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How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie

Published 1937

Non-Fiction/Self improvement

What’s it about?

A series of deceptively simple, yet highly effective techniques to win people over.  

How long is it?

250+ pages

Is it easy to read?

Yes, Carnegie has a very easy style.

Is it any good?

Yes, despite being so old it still has relevant up to date examples to back up what it advocates. It has sold 16 million copies and essentially started the self help movement.  

How will it inspire me?

                The book is about what behaviours you can adopt to have better relationships with people and ultimately forge a better life for yourself.

                I once paid for a ten week evening course at my local college, there were about twelve of us initially and I remember waiting in the corridor before the first class and talking with the other students who were all very enthusiastic and excited to get started. It had all the makings of a great class; the only problem was our teacher was awful. He started off the first class by saying that the reason why he was teaching was because he found it so hard to find work in this field, as by his own admission he was not very good with people. We soon found out why, he was always late, he turned up with an air of superiority and indignation, he was never prepared, he was rude to students and dismissed questions as dumb. It was obvious he didn’t want to be there and over time the class slowly dwindled. I made it to about week six before bowing out, the guy was just completely toxic and exhausting to be in the same room with.    

                Think about that though, this man could have been the greatest, most competent person in his field but he had such poor people skills, no one would work with him. He knew full well the root cause of his lack of success was how poorly he dealt with people and rather than take responsibility for this and mend his ways, he decided to become a teacher and take his bitterness and frustrations out on a group of students who just wanted to learn. Imagine how many other areas of his life this could have affected, potential relationships scuppered, friendships ruined, just ill feeling left in his wake wherever he went.

                I’ve seen toxic people like this throughout my entire working life, IT technicians who are dismissive or rude when people ask for their help, team leaders who don’t understand why they can’t keep hold of staff even though they treat them terribly and public facing workers who are scornful towards customers then wonder why in turn these people are rude to them. I’ve ended a lot of friendships as well for the same reason; people like this are their own worst enemy and only make life harder for themselves.     

                Now I don’t think it necessary that you attempt to become best friends with everyone you meet or become an agreeable push over, or concern yourself with how everyone else sees you. However a good level of competency to the point that you aren’t making life hard for yourself is essential. Make no mistake, your people skills are important and as illustrated above could be a severe handicap if not developed. Even Gary Vaynerchuk the internet entrepreneur talks about how your employer might need to fire you if you’re a negative influence on your team, even if you’re the best worker.  

                Life is hard enough as it is, which is why I advocate for self improvement and personal responsibility so much, help your own situation as much as you can as it’s what you have the most control over. However you’re going to need people throughout your life, employers to hire you, colleagues to help you, favours to ask of friends etc. You don’t know when you might find yourself in need of another person. What is so good about How to Win Friends and Influence People and what has made it so enduring is its simplicity. Adopting gestures like smiling, giving praise, avoiding criticism and remembering people’s names, all small, seemingly obvious things that most people neglect but that make a big difference. It doesn’t take much to make a good and lasting impression on people and it can pay huge dividends in the future and lead to great things. The best advice however that the book offers is simply ‘show an interest in other people and they will show an interest in you’ after all everyone’s favourite subject is themselves. If you can keep this in mind, you’ll never have another awkward conversation again.   

Choice Lines

-If you want others to like you. If you want to develop real friendships, if you want to help others at the same time as you help yourself, keep this principle in mind:

Become genuinely interested in other people

-Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that one of the simplest, most obvious and most important ways of gaining good will was by remembering names and making people feel important – yet how many of us do it? […]One of the first lessons a politician learns is this: ‘To recall a voter’s name is statesmanship. To forget it is oblivion.’

-Remember that the people you are talking to are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems. A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people. A boil on one’s neck interests one more than forty earthquakes in Africa. Think of that the next time you start a conversation.

-‘It took me years and cost me countless thousands of dollars in lost business before I finally learned that it doesn’t pay to argue, that it is much more profitable and much more interesting to look at things from the other person’s viewpoint and try to get that person saying “yes, yes.”’

-There is one all-important law of human conduct. If we obey that law, we shall almost never get into trouble. In fact, that law, if obeyed, will bring us countless friends and constant happiness. But the very instant we break the law, we shall get into endless trouble. The law is this: Always make the other person feel important. John Dewey, as we have already noted, said that the desire to be important is the deepest urge in human nature, and William James said: ‘The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.’ As I have already pointed out, it is this urge that differentiates us from the animals. It is this urge that has been responsible for civilisation itself.

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