How to Win Friends And Influence People
When it comes to understanding the mind and human behavior, I have yet to find a better book.
Some books take hours to fully grasp and complete, some take days, and others take months. Then, there are books that you always go back to from time to time to continue to understand their ideas’ greater purpose. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is one of the fundamental books in my life I continue to endlessly read whenever I get a chance to. From a young age, I developed a deep, driving desire to understand how to deal with different types of people. When I found this book, or when this book found me, I felt as if a void in my life had been replenished. Often, I find myself applying these principles in conversations with individuals I have the privilege of meeting today.
In 1937, five thousand copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People were published. Dale Carnegie and his publishers believed this to be a sufficient number to meet the possible demand for these human behavior ideologies. To their surprise, the book spread like wildfire and became an overnight sensation that would lead to numerous editions having to be quickly published. As international demand rose, this book had to be translated into almost every language you can think of and transport to the furthest outskirts of the earth for people to read. Evidently, by its progressive sales to this day, new generations continue to embrace this book and find it’s ideas relevant today. When I read the first few chapters of this book, I simply felt better equipped to meet people and achieve a greater purpose with them; understanding. There’s a hidden logic to people’s behavior and thinking. This book is an action book that thoroughly illustrates this “secret”.
I knew this book was useful for me when I read the first chapter and truly learned not to criticize or condemn others. Just about everyone knows that. But, few of us, apply it or find it difficult to. We know that criticism puts people in a defensive position to justify their actions yet we still do it time and time again. From my perspective, when criticism is not asked for, wounds a person’s precious pride and even develops resentment. Some people quickly move on from your criticism but, if this is furthered, it could tarnish your relationship with that person. Instead of criticizing people, I became intrigued to understand their perspective. If by their own will, people I came in contact with were open to another one’s perspective I would be there to offer mine. This first basic principle led to marvelous results in my relationships.
In chapter 2, the “big secret” in dealing with people is revealed. If there is one thing I want you to get out of this blog is that there is only one way to make people want to truly do anything. That is, making people feel important. Of course, you can threaten people to make them do what you want but that is not ideal. it is illustrated in this chapter, Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, said “everything you and I do springs from two motives: the sex urge and the desire to be great”. This desire to feel important is constantly discussed throughout the book to back up the principles. Furthermore, this desire is what makes people want to buy the latest fashion trends, have the latest products, drive luxury cars, and achieve fame. We are all guilty of it. Don’t get me wrong– everyone gets their feeling of importance differently. For instance, some get a feeling of importance by donating to the ones in need, while others by achieving financial goals, among other situations. But, it’s evidently in humans. There are numerous interesting stories in this book that suggest this to be true. I don’t ever want my own opinions or views on certain aspects cloud your reasoning so I highly encourage you to read this book and decide how you view this idea of importance in human behavior.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” - Dale Carnegie
One of my favorite techniques discussed in handling people is arousing a want in others for you. I do not condescendingly mean this by any means, instead, in a way that brings people together. I often went crabbing up in New York with my dad during the summers. We would stop by a home improvement retail store to buy feet of twisted sisal ropes and a grocery store to buy a pack of raw chicken drumsticks, before arriving at the fishing location. We would proceed to tie the chicken drumsticks tightly with ropes, tying the other end of the rope to a stable place near us and letting the drumsticks sink to the bottom of the water bank. To my surprise, we would feel light pulls in the rope and after the arduous work of pulling them up... BINGO! the drumsticks had crabs attached! The ones within legal guidelines to keep, we would put in our bucket of water and spend the relaxing afternoon this way repeating the process. I remember at a young age asking my dad why we didn’t cook the chicken before inserting them in the ocean and he promptly responded, “you like them that way but it looks like the crabs want them raw.” Puzzled, without even realizing it, I was presented with a fundamental principle in human behavior. To influence other people with your ideas, you must first have them engage. Thus, you should talk about what they want to hear. This is a great thing to remember when you are engaging in conversations with people you have met for the first time, or just trying to change their mind on something you may believe. However, please remember to follow this principle genuinely. A famous phrase from the book illustrates, “you can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” In other words, as cruel as it may sound, people are probably not interested in you. They are not interested in me either. They are mostly interested in themselves!
I’ve noticed the most difficult principle for people to follow is avoiding arguments. I am guilty of this today. In my adolescent years, I was detested by numerous people with whom I had countless great memories as kids or in an earlier period of my life. Like many people, I genuinely have good intentions towards them and came from a place of love for them. However, despite my beliefs, I was unaware as to why there were people who would kick dirt on my name or refused to have conversations with me. That is until I realized I kept arguing with them. The surest way to make enemies of people is to argue with them. This idea has been relatable for centuries and How to Win Friends and Influence People described this beautifully. For instance, the book highlighted Alexander Pope, a poet of the eighteenth-century illustrating “Men must be taught as if you taught them not and things unknown proposed as things forgot.” Also, further elaborating Lord Chesterfield saying to his son, “Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so” and finally, Socrates repeatedly saying ”One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing”. Essentially, despite your intentions in arguments, some people ingest your points as a direct blow to their intelligence, pride, and self-respect. Thus, avoiding arguments is best long-term. For instance, you will encounter a situation in which people are unaware of information that could alter what they are discussing with you but, avoid arguments! Instead, emphasize you are genuinely wondering if they were familiar with a possible fact you have in mind or doing your best to illustrate your proposal positively and engagingly. I work on this daily! The principle of avoiding arguments have led me to heal those relationships that were tarnished with past arguments and have created fruitful and amazing relationships with people with whom I may not share the same views on certain subjects. On the other hand, it has caused resentment from great people with who I have mistakenly engaged in arguments. Believing to be the right thing to do, I am doing my best to heal those relationships with this principle or others discussed in the book and I hope this brings value to you as well.
There is a ton of lessons to be learned from this book. I could talk about this amazing book all day, every day. It is one of my favorite personal development books. To be completely honest, to get the most out of this book, you have to picture how the mastery of these principles will exponentially lead you to a happier, richer, and good life. This active desire to increase your ability of understanding people will be the fuel to reading each chapter of this book. From my perspective, It will be of great value to you to go back and re-read each chapter thoroughly. Like me, you will most likely be tempted to quickly move on to the next chapter. Long-term, this may save you time and provide you better results. However, you know yourself best! Do as you want! As you read this book, feel free to engage with this marvelous literature to the best of your ability.
I highly recommend, once you read this book, to apply these principles every chance you get.
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Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.
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