How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

Posted: March 20, 2006 at 7:39 pm in conversation, joelbooks, journal

Amazon link

I read this book once long ago, but Joel insisted I re-read it after starting last week. So I took it home for the weekend and read it while taking breaks from unpacking. It’s a quick read, with short chapters. And it’s excellent.

What’s interesting to me is that I totally didn’t appreciate the book the first time I read it. It seemed like a bunch of obvious platitudes which didn’t really matter. Upon revisiting it, though, I realized that this book contained many lessons that I had had to learn by doing things differently and suffering through the consequences.

To take a couple obvious examples, it took me many years to figure out that the best way to seem interesting is to ask open ended questions about things other people are excited about. Everybody likes talking about stuff that excites them. Carnegie laid it out for me, but I didn’t really understand. Or how offering genuine specific praise is always appreciated – I used to feel weird about bothering folks just to tell them they did something well (e.g. Telling guest soloists with the chorus how well they sang). But then I realized I always get a thrill out of such recognition (like when somebody cites one of my blog posts), so now I try to demonstrate my appreciation when I can. Another good example is Carnegie’s admonition to avoid arguments, because if you lose, you lose, and if you win, you still lose because you haven’t convinced them, just browbeaten them into submission. As those who know me can attest, my affection for confrontation and argument got me into all sorts of trouble at work for a while before I realized that perhaps arguing wasn’t the best strategy.

So I’m glad Joel suggested I re-read this book. My friend Adam who I had dinner with last night said that a friend of his recommends reading a chapter a day, and trying to apply it to one’s life; when he reaches the end, he goes back to the beginning and starts over. I’m not sure I’ll go quite that far, but it does have a lot of good advice that I can learn from. And having confirmed some of his observations the hard way, I value the others more.

One observation about myself is that although I recognize how well these techniques work and have even adopted several of them myself, they still don’t come naturally to me. I use them because they work, not because they’re how I actually feel; I haven’t really internalized them. For example, I know that showing interest in others is the best way to sustain conversation. And I can do it. But I’m sometimes not actually interested in what they’re saying. Carnegie would claim that if I continue to use the techniques, the attitude will follow, just as the best way to be happy is to force oneself to smile. We’ll see. I may just be a cynical cold-hearted manipulative person by nature.

Speaking of which, next up on Joel’s re-reading list is Cialdini’s Psychology of Influence.

P.S. Completely unpacked, pictures up, trash taken out. Visited Whole Foods yesterday and stocked up on fresh produce, yay! Started answering tech support emails today, and also helped to debug the office VoIP system at the end of the day. Tomorrow night I’m going to go check out an architect duel in Tribeca, cuz that seems like a wacky New York thing to do.

8 Responses to “How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie”

  1. Rebar Says:

    Interesting… with the books title, I’d figured it was made for the cynical and manipulative. Now I want to read it, which I never considered before.

    It’s also interesting that some of the advice has also ended up in a good parenting book we’re reading (_The Parents’ Toolkit_) – like being specific when giving compliments.

  2. Wes Carroll Says:

    You never cease to amaze me with your tenacious hold on, well, on all kinds of interesting topics and diversions, Perlick Go you!

    See you in NYC sometime soon, I hope.

    (And hello to Rebar, whom I haven’t seen in nearly literally forever.)

  3. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || Thoughts on manipulation || March || 2006 Says:

    [...] How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie [...]

  4. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || The fundamental interconnectedness of all things || April || 2006 Says:

    [...] How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie [...]

  5. Mario Says:

    If you’re interested there is a pretty good summary of the book here:

    http://www.notesofintelligence.com/influence/

  6. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || Patterns and truth || December || 2006 Says:

    [...] To be an effective communicator, you have to be able to put things in terms that your listener will understand. Whether you want to call it sales or framing or storytelling, putting the ideas together into the right pattern is what lets us get our point across to our listener. This is important because better communication is what connects us and lets us create bigger achievements than any of us could achieve on our own. Being able to bridge the gap between people’s minds is at the root of a lot of problems I see around me, from management screwups to politics to discrimination. [...]

  7. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || Becoming a Technical Leader, by Gerald M. Weinberg || March || 2007 Says:

    [...] How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie [...]

  8. Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist || Networking || July || 2007 Says:

    [...] networker makes. There’s always the chance to build on these sorts of ties in the future, as Carnegie would observe, but by not starting with an agenda, the connections feel more [...]

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