5-takeaways: How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

This book is a classic of the self-help/self-improvement/relationship advice genre, the author Dale Carnegie has influenced many leaders, like Warren Buffet and Tony Robbins. Dale Carnegie made it by tapping into the average American’s desire to become more self-confident, where he taught classes on the topics of public speaking, sales, relationships, and leadership among others. These classes became the basis for his best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is well regarded as one of the top books on creating success in both business and personal life. I actually read this book at the start of my journey of improving myself and still try my best to use what I have learnt from it. Here are my 5-takeaways from this classic.

  1. Do not criticise, condemn or complain. Give honest appreciation for all improvement, no matter how small.

When someone starts critiquing you on your job, or on something you hold dear to your heart, how often do you try to defend your actions, no matter how ‘in the wrong’ you are. You see others do this just the same when you offer up your judgment on their action, they will adamantly explain how they are not at fault. “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself… it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.” When you are told you are wrong most times out of ten you will hold a feeling of resentment towards that person, I know I do it a lot and have to check myself and remember that they might be right.

On the flip side when someone is making gains in an area it is imperative that you compliment them, no matter how small the improvement. Carnegie references the experiments conducted by B.F. Skinner who tested the learning methods of reward vs punishment in animals, noting that the rate and effectiveness that rewarding good behavior had over punishing bad behavior. “By criticizing we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.”

  1. If you want a change in others, first start by changing yourself.

Pointing blame at others is the easy thing to do in most situations, it is harder to take a good look at yourself, your actions and how you react to what other people do. Of course, most people think this is the harder path and it would be easier for the other person to change, which would be a false assumption. Like my dad always says, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ This is true of people, no matter what you try to do or how much time and effort you put in, a person will only change of their own accord.

“Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! That is fine. I am all in favour of it. But why not begin on yourself? From a purely selfish standpoint, that is a lot more profitable than trying to improve others – yes, and a lot less dangerous. ‘Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof.’ Said Confucious, ‘when your own doorstep is unclean.’”

  1. Make someone feel important/needed if you want them to do something. Make it their Idea.

If you do want someone to change or you want them to complete a task the best thing to do in any given situation is to get them involved in the planning process. Make them feel needed and an integral part of the success of the project. Carnegie references American philosopher John Dewey who said “that the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’” Everyone wants to be the hero of their movie. Carnegie includes multiple stories about students reporting back to him of their endeavors, all relating his teachings and how well they have worked. By being interested in the other person’s hobbies or making workers feel important in some fashion, they have gained something that they would not have otherwise. From a puppy for a child to a better relationship with the subordinates who outperform their previous efforts.

“No one likes to feel that he or she is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas. We like to be consulted about our wishes, our wants, our thought.”

Instead of trying to force an idea on someone, or forcing them to buy a product, get them involved. Like most of the points that Carnegie makes he includes a plethora of stories and anecdotes one that jumped out was a story of an X-ray equipment manufacturer. He sent a letter to the local hospital who had a number of other sales reps selling their equipment. The letter as follows:

                “Our factory has recently completed a new line of X-ray equipment. The first shipment of these machines has just arrived at our office, They are not perfect. We know that, and we want to improve them. So we should be deeply obligated to you if you could find the time to look them over and give us your ideas about how they can be made more serviceable to your profession. Knowing how occupied you are, I shall be glad to send my car for you at any hour you specify.”

The letter made the leading doctor feel important, and upon reviewing the equipment he ordered that it be installed. The manufacturer didn’t have to sell the doctor their product, he discovered the superior qualities himself.

  1. Listen and show interest in others.

People often want to become better at conversing with others and think their answer lies in getting better at speaking, However, Carnegie explains that it’s the complete opposite. Listening is the key to becoming a better conversationalist. Most, if not all, people want to feed their ego and talk about themselves. And that fine. Let them, they will love you for it.  Carnegie relays a story from a dinner party he attended, where he struck up a conversation with a botanist, he made the point to listen and show a great deal of interest in the man’s work. At the end of the night, the botanist told the host that Carnegie was ‘most stimulating’ and that he was a ‘most interesting conversationalist’ of course Carnegie barely talked.

“To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”

Since reading this I have found this to be true, show a genuine interest in them and they will appreciate it like nothing else.

  1. Admit when you are wrong.

This is something I had a lot of trouble with before reading this book, I still have my moments but I try my hardest to take on board others criticism and admit when I have fucked up. At first, this point didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, why would I admit I am wrong, even if I was not totally at fault. This thought came from my ego, came from a place that didn’t want my pride to be damaged.

“If we know we are going to be rebuked anyhow, isn’t it far better to beat the other person to it and do it ourselves? Isn’t it much easier to listen to self-criticism than to bear condemnation from alien lips?”

I now, instead of defending my position, do try to hold true to this principle put forth by Carnegie. It helps in all situations, the workplace, with my girlfriend, family and friends alike. So, drop the attitude, don’t let your ego be your amigo, really check yourself. You will be wrong more times than you are right. This, however, WILL NOT WORK if you don’t truly take it upon yourself to see that you are at fault and you don’t mean to correct the problem or situation.

These are only 5 points from this book, which is jam-packed full of goodies on not only how to win friends and influence people, but to become a better leader, one that can inspire and help others grow. This classic will always be one of my recommended books for all to read, even if it takes you a while to get through it, Carnegie’s lessons and principles last a lifetime of use. I know that it will be a book I go back to regularly. Here is one of my favourite quotes (one of many):

“That is what every successful person loves: the game. The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win. That is what makes foot-races, and hog-calling, and pie-eating contests. The desire to excel. The desire for a feeling of importance.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

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