How to win friends and influence people?
September 9, 2016 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about Dale Carnegie courses. Have you taken one? What was it like? Was it worth the money? I’m about two months into a new job. It is a career path that really excites me and makes me feel proud... when I'm not feeling like I'm drowning. Previously my work has been mostly on the technical side. My new job has much more client interface, political wrangling, and management aspects. I really want to do well, but my natural style is to be quiet and observe unless I am actually confident in my subject. My new boss wants me to take a Dale Carnegie course to become more comfortable with speaking in general, especially in venues where I do not have experience to back up my confidence.

I would love it if a course were a magic bullet for presenting myself clearly and confidently. My misgiving is mainly financial; it is about $1,800 that I do not have, and I do not believe that there will be aid from my company. I’ve been making steady progress on my debt and I’m down to about -$4,000, so charging the class would be a setback. On the other hand, this job has a salary that’s $10,000 higher than my previous job, so I don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish IF Dale Carnegie can actually help me. But I don't know anything about Dale Carnegie.

Someone else mentioned Toastmasters, but I feel like a course with a set curriculum would suit my learning style better than something open ended (plus my local Toastmasters does not meet at an easy time or place for me).

Posted anonymously because I am feeling pretty insecure about my new job and I don’t want to advertise that fact since my insecurity is a big part of the problem.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There won't be aid from your company? That's weird, if your boss suggested it. Ask boss directly.

Take a course, any course, to get experience speaking in public. I went the Toastmasters route, but also have taken specific courses in assertiveness when speaking publicly or to closed groups, debate in a professional context, and on and on. It's almost always helpful, at the very least in terms of reducing anxiety before speaking.

If this would be out of pocket without reimbursement, check into speaking classes at your local community college. My branch library even has Toastmasters-like classes six times per year, and an informal group (that one can look up through google or Facebook) that meets to practice and critique one another in between those meetings.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:54 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no experience with it, but if your boss is suggesting it, he or she should pay for it.
posted by bookworm4125 at 7:55 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh no, if your boss wants you to take a DC course, he can pay for it.

There are Dale Carnegie books and tapes (probably audiobooks now?) you can get from the library. My dad talked me into reading Seven Habits when I was in high school and it didn't suck. It's certainly worth your time, I think, but I do not think you should have to outlay that kind of money at this point in your life.

There's also improv classes. I think now you can find them in just about any town with a population over ~10,000. This is what they do for you, and generally can be done for $100-150 for 6-8 weeks. Also check any sort of adult education program, community college, even your parks & rec department for classes or programs that might at least get you up and talking in front of groups.

If you have benefits, you could find a therapist. I think the copays or even intermittent cash outlays for that, to deal directly with your insecurity and get some skills training for managing those feelings, would be worth your personal investment.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:57 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

At a volunteer kickoff thing I was at few weekends ago, the guest speaker was a Dale Carnegie guy. He got up and did his thing for about 25-30 minutes. I couldn't fucking stand him, it was some of the dumbest shit I've ever sat through in my life. The other women at my table seemed to find some value in it, but I did not. I realize that some guy presenting for a half hour ≠ full paid course, but based on the strength of that sample I would pay them precisely zero dollars.

Here's what I recall:

He had everyone in the room (couple hundred folks) get up and first introduce ourselves to each other as if we wanted to talk to someone more important. Then we did it again only as if we were greeting an old friend. "Which did you like better?" he asked.

Then he had everyone write down this sentence: "My life would be better if only I were more _______." and fill in their blanks. Then we discussed it with the other folks at our table. He had us make a promise to the other people at our table that we would work on our thing.

Finally, he put up a bulleted list of five common sense things to do to have better interactions with people, things anyone who is not an asocial asshole would know to do probably. These were things like "make eye contact." Number five was smile. Dude literally told a room full of women to smile.

Anyway, it was ultra generic bullshit but he was wearing a suit and had gel in his hair on a Saturday morning so I guess that made him seem important.
posted by phunniemee at 8:02 AM on September 9, 2016 [16 favorites]

If you'd like some effective, cheap, road-tested advice on how to gain confidence, this is what worked for me: find something you're good at and go do it in front of people.

For me, this was giving free weekend tours at a museum about a topic I knew a lot about. I suspect really sucked a lot my first several tours, but hey, they're getting this for free so who's complaining. As I got more used to talking to groups of strangers it got easier, and I had the confidence in my material because I was certain I knew more about the thing I was talking about than the average person. People asked questions, I was able to answer, and talking to folks just got easier and easier.

You learn these skills by doing them over and over until they're not scary anymore. You don't get that by sitting and listening to some schmo prattle on about eye contact and smiling.
posted by phunniemee at 8:06 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]

Your company should pay for this training and it would be appropriate for you to ask.If you have to cover this yourself, consider it an investment in yourself. But also be wise.

Dale Carnegie is fine, but I would read the books before investing a ton of money.

You might want to consider a private coach so that you can work on the specific problems you are having, rehearse upcoming conversations, and practice one on one. A good coach will give you actionable steps to take given your specific situation. Taking a course means that you will have to spend quite a bit of time figuring out how the general advice fits into your work. Plus you can invest in one session to see if the coach resonates with you.

