I originally became aware of How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie 8 years ago. I do regret that it has taken me this long to actually read it.
Don’t be me.
If you are interacting with people (so, everyone), this should be your top priority to read.
The book is divided in four sections, which I have titled in the cards that I was writing while reading the book as: Fundamentals, Rapport, Influence, Leadership. Each section has a number of principles. For each section, Dale Carnegie peppers the principle with anecdotes/stories that come from famous people and also from people that attended his workshops. Somehow the style made them a bit disconnected, like if they were inventions; if you have read Weinberg’s Secrets of Consulting it is very similar, though the stories from Weinberg, maybe due to their humour, are easier for me to empathize with.
It is an easy read, but at the same time you can see what is underneath all that he talks about.
The central tenet
The main idea behind the book is to avoid conflict. Every principle laid out is either: do something that doesn’t creates conflict or don’t do something that creates conflict.
The reason behind is that people become defensive under conflict (like me) and avoiding conflict is the best way to connect with them and be able to either
The second tenet
Dale Carnegie seemed to abhor the idea to use the teachings for pure manipulation. So he repeats a few times that the most effective way to using his teachings is when the practitioner has at their heart the truthful desire of empathising with people.
I am not a social person, but I care (as recently explained to some people, I became a consultant to help others). So this idea sways me in favour of the book and teachings.
I have been a consultant for over 3 years. And before that I always tried to improve the way my previous companies worked. Let’s say that I am an agent of change. And my own experience is that whenever I have tried to go head strong, frontal action into doing some change I have encountered resistance, and usually failed. Different approaches have been more successful (usually is about putting the idea on their head, inception like, but also showing them results of an specific approach). Change needs to be brought forward with care, with time, and with empathy.
One of the reasons that I started to host events for the LSCC was to force myself into talking with other people because, as I always say, I am not a terribly social person. How can you care about people, and understand them, if you don’t speak with them? So, before even reading this book (and the previous
Secrets of Consulting) I already knew what I needed to improve.
Are the recommendations given universal? I think not. The range of people is vast, and for some people doesn’t matter how much you talk with them, it will not make any difference. I tend to think of myself as a rational person, and I think that however an idea is delivered to me, I will evaluate it on its own merits and then change or not depending on that evaluation. Of course, rationality is an illusion, we are not that good at it.
We are lucky that in our profession we can go by the maxim of Show, don’t Tell, and we can do small work (spikes) to demonstrate things that we want to change. But it is not always possible.
Also, there is a context to specific situations (Context is everything). Before you try to implement change, getting a lesson on history from the person/company could inform you what is the best strategy to follow … or if change is possible at all.
At the end, Carnagie’s principles are a) a tool for you to improve as a consultant, b) a way to connect with other people. And I need help in both areas.