This week I dusted off an old classic to review, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book has sold over 16 million copies and there is a reason for this. If you can get past the language and old stories, it’s actually a great book by my opinion. Unsurprisingly it has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon from 386 (as at the time of this review) people. From reading the book it is easy to see that Dale Carnegie was a man who read wide and did a lot of research. On almost every page there is a quote or illustrative story which makes it a more interesting book to read. And the principles being taught are so easy and straightforward that you wonder why over 16 million people would bother buying the book at all.
After reading the first two chapters, I almost wanted to shout out loud, “why are we not all doing this stuff” . Originally written in 1936, this revised edition was published in 2006. The book has 268 pages and 30 chapters all split across four distinct parts in the book. Each part covers a separate topic. Since I can’t write a brief outline for every single chapter (wouldn’t want to put you through the pain of going through 30 of them), I will base my review on each part of the book by picking out some key learning points that I found useful.
Part One: Fundamental techniques in Handling People – This part of the book has three chapters which deal with three core principles:
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
- Give honest and sincere appreciation
- Arouse in the other person an eager to want
Using lots of stories and quotes, Carnegie argues for the advantages of not criticizing people, appreciating and praising others by looking for the good in them and not focusing on the negative and learning to focus on the interest of others instead of your own interests. These principles are so simple that doing them would not really take a lot of effort, it’s getting into a consistent habit of living up to the principles that is the challenge.
Part Two: Six Ways To Make people Like You – Written in a similar fashion to the first part of the book, six principles are covered. Each principle is dealt with in a chapter. The principles are:
- 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
The central line connecting all these principles is being genuinely interested in people. Being able to smile at others and not frown, listen to them, focus on their interests and remember their names are actions that show genuine interest in people.
Part Three – How To Win People To Your Way of Thinking: This part of the book is all about influencing people to see things your way and though at times the advice given may seem indirectly manipulative, there are some really good lessons in there. This part has 12 chapters covering principles such as:
- Not telling a person they are wrong in a direct way
- Don’t involve yourself in arguments or try to win them. You may win the argument but lose the people
- Begin conversations and negotiations in a friendly and respectful way
- Show respect for the opinions of others
- Focus on areas of agreement, not differences
- Listen more and let others talk more
- Let other people feel that ideas come from them not you
- Try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view
A similar approach is similar to the other parts of the book. Lots of real life stories and quotes are used to illustrate the points.
Part Four – Be a Leader: How To Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment: This is the final part of the book and it has nine chapters which is all about leadership. Each of these chapters deals with a key principle and here they are:
- When correcting people begin with praise and honest appreciation
- If you see someone making a mistake correct the person indirectly
- Talk about your own mistakes first before correcting others
- Instead of giving people direct orders ask questions
- When correcting someone for a mistake help them save face
- Praise the slightest improvement people make and praise every improvement they make
- To help someone improve his/her performance give the person a reputation to live up to
- Give people encouragement to make it easy for them to correct mistakes and faults
- Make people happy about doing the things you suggest
Looking at the contents of this book now, they may seem obvious, the question really is, how many of us do these ‘so called’ obvious things? The book serves to remind us of some simple truths that we mustn’t forget: treat people well and you will get better results. From reading the book I outlined ten personal learning points that I would like to be mindful of. Here they are:
- Never criticise anybody
- Look for good things in people to praise
- Be genuinely interested in people
- Always smile no matter what except when it is genuinely not appropriate to do so
- Make the effort to learn and remember people’s names
- Listen attentively and genuinely
- When you converse with people talk about their interests not yours
- Make others feel important and do it genuinely
- Refrain from arguments because even if you win it, you may loose the person
- Seek to understand the other person’s point of view
- If you are wrong admit it quickly and honestly
So this is an old book, but one that still holds great pearls of wisdom.