How to make friends and influence readers

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When I was young, I discovered a magic trick. I found that by listening patiently and staying calm, I could convert angry calls from enemies to friends in a single tense phone conversation.

It turns out I had simply reinvented the wheel. One of the greatest psychologists of the 20th century discovered this trick long before I was born. His name was Dale Carnegie.

It’s a name that inspires cynicism. Although his most famous work, How to win friends and influence people, won countless acolytes, from the start his detractors considered him little more than a proselyte of sycophancy. Worse yet, they blamed him for a supposed change in the country’s corporate culture, from Puritan rectitude to superficial sympathy, and character to personality. A reviewer, writing about Arthur Miller Death of a seller, argued that Carnegie’s book was exactly the sort of thing that could have swayed Willy Loman in a way that led to his tragic end.

Again How to win friends and influence people– the title itself entered the cultural lexicon as the basis for parodies and spin-offs – remains in print 85 years after its initial publication. The translations carried his message around the world. The revised editions have taken the changing times into account. There is even a version called How to make friends and influence people in the digital age. How could such a widely vilified text retain such lasting appeal? To find out, I decided to read it – and find the original, or as close as possible, to better understand what the author was going through.

Chalk another cult member of Dale Carnegie. How to win friends and influence people is one of the best-selling business books of all time because it is one of the best and most useful you will ever come across. And he is perhaps even more useful today than he was in 1936. Carnegie’s ideas are infallible and his folk style irresistible. Mostly, How to win friends and influence people has a deeply moral core that challenges readers to do better in business by being better people. “You might think his techniques are superficial and manipulative, appropriate only for salespeople,” writes Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “But Carnegie was actually a brilliant moral psychologist.”

Calling your self-help book is like calling Moby-dick a book about a whale. Carnegie understood that the point of insight is action, and that we are what we do. So why shouldn’t he help us change for the better? Instead of concocting fanciful theories like those of Freud and Jung, Carnegie relied on observation and experience in the manner of contemporaries as brilliant as Erving Goffman, Eric Hoffer, AO Hirschman and EM Delafield. The fact that he communicated his ideas in simple, well-crafted English – without ever resorting to sufficient jargon – is all the more to his credit. Haidt said of Carnegie’s book, “It gives you superpowers.”

Of course, How to win friends and influence people is a product of its time. Early drafts included a chapter on marriage counseling that was pretty darn progressive for the time but not suited to ours. Carnegie is also repetitive, although engaging, perhaps because, like all great communicators, he understands that nothing flows unless we hear it over and over again.

The central notions of the book are deep in their simplicity. Carnegie argues, probably rightly, that dealing with people is often the biggest problem in business. And to deal effectively with people, we have to understand them. That means see things from their point of view. To do this, you need to tell them about their life and their interests, and you need to listen to them with your full attention.

Carnegie says dealing with people is often the biggest problem in business. And to deal effectively with people, we have to understand them.

Basically Carnegie’s book is built on a very clear idea of ​​what humans look like. Long before behavioral economics gained prominence, he observed that people were irrational slaves to their desperate need for attention and admiration and that, contrary to popular belief then and today hui, they were motivated by many things besides money. “When dealing with people, let us remember that we are not dealing with logical creatures. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.

Yet Carnegie didn’t see people as a mere means to an end. On the contrary, it demands that we see them as they are and that we accept them on that basis. As such, he puts people at the center of his value system, which was based on the idea that humans are essentially good. And because people want to believe they are good, they are very likely to call on their best angels. “Few of the criminals in Sing Sing consider themselves to be bad men,” the prison director noted in a letter to Carnegie. “They’re just as human as you and I. So they’re rationalizing.”

The rest of us are no different. That’s why Carnegie says criticism only breeds defensiveness. Whenever possible, use positive reinforcement, especially praise. “There is a very important law of human conduct,” he wrote. “Always make the other person feel important.” Arguing with people is a waste of time, since no one wins. Positions harden, hostility increases, and victory can only come at the expense of much more important goals, such as a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. It doesn’t mean to be a doormat; just choose your battles and use diplomacy. You might even be at fault. “Do you know someone whom you would like to change, regulate and improve? Carnegie asks. “Good! … But why not start with yourself?” “

One of the most surprising things about the book is what it demands of us. Time and time again, Carnegie asks us to refrain from judging, to show understanding and restraint in our dealings with others, to put aside our parish concerns and interests, and to seek truly interested in our fellow human beings by rising above the personal interest which is our common lot. It also emphasizes what is now fashionably called epistemic humility – the very real likelihood that you are wrong, something you have to quickly and cheerfully admit whenever it is pointed out to you. “I hardly believe anything that I believed twenty years ago,” he says, “except the multiplication table. “

Do you feel superior to others, especially those from other cultures? Remember, they also feel superior to you, often with good reason. So overcome yourself. “We must be modest,” he said bluntly, “because neither you nor I are much. We are both going to die and be completely forgotten in a century. “

Implied everywhere is the radical belief that you might as well keep your problems to yourself, because hardly anyone else really cares about them. Also, taking an interest in other people’s problems might be the most effective way to counter your own.

Anyone responsible for managing people should read the book twice. One of his most interesting points, implicitly mentioned throughout the process, is that relationships – and success – are built on trust. Trust your subordinates to tell you what they can accomplish, and you’ll be surprised how hard they work to achieve their own ambitions.

Moreover, the day of the authoritarian manager is over. In free and wealthy societies, executives will be increasingly dependent on a complex mix of highly educated and self-centered workers and consumers. If Carnegie’s ideas were effective in the 1930s, they are likely to be even more effective today.


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