How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

March 15th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Why did I read this book?

We’ve all heard of it. But none of us have ever really read it.

And I know why. It was originally published in 1936. How can it possibly be relevant in 2009?

Plus these types of advice, self-help, new-agey textbooks reek of banal, trite, clichéd, stereotypical drivel. We’re too good for that. They seem a little cheesy at least. They’re all like The Secret, right?

We don’t want to sip on watered down hotel iced tea and listen to Zig Ziglar. We want to take a toke of a high-grade sativa strain and listen to some Creedence tapes!

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Regardless of my skepticism and cynicism, I found How to Win Friends and Influence People to be extremely applicable and relevant.

First of all, a note on the title: “How to Win Friends” is not accurate. It’s not at all about winning friends in the sense that we modern youths would consider a friend. Carnegie seems “how to win friends” to mean the “accumulation of calculated, beneficial relationships.”

I feel very strongly that “friends” are the people we can be dicks to, the people we can get drunk with, yell at, act stupid, and not have to worry about the third of six ways to make people like you (remember their name). Everyone else? Everyone else you’re actually nice to (bosses, co-workers, certain family members, people you pass on the street) are not friends. Friends are the people you can tell to fuck off and they’ll still drive you to the airport at 6am the next day. This book is how to deal with everyone else with seemingly-obvious principles such as smile, be a good listener, talk in terms of other people’s interests, and make the other person feel important.

So friends, not so much. But how to influence people, yes.

Carnegie’s seminal work is packed full of anecdotal evidence illuminating the principle of each chapter and reinforced with a healthy peppering of Emerson quotes:

“Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”

Though written in 1936, HTWFAIF is refreshingly relevant in a modern age marked by the dichotomy between incredible scientific accomplishments, brilliant discoveries, understanding, knowledge, curiosity, but yet a stunted ability to talk and peacefully coexist with those we disagree.

Take, for instance, Carnegie’s encouragement to dramatize your intentions in order for them to be recognized and accepted:

“This is the day of dramatization. Merely stating a truth isn’t enough. The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, dramatic. You have to use showmanship. The movies do it. Television does it. And you will have to do it if you want attention.”

And on the eighth day, God created cable news.

Carnegie thwarts our skepticism about the nobility of his intentions and promises that he is no self-help scammer; a Kevin Trudeau, Carnegie promises, he is not:

“The principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart. I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life.”

And for the most part, I have to agree with Carnegie. I like this book. Its advice and suggestions are totally useful and effective. We tend to consider ourselves living in grim times, what with the wars, crumbling economy, job losses, and uncertain future, why not have a little possitivity and engaged enthusiasm for our fellow man?

And Carnegie even foretold a danger in our current time. He warns us of Obama:

“The ability to speak is a shortcut to distinction. It puts a person in the limelight, raises one head and shoulders above the crowd. And the person who can speak acceptably is usually given credit for an ability out of all proportion to what he or she really possesses.”

Uh oh.

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2 Responses to “How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie”

  1. Hey! Screw that shit, man! And screw you, too – whatever your name is!

  2. That’s the book I keep in my camping trailer for after hiking, in the evening.

    One of the most practical books I’ve ever read. About equal with his other book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

    Half of the effectiveness resides in how he talks about other people who succeeded.


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