Goodreads: How to Win Friends and Influence People
This grandfather of all people-skills books was first published in 1937. It was an overnight hit, eventually selling 15 million copies. How to Win Friends and Influence People is just as useful today as it was when it was first published, because Dale Carnegie had an understanding of human nature that will never be outdated. Financial success, Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” He teaches these skills through underlying principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated. He also emphasizes fundamental techniques for handling people without making them feel manipulated. Carnegie says you can make someone want to do what you want them to by seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view and “arousing in the other person an eager want.” You learn how to make people like you, win people over to your way of thinking, and change people without causing offense or arousing resentment. For instance, “let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers,” and “talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.” Carnegie illustrates his points with anecdotes of historical figures, leaders of the business world, and everyday folks. –Joan Price
This book was written in the 1930s and the edition I read was updated in the 1980s to add some more current references and anecdotes. Overall, the book has some decent advice, particularly if you need to make a good initial impression, to sell someone something, or need to figure out how to be a more pleasant socializer in general, but it does still feel slightly dated.
The book is divided into four main categories:
- Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Six Ways to Make People Like You
- How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- Be a Leader: How to Change People without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
Each part does have specialized suggestions, but some parts do overlap. The general trend of the book is “make people feel important” and “make them see what benefit they would get from listening to you.” A lot of this, then, is advice geared towards employers (how to get more productive workers) and salespeople (how to get people to to buy your product), though Carnegie does make a point of giving examples of how people used the techniques to improve their personal lives, such as having more productive conversations with their spouses or children or getting someone to renegotiate a bill they owe. And some advice is just genuinely good if you do want friends or want to be thought as a pleasant person at gatherings: remember people’s names, show interest in them and their interests, try to see things from their point of view before becoming argumentative, etc.
However, even though Carnegie includes anecdotes from women who implemented the techniques to get what they want, I do feel the book is largely from a male point of view. Carnegie makes all types of suggestions that will probably contribute to the problems that many women currently complain about facing in today’s workplace: people take credit for their ideas, people think they’re pushovers, etc. Carnegie specifically advocates never telling people directly that they are wrong, using “I feel” or “I believe” statements so as to avoid confrontation, and occasionally letting people take your ideas and think they are their ideas if it gets the job done. Some of these approaches could be reasonable in short interactions (ex. trying to sell someone you’re not going to see that often a product), but I would hesitate at implementing it long term myself.
The book is also largely anecdotal, which I think is often what makes nonfiction interesting. but I believe that a similar book published today would take a more scientific approach, probably citing studies and research that has been done on what makes people think the way they do, what motivates them to change their mind on a topic, etc. I would have loved to see surveys, statistics, studies, etc. here.
Bottom line: There are definitely things to learn in this book. For instance, if you’re that guy who talks over everyone and always brags about his own accomplishments, this book could definitely be eye-opening to you with its suggestions that you should actually express interest in other people and stop talking about yourself all the time. It can probably help you reconsider how to motivate reluctant workers or children. But I do think there are times you need to be firm with people, acknowledge their faults, etc., and this book does not fully address these issues because it’s so busy suggesting that readers be constantly pleasant, which might backfire in some situations.