The greatest book ever written on human relations deserves the attention of anyone working for themselves or running a business. It could seriously change your life.
How to Win Friends and Influence People as a title, admittedly sounds a bit wet behind the ears. “I’ve got plenty of friends,” you might say. But don’t be tempted to dismiss it as I almost did, years ago.
“It’s one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul authors,” I assumed, imagining reams of pseudophilosophy, back-patting and new age psycho-hokum.
That was 2005. Ten years later, I’m pleased to say this famous bestseller is now among my favourites. The author’s teachings are as valid today as when originally published in 1936.
How to Win Friends is basically about talking less, listening more and learning self control. It’s an easy to read operating manual for the human mind.
Here’s the back cover summary:
Here are the contents:
PART ONE: FUNDAMENTAL TECHNIQUES IN HANDLING PEOPLE
- “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”
- The Big Secret of Dealing with People
- “He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way”
PART TWO: SIX WAYS TO MAKE PEOPLE LIKE YOU
- Do This and You’ll Be Welcome Anywhere
- A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression
- If You Don’t Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble
- An Easy Way to Become a Good Conversationalist
- How to Interest People
- How to Make People Like You Instantly
PART THREE: HOW TO WIN PEOPLE TO YOUR WAY OF THINKING
- You Can’t Win an Argument
- A Sure Way of Making Enemies – and How to Avoid it
- If You’re Wrong, Admit It
- A Drop of Honey
- The Secret of Socrates
- The Safety Valve in Handling Complaints
- How to Get Cooperation
- A Formula That Will Work Wonders for You
- What Everybody Wants
- An Appeal That Everybody Likes
- The Movies Do It. TV Does It. Why Don’t You Do It?
- When Nothing Else Works, Try This
PART FOUR: BE A LEADER: HOW TO CHANGE PEOPLE WITHOUT GIVING OFFENCE OR AROUSING RESENTMENT
- If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin
- How to Criticise – and Not Be Hated for It
- Talk About Your Own Mistakes First
- No One Likes to Take Orders
- Let the Other Person Save Face
- How to Spur People On to Success
- Give a Dog a Good Name
- Make the Fault Seem Easy to Correct
- Making People Glad to Do What You Want
The chapter headlines may be juicy, but the content has no fat on it at all. The pace is brisk, entertaining and reasonable. No teach-the-world-to-sing rubbish, I’m glad to say!
Listening is Profitable, Not Just Polite
The book takes the view that we should dispense with obvious agendas long enough to positively grease up the cogs of human interaction once in a while.
The philosophy of getting things done by getting people on side is consistent throughout.
Sell Sell Sell it is not. But you shouldn’t be a schmoozer either.
Here’s a practical example; when I receive business phone enquiries I keep the conversation notes in an Excel database.
Recording details of what has been said means you can use this information as a conversational anchor next time you communicate with your prospect or client.
Being able to recall what someone says to you is using “data” the correct way, wouldn’t you agree? Customer relationship management is pretty simple in principle even if you don’t have fancy software systems.
If you can rekindle the thread of a conversation days, weeks, months or even years later, you’re going to get to quicken the sales process.
No blustering, no pitching, no “winging it”… and obviously, no forgetfulness.
Be Interested in People
One of the main messages of this book is that showing a genuine interest in others not only wins friends for you, but may develop loyalty to your company.
Here’s one of the many extracts:
“* * Eagle, publication of the National Bank of North America, New York, March 31, 1978.
“I would like you to know how much I appreciate your staff. Everyone is so courteous, polite and helpful. What a pleasure it is, after waiting on a long line, to have the teller greet you pleasantly.
“Last year my mother was hospitalized for five months. Frequently I went to Marie Petrucello, a teller. She was concerned about my mother and inquired about her progress.”
But never flatter! Suck ups are ten a penny and we shouldn’t afford such behaviour any respect.
“Of course flattery seldom works with discerning people. It is shallow, selfish and insincere. It ought to fail and it usually does.
“True, some people are so hungry, so thirsty, for appreciation that they will swallow anything, just as a starving man will eat grass and fishworms.”
Who Is The Book Good For?
To demonstrate the wide appeal, let’s be creative and put a different angle on the phrase How to Win Friends and Influence People:
- How to… Gain Clients and Dominate Markets
- How to… Forge Alliances and Leverage Resources
- How to… Create Trust and Cash In
- How to… Improve Feedback and Develop Reputation
- How to… Stand Out and Look Good
- How to… Help Others and Get What You Want
- How to… Talk Less and Profit More
If that hasn’t whet your appetite I don’t know what will!
