The book is as timeless and applicable today as it was when it was first published in 1936. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is the seminal writing on developing and mastering the principles of human relations. It has more than 15,000,000 copies in print and is listed on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential Books of All Time.
There is no deep science to it, rather it is all about doing the basics. But the basics are what is missing from our lives today. The book is divided into four parts:
1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
2. Six Ways to Make People Like You
3. How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
4. How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
Within each section are a number of principles to follow to support the objective. The beauty about the book is Carnegie gives examples of how each principle works in practice, and as a result, shows you how you can implement it on your own. It is not just a recitation of ideas without support, you can make them actionable.
I am not going to enumerate the 30 principles discussed in the book, you will have to read those yourself. Even though these principles were developed in 1936, I believe they are even more important today. The reason is that as our society becomes less personal because of technology (i.e. texting, email, Snapchat), the use of these interpersonal communication skills and principles will make you stand out from the crowd and lead to more personal triumphs. I even stress to my kids that beyond taking classes in their college major, they should take classes on interpersonal communications.
Carnegie makes the point that you can’t simply read the book and expect to gain the skills by osmosis. You need to actually implement the principles. I suggest you write down one principle each week, and put it above your computer monitor or on your bathroom mirror as a reminder to focus on the principle for that week. Then, do the same for the other 29 principles and in little over half a year, you will have had 30 new interpersonal skills. Or, if you already have them, you will have reinforced and improved upon them.
A book with more than 15,000,000 copies sold is going to have its detractors. Sinclair Lewis described the book as teaching people to “smile and bob and pretend to be interested in other people’s hobbies precisely so that you may screw things out of them.” And some scholars have criticized the book as being disingenuous and manipulative. I suppose people can find faults in all books, especially those in the self-help or personal development genre. However, even if you may not like an entire book, there will be elements that are meaningful and valuable.
This is a great book, and I’m so glad I read it. Any person of any age can benefit from reading it. If you are looking for a book to give as a gift (especially to your kids), put this one on your list.