Does reading "How to win friends and influence people" will help me win friends and influence people?
April 1, 2008 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Does reading "How to win friends and influence people" will help me win friends and influence people?
posted by dcrocha to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Reading it alone? No.

Working on putting some of its advice to use in your life? Absolutely.
posted by fogster at 8:20 PM on April 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Depends on how well you really understand the principles and if you have a bit of charisma already. You could read dozens of books about charm and influence, but if there isn't that spark there already it will be counterfeit.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:22 PM on April 1, 2008

It's worth a read, and it hardly taxes one to read it cover to cover. Filter and take with a grain of salt the advice therein, but it does have things to say that can benefit just about anyone, and if you feel you need the benefit, then perhaps even more so you. In this modern age it might seem a bit hokey, but just look for the more basic tenets. A few hours well spent.
posted by caddis at 8:28 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I was terse. If you really work at putting what he says to use, I do think it'll get you far. None of it's particularly earth-shattering ("Give honest, sincere appreciation"), but it's stuff that isn't said enough, and can get you far.

Incidentally, the tips are listed here, and it's apparently available for download, although of questionable legality—it's copyrighted 1936, but has apparently revised and re-copyrighted over time.

(Burhanistan is right, though: following his steps in a forced, insincere manner is probably worse than not doing anything.)
posted by fogster at 8:28 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm projecting a bit on to others here, but this is one of those books that lots of people who work in offices have on their "display" shelves. If one person who has it on his/her shelf sees that another has it, they tend to interact a bit differently with each other...kind of a mutual subconscious suggestion thing going on. It's not good or bad, and again I'm projecting, but it's interesting to see.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:33 PM on April 1, 2008

Here's a This American Life episode that might shed some light.
posted by Enroute at 8:35 PM on April 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you read my recent posting history, you'll understand why I recently picked this book up and started to go through it again, for the nth time in my life. As you get older, you start to reflect upon the lessons in the book and how you've developed as a person, and it's quite astonishing, or it was for me anyway. Quick example: many of the lessons I read in the last week I do pretty regularly, but one that I used to do quite well, I needed a refresher for: Smile. It's the weirdest thing when the simplest lesson is often the most necessary, valuable, and easy to forget.

I certainly wouldn't read it cover to cover. The book isn't a novel, and you can't do it all all at once, so you'll eventually be discouraged when you aren't doing any of the lessons well at all. I would skip the "summaries" where all you read are the tips themselves. The knowledge, the beauty, is in Carnegie's stories, and how they can somehow relate to your own life. Pick a couple of lessons that you feel would be especially valuable, read the chapters a couple of times, and for the next few weeks, actively try to live the chapters. You absolutely have to fake it to make it at first (although I would do experiments on random people, and not on friends or co-workers). Once you get through a couple of lessons, reflect, enjoy your progress, and plow ahead to another lesson that seems interesting.

I do think that the book is a bit dated. Also, and here is a controversial statement, I think you actually need to be a good person, and one genuinely interested in other people, for the book to really be of any value. The reason I say that is because many, many lessons stress the importance of compromise, of letting other people "win", and of having a profound respect for others and their viewpoints. If you go into the book thinking you can try to game people, it might work, but more likely it'll be a waste of time, because your insincerity in the lesson's applications will be completely transparent. You actually have to believe that this is going to work, because otherwise you come off as a guy that read one too many management books without actually knowing anything about social nuances.

Definitely buy it, try it out, and don't be discouraged when you initially fail. Failure is inevitable. Being able to return to the book day after day (or in my case, year after year) is what makes you exactly the type of person who should read Carnegie's book, because you are actually seeking wisdom and value in compromise and actually enjoying other people.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:40 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was just talking to someone about this book today. He took a Carnegie course maybe 30 years ago and said it was the single most useful course he'd ever taken. This was an adult student in one of my classes and while I wouldn't go so far as to say he was charismatic, he was a nice person to talk to and I had an engaging conversation with him about what you can do to try to remember people's names [something I find vexing in a classroom setting] He could conjure up the ways to remember names and gave me a hand remembering them.

I think it's one of those things, based on what I know about the book, where if you're trying to figure out what NOT to do, it's as good a guideline for that as it is to get you to do the "right" things. It's a non-culty [to my mind] way of recognizing what sincere interaction looks like so even if it doesn't come easy to you -- and it doesn't to me -- you have the outlines for a way to 'fake it til you make it" in a way unlikely to offend. If you're sort of clueless socially, it's got clear guidelines.
posted by jessamyn at 8:40 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I read it years ago and although there's a lot of good stuff in there, there's also a few things that I fundamentally disagree with. In particular, the leadership model it proposes simply doesn't work in some situations.

For example: someone on your team brings in a very substandard piece of work and you want them to revise it. The Dale Carnegie model is: you praise them for what's right and gently but firmly point out what's wrong, taking as much blame as you can, then ask them to revise it.

This, honestly, in my experience, doesn't work.

What you are saying is "It's good, but..."

What the person hears is "It's good".

Sadly, in these situations, you generally have to chew someone out. If you don't, the necessary revisions don't get made and you end up having to do them yourself.

