This book was first published in 1936 and neither did Dale Carnegie nor the publishers of the book anticipated the success that the book will have. It sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
It has suffered several revisions with the sole purpose of trying to make it relevant to modern times. In 2011 it managed to list #19 in TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential Books for that year. Despite these facts in my opinion only half or a third of the information found in this book is still applicable to nowadays human interactions or business etiquette. I will provide concrete arguments to sustain my idea later in this article as we get to the respective part. Perhaps this book will make amends and it will be a more suitable reading for the current generation
Having read the revised edition, the initial preface of the first editions is found at the end of the book. I found the respective preface far more interesting than the actual one as it recalls the early life of Dale Carnegie. He is a classical example of a self-made man. He was not born into privileged or into a wealthy family: by his own efforts, he managed to overcome life’s hurdles and became a great success in life.
As a child, Dale Carnegie lived in a town near his college in Warrensburg, Missouri. He didn’t have enough money to pay for accommodation (1$ per day) so he commuted daily on his horse.
“At home, he milked the cows, cut the wood, fed the hogs, and studied his Latin verbs by the light of a coal-oil lamp until his eyes blurred and he began to nod.He was ashamed of the poverty that made it necessary for him to ride back to the farm and milk the cows every night. He was ashamed of his coat, which was too tight, and his trousers, which were too short. Rapidly developing an inferiority complex, he looked about for some shortcut to distinction. “
At one point in his childhood, he analyzed all the kids that were in the limelight and he concluded that the only groups that were respected were the football / baseball players and the lads who won the debating and public speaking contests. As he was no good at sports he started to focus all his energy on improving his public-speaking abilities.
“He spent months preparing his talks. He practiced as he sat in the saddle galloping to college and back; he practiced his speeches as he milked the cows. And then suddenly he began to win, not one contest, but every speaking contest in college. Other students pleaded with him to train them, and they won also. ” This was the moment he realized that this specific skill he developed was his path to success.
Personally, I am a sucker for rags to riches stories and Dale’s is one of them. You can find other examples of self-made American figures here.
More about the Book:
The University of Chicago and the United Y.M.C.A. Schools conducted a survey to determine what adults want to study. The study took 2 years to complete and it cost 25,000 US Dollars. It revealed that health was the prime interest of adults while the interest in people ranked second. They wanted to understand and get along with people and how to make them like you. Because a practical textbook for such courses was not yet available Dale Carnegie decided to write one in order to use it for his courses.
You can find a list of the principles included in the book below for a quick insight into the eye.
This is not exactly a book on persuasion and psychology that gives you advice based on neuroscience. The book offers a series of common sense guidelines (principles) along with examples and tales that will make you think twice about how to react in certain tense situations or with difficult people.
I can’t agree with all the principles in the book. Trying to please everyone is not the key to success. However, you will find a handful of guidelines on how to make a great first impression, how to criticize someone or how to get better at conversation.
Next I will list a couple of highlights from the book and I will start with Aesop’s fable of the wind and sun.
The Wind and the Sun – Æsop. (Sixth century B.C.) Fables.
The wind and the Sun were arguing which one of them was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.
“Fury or force cuts no ice where gentleness does the job”
Part 2: Principle 2 – Smile
“A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop” Old Chinese Proverb
Part 2: Principle 3 – Remember a person’s name
Dale emphasizes the importance of one’s name. He urges his readers to remember the names of the people they are trying to win to their way of mind. Misspelling their names would mean starting off on the wrong foot. People place an astounding importance on their own name. The author recalls the story of Steel King who had many rabbits but nothing to feed them. He told the children from his village that if they brought him food for the bunnies he would name them after their names.
Another tale depicted in the book is the tale of old P. T. Barnum, a showman of his time. He was disappointed because did not have any sons to carry on his name. Thus he offered C. H. Seeley, his grandson, $25,000 dollars to call himself “Barnum” Seeley.
“Libraries and museums owe their richest collections to people who cannot bear to think that their names might perish from the memory of the race.”
Part 2: Principle 4 – Be a good listener
Edward Bok was a dutch immigrant that was so poor that he had to walk with a basket on the streets and pick up stray bits of coal that had fallen in the gutter where the coal wagons had delivered coal. He started to educate himself and he developed a real interest in listening to people. He saved money and bought an encyclopedia with the auto-biographies of America’s most important people. He read about their lives and their childhoods and wrote letters to them asking them additional details regarding their troubles or hobbies. He wrote to the presidential candidate of that time and asked him if it was true he was a tow boy on a canal and he replied. He was invited to dinner and spent the evening talking. It was soon that he was corresponding with the most famous people in the nation and he started visiting them. This networking paved the way for his future success and it was this experience that imbued him with confidence.
Part 3: Principle 1 – Avoid Arguments
A man convinced against his will; is of the same opinion still
Part 3: Principle 2 – Try a more subtle approach than “you’re wrong!”
“Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so.” – Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Part 3: Principle 4 – Begin in a friendly way
“It is an old and true maxim that ‘a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’
So with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart; which, say what you will, is the great high road to his reason.”
Part 3: Principle 5 – Get the other person to start saying YES
Dale advises to start the conversation asking questions that will get the other person to answer affirmative. If you ask them the main question and they say NO it will take the patience of angels to transform that bristing negative into an affirmative.
Part 3: Principle 12 – Throw down a challenge
The best way to motivate a team is to throw down a challenge. Dale tells us a nice story about Charles Schwab who had a mill manager whose people were not meeting their daily quota. Nothing seemed to motivate the employees. They were working in shifts (day/night) so Schwab asked each shift to write down with chalk in front of the factory the number of heats that each shift made that day for the other shift to see. He threw down a challenge and soon the numbers gradually raised from 5 to a swaggering 10 as each shift tried to overcome the other. So the key was to stimulate competition, to stimulate the desire to excel. Everybody loves the game and the chance for self-expression. The opportunity to prove your worth, to win to excel is on top of everyone’s mind.
Part 2: Principle 1 – Begin with praise before criticizing someone
A barber lathers a man before he shaves him – Dale Carnagie
It is easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise on our good points. Always start with kind words and only after you can suggest with kind words the areas where improvement is necessary.