Such is the impact of this book, that the phrase “how to win friends and influence people” is now part of the common lexicon. Originally written as a textbook aid for the seminars Carnegie would organise, it was then rewritten as a book, and as they say, the rest is history. Now with over 30 million copies sold, for anyone interested in the business book genre, this is essential reading.
Carnegie starts by giving case studies to show why criticism is pointless and in many ways counter-productive, the nature of the human ego is such that any person on the receiving end of this, is likely to reject it and harbour ill-feeling as a result. Therefore he suggests being empathetic and looks to understand why the other person has done things the way they have and not jump to conclusions in the meantime. Communicating without criticising. Easy to say, harder to execute, especially for business managers.
He then outlines his secret for interacting with people, which is to effect change by making the other person want to perform the actions in question. This starts by taking the time to understand the contributions people make and giving appreciation in a sincere way. From there talk to them about what they want and show them how to achieve it, so to arouse within them an eagerness or want. With that he gives his first key secret:
“If there is anyone secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
From there he outlines techniques to build stronger relationships with people, starting with becoming interested in the details of the other person’s life, through to being positive, the importance of remembering names, being a good listener, talking in terms of the other person’s interests and making the other person feel important, in a sincere way. Through this section of the book, he is packing it with examples and case studies to illustrate what he means exactly.
In the next part of the book, he outlines how to win people to your way of thinking. In this section he outlines how for example, as soon as we have a confrontation, even if we are right, the other person is unlikely to be interested in our point of view, they will only be interested in reinforcing their own, hence there is no point having an argument at all if our intention is to win the other person to our way of thinking. This section of the book has many useful insights, where for me probably the truest one of all is humility. If you are wrong, just admit it.
Finally, he talks about how to engage with people as a manager or leader and the techniques to then use to maximise their involvement and productivity. With that he recommends many things including being open about your own mistakes, asking questions to provoke engagement and using encouragement to build confidence and make challenges seem easy to overcome.
In summary, the principles outlined in this book are easy to grasp but would take a lifetime to master, yet his thesis is that for those who do, success will come easier in every way. Hence why this book, more than any other is an essential part of any entrepreneur’s collection.