Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie
Publisher – Simon & Schuster
Copyright – 2009 (Reissue; original version – 1936)
320 pages

Rating – 8/10

Summary – Carnegie’s classic remains relevant almost eighty years after its first publication. Yes, you know this stuff. But in a world that values cool detachment and cynicism, Carnegie provides a nice reminder that enthusiasm and kindness never go out of style.

Review – As Sartre once noted “Hell is other people.” Dale Carnegie probably wouldn’t have agreed with this sentiment, but he did believe that the ability to deal with other people was the key to success. (He said that 85 percent of success rests on “skill in human engineering”). How to Win Friends and Influence People is the “granddaddy” of the self-help genre and it still offers much for food for thought.

Carnegie’s philosophy is simple, but difficult to practice. He recommends that we realize that human beings are emotional creatures and that we be “understanding and forgiving.” Instead of judging people, we should try to understand their perspectives. Understanding others allows us to avoid arguments and gives us a better chance of getting the other person to work with us toward an equitable solution. Criticism is unproductive, because, – after all – God “…does not propose to judge man [or woman] until the end of his days.”

The key to “human engineering” is to develop a genuine interest in other people. To this end, Carnegie provides the oft-cited advice to learn peoples’ names and use them in conversation. Moreover, he recommends that you never directly contradict people. The book cites numerous examples of famous people who influenced others by practicing these principles; some of the examples (such as Stevie Wonder) were added to later editions of How to Win Friends after Carnegie’s death.

Quiet – Contrarian Perspectives

Recently, I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Among other things, Cain discusses how Carnegie’s perspective on human behavior extols the “extrovert ideal.” It is not so much that Cain disagrees with Carnegie as that she thinks that his perspective is incomplete; to Cain, How to Win Friends…  misses the value of reflection away from highly-stimulating crowds.

As Carnegie’s book was written in 1936, it made me think about my grandparents. They were of the World War II generation and I could see their behaviors reflected in many of Carnegie’s best practices (which is not to say that they ever read Carnegie). For instance, Carnegie advocates a “sunny,” optimistic approach to life. For the most part, my grandparents and their peers followed this approach. However, one of the problems that this can inadvertently create is that people may be unwilling to voice their concerns, which can lead to resentments over unresolved problems that fester beneath the surface.

Go Forth and Win Friends

Any book that remains popular over almost 80 years, has something going for it. Carnegie’s advice isn’t perfect, but it does provide a starting point that will, indeed, help you win friends and influence others.


About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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