I discovered Dale Carnegie’s classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” in my early twenties. I had long since vowed to live no ordinary life, to forsake the “life of quiet desperation” that the poet forecasted most people end up passively accepting. No, I was determined to “trip the light fantastic,” to “live the life extraordinare.”
Easy to say, how to do? I knew, at an almost instinctive level, that I could not do it alone, that I would need the help and support of others, the ability to persuade and influence. I had taken an undergrad course in logic and it had been of some help but I was lacking the skills I needed. I knew I needed something but I was not sure what. (You could say I was somewhere between unconsciously incompetent and consciously incompetent.) And, remember this was in the early 1970s and the self-help genre had not yet taken off. Bookstore shelves were not groaning from the load of how-to books as they are today.
When I found “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” I almost devoured it! I was so hungry for knowledge, for a path to follow, for guidance, for a mentor.
I carried the book in my back pocket for weeks. I read it and re-read it. I outlined it, both in longhand and on an IBM Selectric typewriter (ask your grandparents, or Google it; for those in a hurry, think “human-operated word processor, no spell check”). I greatly wanted to drive the principles deep into my memory so that I would not just know them but DO them daily. I wanted them to become a part of me, an ingrained habit. I remember my girlfriend (later my first wife) coming upon me in my study before dawn one Saturday morning as I was trying memorize the outline by reciting it aloud. I thought she was used to my eccentric ways but I guess she still had a bit of acclimatization to go because she exclaimed in an astounded voice, “What are you doing!?! Come back to bed. It’s SATURDAY!”
There are better, newer books on specific topics but as an overall introduction to people skills and self-improvement, I think “How to Win Friends and Influence People” still wins hands down. It is a book of engaging stories that make it easy to remember and apply the relevant principles.
Here is a brief outline of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” drawn from the chapter headings. It is far from a substitute for reading the book but, it will give you a taste of the banquet that awaits.
1) It is all common sense. It’s just that common sense is rarely common practice.
2) It is not the knowing. It is the DOING.
Fundamental techniques in handling people
– Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
– Give honest and sincere appreciation.
– Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Six ways to make people like you
– Become genuinely interested in other people.
– Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
– Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
– Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
– Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.
Win people to your way of thinking
– The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
– Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
– If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
– Begin in a friendly way.
– Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
– Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
– Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
– Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
– Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
– Appeal to the nobler motives.
– Dramatize your ideas.
– Throw down a challenge.
Be a leader: How to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment
A leader’s job often includes changing people’s attitudes and behavior. Some suggestions to accomplish this:
– Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
– Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
– Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
– Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
– Let the other person save face.
– Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
– Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
– Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
– Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.