Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reflections: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Adam C. Zern provides offers a few thoughts on Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People:

“If others’ experience is anything like mine, whenever I heard the title of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People was when someone made a sarcastic comment about someone else’s poor handling of human relations.  Very, very rarely was the book referenced in a serious and practical manner.  Having said that, How to Win Friends and Influence People has had such sticking power (my edition of the book from the 1980s boasted that there were 15,000,000 copies in print) because people are responding to something Mr. Carnegie has to say and are persuaded that the principles he advocates are effectual tools in human relations.

Since Mr. Carnegie’s book was written and published so long ago, and according to the author it was the first of its kind, it seems to have taken a unique place in the genre of Self-Help/Business.  The principles of influencing people that Mr. Carnegie discusses are perfectly reasonable; in fact, some of them are elementary (e.g., smile or remember people’s names).  At certain points while reading the book I wondered why anyone, including myself, would need to be told to do such things since they seemed so self-evident.  However, it’s easy to get complacent and How to Win Friends and Influence People is a good reminder of what one should inculcate into their interactions with others to be truly influential.

The premise of the book is simple enough: present a principle and follow-up with several anecdotes including some from history.  I enjoyed the anecdotes from history being as interested as I am with historical personalities.  By the end of the book, however, many of the stories became tiresome, hardly distinguishable from the dozens of others the author presented, and they end up having little lasting impact.  The format of the book makes it easy to reference and review if one ever felt so prompted.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a type of book that I don't usually read.  After reading it I haven't changed my opinion much on the genre it belongs to.  The book certainly has useful things to say but only if they're applied in real human relationships; otherwise, the book and its well-known title will remain a punch-line and nothing more."

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