Do consider a therapist. She can help you deal with the emotions of new challenges.

If you do decide to take a course, consider a continuing education class at a community college or university. You will be able to connect more easily with the professor. Plus the class will be much cheaper than Dale Carnegie .

Finally, some things you can do now:

Phunnieme's advice to practice presenting through volunteering is excellent. Also :

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to prepare before a stressful communication - breath, slow down your brain, and sit/stand tall.

Ask someone you trust to boss you into a confident stance, every time you feel insecure find your confident stance.

Observe someone whose confidence/communication style you admire. Choose one thing that they do to copy. Lather Rinse Repeat.

I am a communication coach and a university professor in this area. I have some resources online. MeMail me if you want links.

Congrats on your new job!
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 9:01 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

At my work we set up our own Toastmasters group and it's really helping a lot of us. If there are others you work with that would benefit, maybe you could suggest that?
posted by corvine at 9:22 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I took a DC course when I was in college. It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did for myself. Before taking the course I was terrified of embarrassing myself while speaking to people I didn't know. What I personally took away from the course was how to handle situations where I felt I'd embarrassed myself, and how to recover with grace. Basically, hey, everyone flubs now and again, but here's how to move on rather than get stuck and turn red and start shaking and run crying from the room.

Interestingly, years later I attended some Toastmasters meetings in support of my SO, who wanted to develop his public speaking skills. I had a hard time with the particular meeting we attended, and ended up flubbing much more than I thought I would. The difference, I think, was that in Toastmasters everyone had been attending that meeting for a long time and they all knew each other, and I felt like the new kid in class. It was intimidating, and not a good way to practice my skills or learn anything new. In my DC course everyone started at the same time, and we grew in our skills and confidence together.

If your work is not offering to pay you could try out a couple of Toastmasters classes and see if you can find one that's a good fit for you, but if you don't find one that feels comfortable you could ask your work to pay for a DC class. I might sit in on a class or two before the next course starts to see how you like the instructors, so that you can find a class with the right vibe.
posted by vignettist at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did the 3-day full-day Dale Carnegie course back when I was about 26. Half the class will be people who don't really want to be there and are being forced to by their company ( myself) for being poor at customer service or not getting along with their coworkers. If you are invested in it, really taking it seriously, it can be of use. There are good tips, examples and exercises.

If you are of a skeptical bent at all about these types of things and are not someone who does "dramatic" changes to your life, read the books a bit first and see if you align with the ideas in them and prepare yourself to get the most out of it beforehand. There were people who were super into it; like summer camp-style.

Also, know why you are there. The people who sent me didn't tell me what I needed to improve before I walked in the door, so I had no idea what I should pay attention to. I think I did discover it on the 3rd day through talking with another participant and the instructor before class one day, and the other participant telling me: "sounds like your boss is intimidated by you", which was probably the most helpful thing I learned while I was there. I left that job about 4 months later...

But, nthing, if the boss is telling you to take it, they should pay!

If you have any particular question, MeMail me. Happy to answer any specifics about the experience.
posted by chiefthe at 2:23 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I took the course about 20 years ago and I loved it. It was not only about public speaking but also about attitudes towards other people. There were conversational tips, relational tips - all very useful in a business development career. If the boss is paying for that course, do it !
posted by seawallrunner at 4:51 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did the DCC around 1996 or so, paid for by my boss's small firm and somehow they got some kind of local small enterprise cost covering half the cost. My boss was hoping I'd morph from an introvert in marketing to a dynamic saleperson able to go out on the road, but my fear of rejection meant I had no appetite for "belly to belly" selling and if that was the job they had advertised I wouldn't have applied for it, so it wasn't much help in that context. However, it was super-helpful for a job I had a few years later, where I made presentations on behalf of part of the government basically telling small business around the country that the Internet was going to be a huge thing and if embraced had lots of opportunities to reach new customers. Maybe because I believed in that presentation and because the only thing I was "selling" was encouraging the audience to use the free advisers provided by a particular pot of government money, I did well in that context. It was affirming making little speeches and getting applauded each time, and to be told by the groups that I was basically articulate I just came across as nervous, too many umms and aahs, and that even when I thought I was talking slowly I wasn't, that's the kind of feedback you need others to tell you as it's easy to have blindspots about.

I totally don't think it would be worth your money to pay for this course yourself, and I say that as someone who's happily spent tons of money building a personal development library of books and DVD's over the years. Read the books yes, if there's courses on speaking and body language somewhere like by all means get those, but the amount you are talking about would get a lot of individualised one to one coaching with someone like a speaking coach or drama teacher who also helped with speaking, that would get you a lot further. There were slightly old-fashioned things in the course such as saying repeatedly out loud "I know people who are going to rise in the ranks. Why? I'll tell you why. Simply because they have the ability to get things done!". You could always record some things privately onto a YouTube type thing and ask trusted friends for feedback. If you had $1,800 there's a million better things you could spend it on, since you don't have it to spare, gladly take it and participate if your company pays for it, but I don't think you'd feel it was good value for money if you paid for it with your own money. I never kept in touch with anyone from the course afterwards so my impression is that Toastmasters is more of an ongoing thing with a chance to really help and support each other and maybe make friends at a much lower cost.
posted by AuroraSky at 1:17 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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