How to Win Friends & Influence People  |  Dale Carnegie  |  Nonfiction, Communication  |  1936

How to Win Friends & Influence People is one of those classic books that everyone says you should read, but you put off for years and years until you finally do read it and realise everything that everyone ever said about it was true–which is always the story, right?  In my case, I’d been browsing cheap book sites online when I decided to give Thriftbooks a go, and ended up tacking on HTWF&IP to qualify for free shipping.  A few days later, I received a wonderfully old, withered, and used copy with a neat little sticker on the top left that read ‘FULLY REVISED FOR THE 80s.’

Despite its having been written decades ago, this book is jam-packed with excellent advice on human interaction, psychology, and sales, and I can see why it remains one of the most popular books on communication. The advice is simple, relevant, and served in short, fun, anecdotal stories.  It’s obviously a bit dated in terms of specific circumstances relevant to the 1930’s, but the actual tips on how to deal with people are gold.  Makes you realise that on a fundamental level human communication doesn’t change much over time, and there are ‘best practises’ that can serve you well for the rest of your life.

Summary

How to Win Friends & Influence People is divided into four parts: (1) Fundamental Techniques in Handling People, (2) Six Ways to Makes People Like you, (3) How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking, and (4) Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment.  (You’ve got to love the title on that last one!)  Each of the four parts are further split into short chapters that offer advice and anecdotes that relate to that section’s theme.

Thoughts

HTWF&IP is a quick and easy book you can pick up and put down at leisure.  It reads very much like one of those ‘top 10’ articles, structured with clear titles and topics.  The lessons are simple and seemingly common sense, though remembering absolutely everything would be a challenge.  It’s pretty mind-blowing how simple this stuff is, and I love the way Carnegie isn’t condescending about it.

One thing I noticed is that even though the advice is sound, it’s easier to read and understand than to put into practice.  For example, when we feel wronged by someone we all know it’s better to take a breath and try to understand the other person or the situation better, but it feels more natural to take things personally and defend ourselves.  It looks like if you really want to get better at communication, you’ve got to retrain yourself on how to approach certain situations and fight basic innate behaviours.

The sections I found particularly useful were the ones that related to persuasion and specific actions you could take to win someone over. If you ever want someone’s buy-in, sale, support, whatever, it doesn’t hurt to do a little research on them and show an earnest interest in their life.  These strategic tactics don’t come naturally, but putting in a little extra effort to get to know someone goes a long way.

Is it for you?

Both the short and long answer to this question is ‘yes’. This book is for absolutely everyone, and I wish more people would read it.  Communication can be so undervalued, and the advice given this book will serve you well–especially when you feel the need to brush up on your skills from time to time.  I’ll be keeping my ‘fully revised for the 80’s’ copy on my desk at work for a while!

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