Have you ever taken part in a Twitter tweetchat? Have you noticed the deluge of broadcast-style attention-seeking solicitations for products and services.
All the social networks are the same; chock full of lazy marketing wrapped in selfish motivations.
Customers don’t like to be sold, especially not in a day and age when the buyer knows as much – if not more – about a car they’re interested in than the salesperson at the showroom.
Even from beyond the grave, Carnegie can still teach us something about the balancing act that ought to be going on between provider and consumer… and this was decades before the internet itself came about.
Here’s an extract demonstrating sales situations that are all too common:
Thousands of salespeople are pounding the pavements today, tired, discouraged and underpaid. Why? Because they are always thinking
only of what they want. They don’t realize that neither you nor I want to buy anything. If we did, we would go out and buy it.
But both of us are eternally interested in solving our problems. And if salespeople can show us how their services or merchandise will help
us solve our problems, they won’t need to sell us. We’ll buy. And customers like to feel that they are buying – not being sold.
Yet many salespeople spend a lifetime in selling without seeing things from the customer’s angle.
For example, for many years I lived in Forest Hills, a little community of private homes in the center of Greater New York. One day as I was rushing to the station, I chanced to meet a real-estate operator who had bought and sold property in that area for many years.
He knew Forest Hills well, so I hurriedly asked him whether or not my stucco house was built with metal lath or hollow tile. He said he didn’t know and told me what I already knew – that I could find out by calling the Forest Hills Garden Association.
The following morning, I received a letter from him. Did he give me the information I wanted? He could have gotten it in sixty seconds by a telephone call. But he didn’t. He told me again that I could get it by telephoning, and then asked me to let him handle my insurance.
He was not interested in helping me. He was interested only in helping himself.
As you know, the internet has sharply altered what is now considered the old media empire – television, radio, newspapers. The “shout it loud” approach is to cast a wide net in hopes of snaring a few sales leads.
It’s much better to take aim and be surgical because technology allows us to communicate on the customer’s terms instead of on our own.
Seth Godin’s books will likely be of interest to you because they offer a more contemporary take on some of the principles in How to Win Friends.
How to Learn Manners and Make Peace
Being involved in information technology, I constantly witness the stereotypical contrarian “office technician.” This is the know-all nit picker with an air of superiority and smugness.
While I’m not severely social challenged, I have to admit, there have been times when I’ve called up customer support for my hosting provider and felt so frustrated with the experience that I’ve snapped at the person on the other end of the line.
By contrast, I’ve had better experiences when using tact and diplomacy. Even if the hosting provider WAS in the wrong, it doesn’t help to bully the employees who are just being paid to answer the phone.
Here’s what Carnegie says about that:
“If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.
So figure it out for yourself. Which would you rather have, an academic, theatrical victory or a person’s good will? You can seldom have both.”
Abraham Lincoln is quoted often throughout the book. Below, he offers corroborating wisdom on the subject of not becoming caught up in situations:
“Yield larger things to which you show no more than equal rights; and yield lesser ones though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.”
Human Nature is Flawed
The first chapter examines a fascinating subject: criminal behaviour.
If you ever watched The Sopranos you’ll remember the scenes with the shrink, Dr Melfi, in which a sort of meta fiction character study of gangster boss Tony Soprano plays out.
Ego, vanity and prestige rule almost everyone.
Perhaps you’re not dealing with anyone on the extreme end of the scale, but you might have difficult customers, employees, associates etc.
There are numerous small business case studies in which attendees of Dale Carnegie’s public relations courses shared their own stories about coping with tricky social encounters:
“R. V. Crowley was a salesman for a lumber company in New York. Crowley admitted that he had been telling hard-boiled lumber inspectors for years that they were wrong. And he had won the arguments too. But it hadn’t done any good.
“For these lumber inspectors,” said Mr. Crowley, “are like baseball umpires. Once they make a decision, they never change it.”
“Mr. Crowley saw that his firm was losing thousands of dollars through the arguments he won. So while taking my course, he resolved to change tactics and abandon arguments.
“With what results? Here is the story as he told it to the fellow members of his class:
“One morning the phone rang in my office. A hot and bothered person at the other end proceeded to inform me that a car of lumber we had shipped into his plant was entirely unsatisfactory.
