How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie teaches us to be better human beings. For Christians, the principles in this book boil down to treating others as you have them treat you. An acquaintance recommended this book on a LinkedIn post a couple of years ago. Back then, I found the title rather haughty so I never looked into it. In my opinion, then, only self-interested alpha individuals would want to have this knowledge. On the contrary, after reading this book I have resolved to never judge a book by its title.
This book reminds us of simple truths that we all know, but do not always put into practice. My favorite aspect is that the author challenges us to apply the principles it teaches. The few instances that I have applied the principles, I have felt much better about myself in addition to making another person’s day. I first read the book on a train to New York City. I was going to meet a group of people for the first time. Naturally, I wanted to read Part II: A Simple Way To Make A Good First Impression. Upon reading the introduction, I could not get enough of the wisdom that was being reiterated. The book gives us skills to interact with prospective employers, employees, clients, or other benefactors. Moreso, it challenges us to pay more attention to possibly overlooked and underappreciated people like our family members.
Biggest Takeaway From Part 1
In this chapter, I deduced that the key to understanding people lies in knowing that they are just like us. When we are criticized, we become defensive. Why then would we expect people to react otherwise when we criticize them? Much like the Biblical wisdom of removing a plank from one’s eye before the speck in another’s, Carnegie encourages us to evaluate our positions first.
Second, understanding human nature means knowing that we all crave sincere appreciation. In the age of social media, it can be easy to wallow in comparison or even jealousy over our peers’ successes. However, in the long run, it does us and our peers more justice to be genuinely happy for them. The author challenges us to give others honest and sincere appreciation every chance we get. For business minded people, compliments soften hearts and make humans more amenable to listening to us.
Finally, I liked the author’s analogy of using the right bait to hook a fish. I initially had difficulty figuring out how to apply this teaching to my life and work with Dadas Lounge. In time, I realized that every young woman who I could have a conversation with has unique interests that matter to them. My job is to find those interests and pitch an appearance on the channel that speaks to that. I found this rather manipulative. However, life is all about selling ideas, or products. The sooner we learn to speak to what arouses “an eager want” in our target buyer, the better it is for us.
Best example from part 1:
Instead of children wasting time in school memorizing conjugation of Latin verbs, or the amount of annual rain in the Brazil Amazon, they should learn this: “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people, the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Quote by Charles Schwab
Biggest Takeaway From Part 2
Behave as a dog does when their owner gets back home. If you’ve been in a household with a dog, you have noticed how excited they get every time their owner returns. If you haven’t, watch the Secret Life of Pets. Laughter is contagious. What happens when you see a smiling baby? You smile. Be happy for people. Be thrilled for them. Have a genuine interest in people. Spend time with them, learn their language, know where they come from, and listen to them.
We should replace the “I am so bad with names” attitude with a mechanism to remember names. Before I came to the United States, I had never heard the phrase “I am so bad with names!”. Carnegie cajoles us to make it a priority to remember people’s name as it is “the sweetest and most important sound in any language”. It is wonderful when a person you met once at an event, says “Kerubo, right?”. I know I’ve beamed with happiness when someone actually remembers my name. He calls us to pass this joy forward by affording others the same.
I found some points repetitive, namely giving genuine praise and talking in terms of people’s interests.
Best example from part 2
A Chinese saying “A [wo]man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” Want to open a shop? Better start smiling.
Biggest Takeaway From Part 3
Carnegie argues that the best way to win an argument is to avoid it. I found this part difficult to accept since we all have opinions and want to defend them. What’s the point of being a middle-grounder? It often shows that one is too lazy or cowardly to form an opinion. But Carnegie has more. He quotes a Bits and Pieces article that encouraged its readers to find areas of agreement in every argument. In sum, this chapter encourages us to respond to arguments in a manner counter to our first instincts, which is to fight back. Instead, he urges us to acknowledge the other person’s point of view and promise to read up on their stance. Suggest that they read up on yours. Sometimes, the other party may be convinced to change their opinion through such actions.
Best example from part 3
A vendor of sketches won over a client he had been trying to get for years, by asking for input on how they could finish their sketches. Being a part of the decision process made the client take ownership of the project.
Biggest Takeaway From Part 4
One of my favorite reasons for not reading books from cover to cover is claiming that “I get the idea.” I have often stopped reading books after the first or second chapter. Part 4, was the part of the book I spent the least time in. However, my biggest takeaway here was to make suggestions on how things could be improved instead of giving orders. Yesterday, I was on a call with a close friend in Singapore. She confided in me that her boss had berated her over the quality of her work after a meeting with a client. However, she had been sending updates to the said boss over a period of two weeks and not once had the boss suggested that she edit anything. According to Carnegie, and I agree with him, a leader should begin with praise and then suggest improvements. If they can, they should humanize themselves and share about times they failed too.
Best example from part 4:
Carnegie realizing he should give his 19-year-old niece the benefit of a doubt for making so many mistakes. As a 19-year-old himself, he had made a share of his own mistakes.
In conclusion, I know some people do not like self-help books. Some like me, do not always read a book cover to cover. In any case, pick this book up, flip through the chapters and read up on whichever aspect you deem most relevant. If you want to sell ideas, or products organically to people, you definitely want to read this book.