints, let them vent until they have nothing left to vent about. Show them that you care about their concerns and let them know what you are going to change to fix those concerns.
My friend in sales was somewhat right. There is importance in being able to sell, and this book can help do it well. Although you may not be in sales in the conventional sense, every day you are selling your ideas and opinions. Those who have good ideas and present them well are more respected, those that can’t fall by the wayside. You want to win people over to your ideas, and this book gives concrete ways of doing this.