“His firm had stopped unloading and requested that we make immediate arrangements to remove the stock from their yard. After about one-fourth of the car had been unloaded, their lumber inspector reported that the lumber was running 55 percent below grade. Under the circumstances, they refused to accept it.
“I immediately started for his plant and on the way turned over in my mind the best way to handle the situation.
“Ordinarily, under such circumstances, I should have quoted grading rules and tried, as a result of my own experience and knowledge as a lumber inspector, to convince the other inspector that the lumber was actually up to grade, and that he was misinterpreting the rules in his inspection.
However, I thought I would apply the principles learned in this training.
“When I arrived at the plant, I found the purchasing agent and the lumber inspector in a wicked humor, both set for an argument and a fight. We walked out to the car that was being unloaded, and I requested that they continue to unload so that I could see how things were going. I asked the inspector to go right ahead and lay out the rejects, as he had been doing, and to put the good pieces in another pile.
“After watching him for a while it began to dawn on me that his inspection actually was much too strict and that he was misinterpreting the rules. This particular lumber was white pine, and I knew the inspector was thoroughly schooled in hard woods but not a competent, experienced inspector on white pine. White pine happened to be my own strong suit, but did I offer any objection to the way he was grading the lumber? None whatever. I kept on watching and gradually began to ask questions as to why certain pieces were not satisfactory.
“I didn’t for one instant insinuate that the inspector was wrong. I emphasized that my only reason for asking was in order that we could give his firm exactly what they wanted in future shipments, wanted in future shipments.
“By asking questions in a very friendly, cooperative spirit, and insisting continually that they were right in laying out boards not satisfactory to their purpose, I got him warmed up, and the strained relations between us began to thaw and melt away. An occasional carefully put remark on my part gave birth to the idea in his mind that possibly some of these rejected pieces were actually within the grade that they had bought, and that their requirements demanded a more expensive grade. I was very careful, however, not to let him think I was making an issue of this point.
“Gradually his whole attitude changed. He finally admitted to me that he was not experienced on white pine and began to ask me questions about each piece as it came out of the car, I would explain why such a piece came within the grade specified, but kept on insisting that we did not want him to take it if it was unsuitable for their purpose. He finally got to the point where he felt guilty every time he put a piece in the rejected pile.
And at last he saw that the mistake was on their part for not having specified as good a grade as they needed.
“The ultimate outcome was that he went through the entire carload again after I left, accepted the whole lot, and we received a check in full.
“In that one instance alone, a little tact, and the determination to refrain from telling the other man he was wrong, saved my company a substantial amount of cash, and it would be hard to place a money value on the good will that was saved.”
What I Think of This Book
It’s amazing to think a book published over 75 years ago is still relevant in the 21st century. As of 2006 over 16 million copies were sold.
You’ll never find another guide that is as easy to read than this about succeeding in social situations, interviews, negotiations and any scenario where you must be adroit.
Classic book pic.twitter.com/OyQqmBfBd5
— Small Biz Geek (@SmallBizGeekUK) October 22, 2015
Every chapter quotes famous public figures, presidents, monarchs, war-time leaders, business owners, employees, performers, writers, artists and others.
You’ll redefine your approach to business communications, customer experience and service, loyalty and retention, touch points and so on.
Don’t have time to read? The 7 disc audio book is even better.
Narrated by Andrew MacMillan, he has the perfect voice for this book. Listening to him reminded me of some old-school all-American type gent drinking coffee in a diner; a friendly Walter Matthau sort of character.
Analysis: Humbling, Entertaining & Timeless
How to Win Friends was among the first of its kind upon publication. It has given rise to a booming self help industry, even if there IS a lot of crap out there. I almost didn’t give it a chance for this reason, as mentioned earlier.
According to the sleeve notes, a limited run of several thousand was printed initially, but as demand increased through the 1930’s the original manuscript expanded.
We’re talking about a time when the Great Depression had taken hold in the United States. You can almost imagine readers in soup lines desperately hungering for something besides food to get a longer term competitive advantage.
You already know communication skills make money. You need influence and you need people. If business is a combination of war and sport, you need allies.
The digital age is a social age. Could your business benefit from more diplomacy and less ego?
Buy the Book Now
You can buy the book online on Amazon (affiliate link) or at most good book shops. If you don’t want to purchase it, see if your local library stocks it.
With this being such a well known title most libraries should have it. I own two copies so as not to be deprived if I lend one out to friends or associates.
P.S. I discovered Google books has digitised some of the pages from the book sporadically.
They don’t flow too well without the proper and complete chronological structure but some of the content is there.