How to Win Friends & Influence People

I was a bit unsure about this one before I read it. The title strikes me as sales … manipulative … self-serving …

In fact, I think the reason that I think How to Win Friends & Influence People has stood the test of time so well is that it is what it advocates – authentic. Being genuinely nice, good, decent, unargumentative and humble is the best way to get on with people, costs nothing and brings wealth in friendship and in money if you happen to be after that too.

Written in 1936 by Dale Carnegie, the edition I have has been updated somewhat with more recent examples but it is still, more or less, the same book. It is mostly filled with anecdotes outlining the main points and is a very easy read. I have a copy on my phone for moments such as standing in supermarket queues, reading a few paragraphs and putting it away again until the next time.

One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed since reading the book is deciding to remember people’s names. I used to be one of those people who said they just weren’t any good at remembering names. And there was reason – as I’m introduced to someone, my mind is taken up with taking them in, so the name I’m given may not even register. However, I started noticing the effect on myself of people who had gone to the trouble of finding out my name before being introduced or who remembered it from first introduction and always used it. It makes quite a difference. So I decided to change – there wasn’t anything really stopping me. Step one was losing my embarrassment at not knowing a name when I felt I should – ‘I’m really sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name!’ It doesn’t hurt too much after doing it a few times. Step two was finding out ways of remembering. People’s names are said when they’re introduced – how to hold on to them? The simplest way, for me, is to repeat the person’s name back to them and then, as soon as I have a chance, repeat it to myself out loud (not too loud but enough that I vocalise it). And then find other ways … The first morning of a recent course I took, I sat and looked around the class memorising the names that were written on the cards in front of people and matching them to faces (hoping they didn’t think I was staring!) I missed the content of the whole lecture, of course, but got on famously with everyone so it was well worth it.

There’s a lot of wisdom in this small book and it’s easy to pick up and put down although the author recommends it as a study and personal project that will pay great dividends. At the end of the day, everyone’s self interest is far better served by being decent to their fellow beings than trying to pursue it selfishly. Available from all good book stores.

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