Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dave Carnegie
Ah the granddaddy of all self-help books. Since this book is old as time itself, at least regarding self-help books, it has been reviewed and talked about quite a lot. Because of this I’ll try to keep it brief and go over the main points and what I thought of it and if, and why, you should read it.
The book is divided into two sections pretty much right down the middle of the title; into How to Win Friends and into How to Influence People. Both chapters stand somewhat on their own, with the latter leaning a bit more on the first. The book is comprised of 4 major sections, two on each topic.
Context is important
In each section Carnegie lists the “rules” of that chapter and goes through what they mean in practice by giving you ample examples; from your average Joe, who took one of his courses on the subject, to the Abe Lincolns who were natural leaders, and applied the principles taught in the book in their own work to great effect. If you Google for it you can most definitely find summaries which list these guidelines. However the guidelines can be, and have been, bastardized many times over, so the examples are what bring them to life and give them much needed context. My favorite example comes from the second section in the “How to Win Friends” part. The guideline is the following:
“Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Sounds simple enough? Well I’m sure you have been called by a telemarketer at some point. Perhaps you’ve noticed they tend to use your name a bit too much. This isn’t something all of them do, but some of them definitely use it quite often and put too much weight on the word. Almost saying “Look, I’m using your name!” This is the result of reading that rule and making your own conclusion from it and regurgitating that ad infinitum. While using someone’s name in a sales call can be effective, it’s best used sparingly. If you read the book you’ll find that what Carnegie means with that rule is, that you should never forget someone’s name you’ve met and that you should greet them with it. Not that you use it any more often than you would use it normally. Because of this I would advise against just reading the 30 guidelines listed in the chapters and instead read the whole book with the context.
Is it worth the read?
So what did I actually think of the book? I think the sentence I started this review with summarizes is quite well. It’s the granddaddy of all self-help books and as such anyone who’s interested in improving themselves should most definitely read it. We could all be a bit better with people and most certainly we could all be better at influencing people. I think personally I might be, or might’ve been at least, bit below average in dealing with people so maybe I found more use out of the book than some people will, but it quite clearly improved my own skills by a big margin. For example, some people who I knew and had hung around with for quite a bit, changed their attitude towards me on a dime, when I started applying the rules taught in the book in my own life. They went from being somewhat indifferent towards me to actually seeking me out at parties and wanting to know what’s going on with me. Now Carnegie mentions at the end of the book that while the book is filled with glowing examples about the guidelines working, they aren’t fool proof and even while following them you will sometimes fail and it’s a good thing to remember. With these rules you will however succeed way more often than without them.
Who I would recommend it to?
I recommend this book to pretty much everyone who makes less friends than a dog. Why a dog you might ask? Well if you think about it, everybody loves a dog, because dogs are always happy to see you and are always interested in what you are doing. They give you lot of attention for nothing and show lot of gratefulness for any they receive in return. So if you make less friends than a dog wagging its tail, I suggest you give this book a read.
I highlighted many parts of the book while reading it for later referencing, but I’ll leave you with one snipped here in the end.
“Adolph Seltz of Philadelphia, who was a sales manager in an automobile showroom and a student in one of Carnegie’s courses. Seltz had suddenly found himself confronted with the necessity of injecting enthusiasm into a discouraged and disorganized group of automobile salespeople.
Calling a sales meeting, he urged his people to tell him exactly what they expected from him. As they talked, he wrote their ideas on the blackboard. He then said, “I’ll give you all these qualities you expect from me. Now I want you to tell me what I have a right to expect from you.”
The replies came quick and fast: loyalty, honesty, initiative, optimism, teamwork, eight hours a day of enthusiastic work. The meeting ended with a new courage, a new inspiration—one salesperson volunteered to work fourteen hours a day—and Mr. Seltz reported to me that the increase of sales was phenomenal. Said Seltz: “The people had made a sort of moral bargain with me, and as long as I lived up to my part in it, they were determined to live up to theirs. Consulting them about their wishes and desires was just the shot in the arm they needed.””