You Need to Read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’

Published on 11/11/2020

In 2011, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ was number 19 on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential books, a full 75 years after being published. It has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.

A pioneer of the ‘self-improvement’ genre, Dale Carnegie uses this book to teach you techniques and tools that can transform your conversations and relationships. The book considers how to make people like you, how to win others over to your way of thinking and how to be a great leader. It isn’t about making people do things your way; it’s about genuinely convincing them and ensuring that you are keeping others in mind. He keeps things simple, ensuring that techniques are easily applicable and extensively explained.

This book was written almost a century ago, yet I genuinely believe that everyone can learn from reading this book. No matter how successful you are, no matter how likeable you are, this book is worth your time. I honestly believe that buying a copy of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ is an investment. I’m someone who gets anxious in social situations, I can play off extroverted when I need to, but inside I’m the introvert who prefers curling up on my sofa with a good book or Netflix show. I’ve always been envious of people who naturally carry conversations or individuals that manage to be the life of the party. I’ve always felt boring, unsuccessful in social situations. Since reading this book, I genuinely feel more prepared to hold my own in a conversation and believe in myself.

(Photo by LifeHacker)

Who is Dale Carnegie?

Dale Carnegie started his life on a farm in Missouri, born in 1888 to a family stricken by poverty. He began to enjoy speaking in public and joined his school’s debate team, the start of a life that would be marked by public speaking. He became a salesman after college, the most successful one that had ever been seen. Flash forward a few years, and Dale was not only a professional public speaker but had several courses on the subject as well as successful books. Of these books, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ was published for the first time in 1936 with 1,200 copies printed. They received orders for 5,000 more copies before they knew it, and it has been continuously printed and revised since.

What does this book teach you?

I have no intentions of becoming a manager or a leader; it just isn’t in my nature or interests. I want to be a writer, which involves a lot of time alone, so why would I need to know how to win friends and influence people? But here’s the catch, no matter who you are, what you want to do or your personality type, you can learn from this book. The learnings of this book can be applied to any and every setting. For me, I plan to use the lessons in interactions with friends, in asserting myself and becoming a better listener. I hope to use it in future negotiations, in making myself more likeable and also in understanding others and their motives.

For example, these are the six ways to make people like you, as listed in the book:1.

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.

2. Smile

3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.

6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.

These may seem like obvious lessons, perhaps you’ve read other self-help books with similar teachings. But the difference lies in how Dale explains them, he takes apparent skills and provides depth to them. Don’t fake interest in someone, but instead find something you actually consider to be interesting about them and utilise this. When you want something from someone, don’t think why they should give it to you, but rather why they should want to. It takes us back to the basics of human behaviour and explains how we can use this.

It isn’t just about getting what you want; it’s also about giving others what they want and need. It isn’t about tricking someone into liking you but making yourself genuinely worth appreciating. These small differences are the difference between being a successful leader and a good leader.

Dale’s extensive teaching experience shines throughout the book, as he includes countless relevant examples from his students. Individuals who applied these techniques, and how it worked to their advantage. The range in these examples shows the extensive ways that you can use these lessons, in your work, personal life, hobbies and relationships. Furthermore, he links them to major events and public figures, using them as case studies from which to draw these conclusions.

Is this book still relevant?

Some examples may be outdated, but 1981 reprint did remove a lot of the traditional household/workplace sections from the book. I think the book remains relevant as even today, in the plethora of technology and science surrounding us, human interaction is still vital. When going for a job, you may be up against people who match your extensive education and work experience, and that interview is the dealbreaker. In a time when we have hundreds, or even thousands, of Facebook friends, it remains more vital than ever to ensure a strong connection with a few of them, to stay in each other’s lives as we all move further apart.

We increasingly live online, and so a book that reminds us how to live offline is always helpful. The examples and public figures may be from a different time, but Abraham Lincoln is still the subject of films and series, so why can’t he be included as an example in a book? We clearly still care about him for one reason or another.

We’re also moving away from home more than in Dale’s time. To new places where we may not know anyone, we need those skills to develop new relations, to make up for lack of history with a charming personality.

Some of his pieces of advice are simplistic; I find this to be the case with the majority of self-help books. And after writing articles for an audience, I get why. You have to make it simple to be able to capture it effectively in your words and to ensure it can apply to as many people as possible. Yes, you shouldn’t just force yourself to smile, and that alone won’t make you happy. But looking for positivity is never a bad thing, sometimes it can really get you through difficult moments.

Carnegie suggests asking people about themselves, encouraging them to be the one talking. Some consider this to be fake or manipulative. Or is it a reminder to keep in the back of your head? It seems ingenuine, but by considering to ask them more and listen, you develop deeper connections. You keep yourself in check and consider your conversational partner.

Why should you read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’?

Let’s get right to it; these are the reasons why you should read Dale Carnegie’s book:

1. It’s a short book. The average reader will take a maximum of five hours to read this book. Why not dedicate your ten minutes of reading before bed to this book for a while and see what you learn?

2. It has a very casual and comfortable tone. It’s a simple read, perfect for when you’re tired or stressed. Dale speaks to you as a peer rather than lecturing. He raises interesting points and keeps everything focused and straightforward. It’s a great break from that classic novel.

3. It is divided into a chapter per lesson, making it easy to pick up and put down. I read it in sections, I’d read a chapter in the morning, or on the bus, and then pick up where I left off. Books like that are super useful to read alongside your dense novel. You could keep it in your bag as your public transport or waiting room read.

4. You can test the lessons easily with friends or family. The lessons don’t require you to be in unique situations; you can try them daily and see if you like them. They apply to every possible social situation, so it’s relevant for all.

5. The lessons don’t require drastic changes. You don’t have to transform your entire day or conversations suddenly; they’re small tools to keep in mind and consider in your next discussion. They’re simple conversational prompts that are easy to try.

6. He’s an experienced authority on the matter. Whether or not the book is outdated, Carnegie is a self-help legend. He made an incredible effect during his life and helped thousands to live their best selves. He knows what he’s talking about, more than many other ‘self-help gurus’.

7. It could help with social anxiety. A lot of people who struggle with social anxiety find such books to be helpful. It gives you simple tools to use in a conversation, making the impossible seem far easier to comprehend. You can rely on such small things as always using their name or asking enough questions, and calm your stressed mind even a little bit.

8. Aren’t you the least bit curious why a book from 1936 is still so popular? This is a self-help book from before the Second World War, and it is still being printed and sold. That is crazy. It is the most sold self-help book in history. Don’t you want to see why?

You could read the Wikipedia page for a shortened version, but that seems the bane of our modern times boiled down into one page. An author took the time to write this, so give them a few hours of a day to actually read it. I learned a great deal from this book, and it also just gave me things to think about, areas which I disagreed with. If you’re looking for a self-help book - I genuinely dislike that term- then consider buying ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie.

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