Book Notes: How to Win Friends & Influence People

As a leader, I enjoyed reading How to Win Friends & Influence People and you will too. Part of what made it fun was that it is absolutely crammed with short, interesting stories and examples of the concepts and ideas that author Dale Carnegie is talking about. But I almost didn’t pick up the book – it’s nearly 80 years old. How can something as old as that still be relevant?

How to Win Friends - Dale Carnegie

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Old But Not Outdated

Carnegie wrote the first edition in 1936 at the height of the depression. And even though the 1981 edition that I read had been updated with a few more modern examples, there was still some of that quaintness coming through.

Many of his examples involved prominent leaders of his time, including Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Schwab, and Andrew Carnegie. But the concepts he is illustrating are truly timeless. Despite the arrival of the Space Age, computers, and the internet, the principles behind getting along with people haven’t changed.

The principles behind getting along with people haven't changed. Click To Tweet

The book is broken into four parts:
• Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
• Six Ways to Make People Like You
• How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
• Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

Each of these parts has many short enjoyable chapters, and each chapter ends with a key principle to remember and live by. Here are a couple examples.

Get Them Saying Yes

In talking with people, don’t focus on the things in which you differ, focus on the things where you agree. And keep emphasizing how you are both working towards the same end. In this way they will be nodding and agreeing with you from the start.

Try to keep them from saying no, because once they do, it is more difficult to overcome their objections; psychologically they become defensive and will naturally start to resist.

When working with people, focus on common goals. #leadership Click To Tweet

I’ve seen this done many times as a leadership technique with groups as well, like the time we were whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. By making it easy for people to agree with you and to follow your lead in the beginning, it is easier to maintain that positive momentum later on.

Praise the Slightest Improvement

In section four on leadership, one of the principles is to “Praise the Slightest Improvement and Praise Every Improvement.” This is exactly the idea behind the post Positive Feedback: Catch Them Doing Something Right.

Praise and recognition give hope, and inspire people to do more; it’s part of that natural desire for approval and belonging.

Make the Other Person Happy

Another good one from the leadership section is, “Make the Other Person Happy About Doing the Thing you Suggest.”  Barking orders about what you want is one approach.  But if you speak in a way that they see a personal benefit in doing what you ask, you are much more likely to get compliance.

Think in terms of how what you want will benefit them, and you are likely to have someone who is happy to do what you ask.

The Takeaway

I’m not sure if my Dad ever read this book, but in almost every section, I could hear his voice in my head saying the same sorts of things that Carnegie was talking about – seeing things from the other person’s perspective, admitting when you are wrong, respecting the opinions of others.

This kind of advice may seem the opposite of the Hollywood version of leadership, but in the long term, it is definitely the most effective.  How to Win Friends & Influence People is top quality, timeless guidance as well as an enjoyable read that is an essential part of your personal library if you want to lead effectively.

Question: Do you think the rise of the internet and social media makes Carnegie’s ideas more or less essential?  Why?

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