So, it's a good book, but sometimes Mr Nice Guy doesn't cut it.
posted by unSane at 8:45 PM on April 1, 2008

Personally, I find this book to be somewhat absurd. I remember being given this book as a graduation present after high school. I was curious, so I read it. The thing is, I was turned off from the beginning by the title alone; the thought of WINNING friends just made me gag.

There is no doubt that this book is worthwhile in the sense that it helps you understand how to be polite and "liked". However, I have to say that most of my closest relationships have been forged by going against some of the advice in this book.

If your main concern is forging business relationships, then I'd recommend giving this book a read. However, if you are reading this book because you have trouble making close friends on a personal level I would advise against taking it to heart.

All in all, if you have the time then why not read it? Just understand that relationships are far too complex to be subject to dogmatic rules and niceties. An open mind, a steadfast heart and a good set of ears will get you much further in life than this book could ever hope to take you.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 8:54 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think it's a fantastic book. As several folks above have said, it's something you actually have to work out little bits at a time. FWIW, I've found that both my close and professional relationships have benefited quite a lot since I've started to reflect upon what Carnegie talks about.

It's not that his stuff is tremendously insightful. It's largely simple things, but things a lot of people never stop to think about. It sounds a little cliché, but I find it to be quite true. At the very least, it's certainly not going to hurt.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:11 PM on April 1, 2008

He hates introverts, though. I just thought I'd throw that in there. I remember being quite upset that he would think I was less of a person for not having/wanting a wide variety of social activities. On the other hand, if you are short on social skills, there's a lot of good pointers. On the gripping hand, it's dated - the world has moved on and changed, a man's success in the workforce surely isn't influenced by how well his wife throws a party. Worth a read, just to give you food for thought.
posted by b33j at 9:29 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, it will.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:28 PM on April 1, 2008

"It's not that his stuff is tremendously insightful. It's largely simple things, but things a lot of people never stop to think about. It sounds a little cliché, but I find it to be quite true."

2nded (or nthed, as this seems to be the general vibe of a lot of comments) i think it's a fantastic book, i don't go for the self help stuff much but this book is genius.

unSane, i had an experience like that with a few of my underlings the other day, and i agree there are times that mr. nice guy just isn't quite what's necessary. however, i *have* found that that model (start with pointing out you yourself aren't perfect, throw 'em a small, genuine complement, then critique gently) works amazingly well more often than not, and just needs to be adjusted a bit to individual cases - if being to nice doesn't work, you can ramp up the toughlove, but that's my default mode for criticism these days, cause it usually works brilliantly!

there's a reason you can still buy this book in every country in the world, in any language you choose, 70 years after it's first publication.
posted by messiahwannabe at 12:48 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know. I can tell a lot of the time when people are using these techniques on me and even though I know they probably mean well, they tend come off somewhat pod-personish.

The thing is to have a sincere interest in someone you have to have a *sincere interest* in them and that is just not going to occur naturally with everyone you meet. Not to say you shouldn't be polite to every one you meet.

Also, working in retail, I absolutely hated getting customers who had taken the "a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language" advice to heart and called me by my first name because I was forced to wear it on my name tag. It wasn't sweet at all, it was invasive and presumptuous.

Just sayin'.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:51 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

unSane: "This, honestly, in my experience, doesn't work.

What you are saying is "It's good, but..."

What the person hears is "It's good".

Sadly, in these situations, you generally have to chew someone out. If you don't, the necessary revisions don't get made and you end up having to do them yourself.

You're probably simplifying the situation and so this may not apply, but the problem here is saying "It's good" or "It's bad". If you instead make positive and then critical observations about the work in detail, then I think it's still effective. You might say something like, "I can see you put a lot of work into this module, and it's well written syntactically. It's just that I'm looking at the data it's supposed to be pulling in and it just isn't matching. I think you might need to go back into the database and figure out why the data is coming through the way it should."

I'm no Dale Carnegie by any shot, but if I had to rewrite this part of it to be a bit better, it might be something like "Praise the process, address the product." If this person is a crap worker, fire them, don't make them magically create something that is good. Otherwise, they're a good worker, which means they either aren't motivated to do good work anymore (find out why) or they were working hard but made some kind of mistake. So, praise the work they've been doing while simultaneously pointing out that there's a problem with the product that needs to be address. You're not saying "It's good" you're saying "You're good, it's bad".

I would 2nd ISeemtoBeaVerb's sentiments that it's better for business relationships than personal ones. For friends, I would look into books that discuss how to communicate openly and compassionately towards others. Even though it's designed for Parent-Kid relationships, I still get a lot out of the lessons I absorbed via my parents from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.

posted by Deathalicious at 1:08 AM on April 2, 2008

Get Leil Lowndes's How to Talk to Anyone and read the introduction. She makes a compelling argument that How to Win Friends and Influence People was important and influential but is now out of date -- partly because of how influential it was.
posted by jejune at 6:44 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

The book basically tells you how to stop being an asshole, and how to be regarded as genuinely friendly and interesting. And, yeah, it works -- but if you're doing it right, you don't care about "it working"; you care about other people.
posted by LordSludge at 9:02 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

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