I’ve heard of this book no less than one million times. I’ve seen it, heard about the title, heard people talk about it, and I’ve known about it for a long time. Why am I only reading it just now? Who knows. But if you’re sitting at home eating hella carbs and feeling like a small pig and you want to feel like you’ve been at least a little bit productive during this quarantine, read this book. It’s entertaining, it’s easy to follow, and you will learn so much by the time you’re finished.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is a guide on how to get people to like you and how to get people to bend to whatever your opinion or desire is. The author uses real-life stories from business partners, family members, and organizations to show how these principles can be applied to various situations. Carnegie uses a very casual and familiar tone throughout the book, which makes it easier to read through and understand the lessons he wants you to take away from the book.
Length: 236 pages
Additional Sections: Preface to the 1981 Edition (explains why the book has been edited), How This Book Was Written – and Why (basically the introduction – worth the read), Nine Suggestions to Get the Most Out of This Book (probably doesn’t hurt to read it), and A Shortcut to Distinction (basically a bio about the author – I skipped it)
Year Published: 1936
The Good Stuff
The way this book was written is masterful. If I were ever going to write a self-help book, this is how I would write it. The book is split up into four sections: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People, Six Ways to Make People Like You, How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking, and Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment.
In the first section, Carnegie lays down the three basic principles that are fleshed out in the other sections of the book. He introduces the phrase “be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise,” which is referenced several times throughout the book. I thought it was great that he emphasized you have to be sincere. You can shmooze someone and throw tons of compliments at them, but if you don’t mean it you won’t get very far. The idea that using these tools to be successful requires a lifestyle change is important, and I’m glad he took time to mention that.
I think my favorite part of the book was Six Ways to Make People Like You. There are so many good tips in there, and I liked that the author used examples from all different types of situations to support his ideas. I host a podcast and I thought this section gave great tips for interviewers. This is also excellent for anyone whose profession requires networking. I’d bet money that this book is a staple for executives at Chick-fil-A. It’s so simple: be genuinely interested, smile, remember the other person’s name. Think of the people who you liked off the bat before you really knew anything about them. Whether they read this book or not, they likely used the principles in this section. Making people like you can be learned and improved on, and I thought Carnegie did a great job of explaining how.
The section on winning people to your way of thinking was genius. He took two chapters in that section to emphasize that you should not argue. When you agree with someone while you’re trying to persuade them, they’re no longer on the defensive and they’re more likely to see things your way. Brilliant! I’m definitely a debater – I don’t play devil’s advocate for the fun of it, but if I disagree I will argue my point. This book changed the way that I look at that. Winning the argument can’t be your objective if you truly want to change people’s minds. Even if you win, you still might not change the other person’s mind because of how unlikeable you were. The goal is to win friends and influence people, and this section shows how to marry the two.
The fourth section was the slowest for me, but it was still very informative. I think that leadership is often a lofty term – we have an idea of what it is, but we have no idea how to do it. This part explained how to change attitudes and behavior, and it painted a clear picture of what a leader does. Whether you’re leading a big corporation or a small classroom, this section has some nuggets that will be useful. I’m not in charge of anything yet, but I know this section will be so helpful when I’m building my own company.
I know I really loved a book when I break out my sticky tabs and start marking pages. This book is now one of three books that I own that are marked up so I know exactly where to go when I need to re-read the best parts. I think this is a great book for college students to read. I wish I would’ve read it earlier. If you plan on interacting with other people at any point in your life, you need to read this book. It is so excellent and it’s an easy read.
What I Would Change
Nothing. This book is wonderful.