You ask anyone about Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, and you would only hear good things. It’s a timeless classic.
Originally written in 1934, the book continues to sell even to this day. Among hundreds of thousands of self-help books ever written, How to Win Friends and Influence People sits right at the top of the hill and deservedly so.
It is also one of Warren Buffett’s favorite books. If you’re a working professional, that should be enough to pique your interest.
The book draws wisdom from the lives of Abraham Lincoln and contemporary psychology of the time, namely the works of Sigmund Freud. Despite this, the information remains relevant – which in itself is quite a feat. Many of the statements Carnegie makes are actually reminiscent of operant conditioning, although I don’t believe he ever outrightly states this.
So what makes this book so good?
The answer is simple: good storytelling backed with sound, compelling anecdotes. Apart from the self-help lessons that it does impart, Carnegie’s classic presents a great framework for anyone on how to write a good, engrossing book.
For years, I thought this was a self-help book for people who want to make friends. Naive me.
On the contrary, it is a book that reinforces the timeless tenets of honing interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, and leadership. So don’t let the kitschy title keep you from giving this book a chance.
The intriguing thing about Carnegie’s book is that it keeps you riveted despite an obvious lack of highfalutin assertions and shocking revelations. It contains easy-to-follow concepts and stories that strike a chord with the reader.
Let me reiterate – you will learn no groundbreaking, hitherto hidden truths about interpersonal relationships, leadership, or conflicts. Every chapter that you embark on contains obvious truths.
To give a brief summary, the book comprises four broad sections titled:
- Techniques in handling people
- Ways to make people like you
- Win people to your way of thinking
- Be a leader: how to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment.
Each of these sections includes short and crisp chapters that explain why you should be practicing certain principles. At the expense of sounding repetitive, I will reiterate that despite having chapters such as ways to make people like you, this is not a book that will help foster friendships.
The overarching takeaway from the book
If there is one overarching takeaway I could glean from this book, it’s this: no matter what situation you walk into, the person you are interacting with always holds themselves in a superior position to you in some way.
In a similar vein, Carnegie stresses that one should avoid arguments because most arguments are a zero-sum game. Even if you win an argument, you are still the loser.
Yes, you may bask in the fleeting glory of a futile win, but what you may not realize is that in order to prove your superiority over the other person, you have fractured their ego – something that won’t heal easily.
10 Key Principles from the book
It’s not a coincidence that most lessons in How to Win Friends and Influence People trace back to the fragility of the human ego.
Carnegie’s point is simple: every other person you meet is starved for recognition in some way. They want to be seen, they want to be talked about. It doesn’t matter if they are willing to admit this to others. If you fulfill this need for them, you’ve got their respect, you’ve got them by your side, forever.
Below is a list of 10 super lessons that corroborate the abovementioned:
- Become genuinely interested in other people
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Talk in terms of other people’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
- The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- Show respect for other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
- If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.
- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
- Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
A glimpse at these principles would tell you that there is nothing special about them – we all have heard of these principles or have been taught these at some time – yet very few of us put them into practice. See, to be able to learn something you have to apply it. Do it many times over, develop habits around it, so the lesson gets embedded in the deep recesses of your mind. That, perhaps, is the broad aim of this book.
I can testify that any person who adopts the principles taught in this book will have an awesome family and professional life. It is about how to care about other people and show them that you care. And, there is no need to even sit down and read the entire book at once. You can pick up any lesson from any section.
If you are a working professional, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a priceless possession. It not only provides you insight into your own actions but gives you a window into the actions and choices of those you work with/for.
Sitting back and letting the other person take credit or charge sounds counterintuitive but that’s exactly where the crux of Dale Carnegie’s book lies. This book has taught me the importance of staying in control and how beneficial it is to be in control of our behaviors and act in a way of service to others.
Every person should own a copy of this book. To sum it all up, this book is:
1) A great sales book (though the author doesn’t sell it as one),
2) A superb book for managers who want to become great leaders, and
3) A wonderful resource for better human relations.
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