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My Thoughts After Reading How to Win Friends and Influence People

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Can you really win and influence people?

So, there are books which everyone claims to read, but has never read. Some people go as far as putting these books on their shelves, to make people think how wise they are for studying these books. Well, I don’t have a shelf (perks of electronic books) but I am going through such books slowly. My first such book was Debt, and now, it is the turn of perhaps one of the most recommended self-help books.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was first published in the middle of the 1930s, and if you go on any internet list of books for self-improvement, you are bound to find this book. Managers and executives sing its praises (they’ve been doing that for years, in fact.)

In this article, I’ll analyze the advice offered in the book, give my thoughts on it, and assess how much of it is actually practical.

Principals:

The book has three principals for handling people; twelve principals for dealing with people, and nine principles to apply as a leader. Below, I have given a summary of all these principles, in no particular order.

  • Don’t criticize people harshly: if you must criticize someone, then start by praising them, and then criticizing them. I haven’t used this idea, so I can’t validate it yet.
  • Appeal to the noble side of the people: everyone has a noble side, and you should appeal to it for achieving your goals. I honestly doubt that, though. I mean, look at me, for example. Even Aliens know that I don’t have a noble side.
  • Remember everyone’s name: Now, this is actually quite practical in the blogging circle. When you comment on a blog, if you use the name of the author, you’re likely to get instant attention from them. Of course, it doesn’t mean you should just spam their name. Use it where it feels natural, or just thank them using their name at the end like how you would end an email.
  • Avoid arguments: I’ve been following this advice before I read this book. True, it has given me a sort of cowardly reputation; but why waste time, and energy on arguments? I could be doing thousands of better things in that time. This doesn’t apply during a debate, though.
  • Let the other person feel important: this point comes up again and again in this book. Ego causes people to do a lot of things, and when you directly attack their self-worth or their pride, then you’re setting yourself with a hard time whenever you have to deal with them in the future.
  • Dramatize your ideas: easier said than done, in my opinion. I get lots of ideas, and I have a box full of unrelated skills. But if I could present this to an interviewer with dramatization, I wouldn’t be sitting here unemployed.
  • Make people feel as if something was their own idea: people don’t like to do things when they are told to do it. but they will do it if they think it, is their idea.

Apart from what I’ve described above, there’s one thing this book stresses on. And that is be nice to others, and they will be nice to you in return. But it appears that people who do claim to read this book don’t get that message. (Oh yeah, they’re pretending to read this, while not having read this, actually. To be honest, I’m actually going against the advice in the book by actually calling them out here repeatedly.)

So far, so good.

But there are somethings which kind of sound not right. The book was written in the 1930s, and though it did get revised since then, it still retains that 1930s vibe. Same values, same ideas, same tones. Which might not be perfect for the 21st century.

That was a kind of abstract thing. Here’s a more concrete example. The book tells you that you should smile even if you’re not happy, because sooner or later you’ll start believing in this false happiness, and it’ll become true.

This gets a hard pass from me. Pretending your mental problems don’t exist won’t make them go away. Pretending that you’re a normal happy and productive member of society won’t help in this case. So please, in the name of whatever you believe in, don’t hide behind a smile.

Another thing of note is that the Carnegie school which continues the teaching of the author seems to have become quite rigid in teaching his course, judging from this article. I also don’t like the assumption that everyone can become an outgoing person, while in reality they are introverts. People put pressure on introverts like me to change their behavior. I don’t need a book to get on my case as well.

In the end, I do think the book offers good help. But you need to bear in mind that it was written roughly around 100 years ago, and thus it reflects its time. You need to carefully analyze its advice, and pick and choose the ones you can use. Because, trust me, not all of them are usable. You can watch me fail to implement this books advice on Twitter.

Thanks for reading this article. Have you read this book? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Published by Tanish Shrivastava

I'm a guy who likes programming, chess, and writing.

9 thoughts on “My Thoughts After Reading How to Win Friends and Influence People

  1. I’ve never actually read this so thanks for doing the legwork and summarizing it! I agree with a lot of the conversational stuff. Let the other person talk and feel like the star, then they’ll think you’re the star.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. But as I noted in the article, the other advice seems dubious. be fake happy, and you will become happy for real, and always be nice.

      Especially the last one. I can’t be nice all the time, being a sour person is basically an unpaid job for me at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with you on the fake happy too. There’s a time and a place to fake being pleasant, but it certainly has its limits. I am very suspicious of people at work who seem happy all the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this book like a decade ago. Might be worth a refresh read. I suspect that as with all advice, that there are some principles that are useful and stand the test of time, and others that are more context-specific or non-applicable.

    I cannot believe that this was written almost 100 years ago. That’s wild!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally get that old-fashioned self-help vibe. There’s just something so prim and proper about them. Like I read Zinsser’s book _On Writing Well_ and boy did it sound dated. It’s the same difference of hearing a boxing commentator now, and one from the black-and-white days.

    Self-help books also restarted my reading habit in adulthood so I’m definitely familiar with this particular title, and I do agree that some things really don’t stand the test of time. Thanks for this post, Tanish!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think though in the terms of commentary, the black and white era was better. Hell, radio commentary was used to be better than what we get now, especially if you can put a passionate person at the end of it.

      In cricket, we now get former players who are more concerned with talking about their own careers, instead of updating the viewer about the score.

      Like

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