kevin schmitz

You Don’t Have to Read How to Win Friends and Influence People If You Read This

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How to Win Friends and Influence People

If you’ve ever heard of the well-known book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, you need to hear the story behind it as well. (Oh, and there are cliff notes too!)

It all started in 1934 when a man named Leon Shimkin took Andrew Carnegie’s 14 week course on effective speaking. Shimkin, who worked for publisher Simon & Schuster, convinced a reluctant Carnegie to allow a transcriber to capture the course lectures to create a book which balanced Carnegie’s charm and confidence with timeless insights about how people connect to each other.

Expectations for the book’s sales were apparently conservative, as only 3,000 copies of the new title–How to Win Friends and Influence People–were printed. It quickly became obvious that sales projections were short-sighted, however, as it became necessary to print 16 more editions…in the first year alone.

In 1981, a revised edition of Carnegie’s original book released, updating old stories and antiquated language for younger audiences. This edition was also streamlined to focus purely on social performance, which meant slashing previous sections on writing business letters and marriage advice.

In 2011, publishers released a third rendition–this time, titled How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. This version, which preserves Carnegie’s trademark approach to relationships bears the names Dale Carnegie “and associates” as its author.  Like the title suggests, it attempts to apply Carnegie’s familiar social and business formulas to a technological generaiton.

How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold over 30 million copies, making it one of the greatest sellers of all time. In 2011, it was unsurprisingly named on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential books.

Part 1 offers guidelines for interacting with people.

Insights focus on refraining from criticizing and complaining–two behaviors Carnegie didn’t find useful or productive. Instead, the book encourages people to offer sincere appreciation for others and to give them honest feedback. One of the tricks from Carnegie that is central to this chapter is to try to inspire the people you are with to want the same thing you want.

Part 2 presents tips for being likeable.

The tips in Part 2 capture basic social graces, that any charming professional likely employs. They include smiling, remembering a person’s name, being a good listener (and prompting people to talk about themselves), being genuinely interested in others, focusing on the other person’s interest, and believing in and making each person feel significant.

Part 3 presents ideas for winning people over to the way you think.

Perhaps surprisingly, given Carnegie’s confidence, he recommended avoiding arguments if possible. He cautioned against blaming people or telling them they’re wrong and instead recommended showing respect for other people’s opinions.

On the flip side, Carnegie instructed readers to be quick to own their own failures and wrong thinking. Admit it promptly and fully, he encouraged.

When engaged in a discussion where all parties don’t agree, the book suggests setting a friendly tone. Start with common ground that will influence the listener to begin nodding and agreeing with you. Then allow the person to fully explain their own opinion, to try to see their point of view, and to be sympathetic toward their goals. Once the person feels heard, Carnegie recommends leading the listener to your own solution, but trying to make them feel as if the idea was their own. The book also suggests appealing to the other party’s desire to be noble and accomplish something dramatic–even if it requires issuing a challenge to egg them on.

Part 4 is about how to change people without making them dislike you.

As was advocated in Part 1, a leader should start by complimenting people’s strengths and expressing sincere gratitude. If it’s necessary to underline mistakes made, do so indirectly or generally, in as gracious a way as possible. Be free with sharing your own mistakes as well, as this creates an environment where people do not feel judged by owning and learning from their errors. Carnegie believed in doing his best to let a person save their dignity.

Once the mistake has been identified, Carnegie suggests to voice one’s faith that the problem can be improved and then to encourage and celebrate improvements–even the small ones–along the way.

Along similar lines, Carnegie thought that one should talk about team members or employees as if they were the most fantastic leaders–thus giving them a “fine reputation” to aspire to. This seemed to inspire people to enjoy meeting the goals or doing the thing which you were trying to influence them to do.

Want to learn more?

Check out the How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age Excerpt
Search inside How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age 



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