Book review: 16 million copies sold since the 1930s and it’s not difficult to see why

“How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie

I used to be this incredibly positive person growing up, never criticise and can always see the good side of people. Then something happened in 2005, harsh reality sets in, series of failures and many rejections changed me. Once had a quite promising future, the downturn made me look like a joke, the silent judgement made me bitter and the confrontational insults sank me.

Then I crawl myself out from the abyss using my angry energy. I altered my life to finance and never look back, and all the things I’ve earned since then – albeit still relatively nothing, and still a long ongoing process – are achieved by being tough. I became disciplined, incredibly efficient and wasted no time.

That took some toll on my behaviour towards others.I increasingly have no time for small talks and getting to know new people. Placing the highest priority on truth, I became a frank talker, always speaking up my mind, and often directly correcting people when they’re wrong.

But perhaps most significantly I constantly expect 100% from people, the way I push myself to always be on 100% alert. When they fail to do so I got angry and never fail to criticise, just as I would’ve done harshly to myself (hey that angry energy works out for me, surely it can work on everyone?)

After a while, I secretly hate who I’ve become, that easily irritated person. But then I can’t possibly begin to let the truth unspoken, to tolerate the tiniest mistakes or 0.001 second of lateness, or all the unfairness I see regularly in front of my eyes. I’ve tried, so damn hard, to tolerate but to no avail.

Then I accidentally found the book “How to win friends and influence others” by Dale Carnegie.

16 million copies sold since 1930s and it’s not difficult to see why. Based on years of research and countless social experiments, the thesis that Dale Carnegie is presenting in the book is not merely a theory but a proven success first through his lectures and sessions, which then expanded vastly to become this book.

The writing style delightfully use 1930s tone and slangs, with an easy to read language. The content itself is very condensed, very rich with wisdom and very straight forward down to business. Indeed, every sentence is a gem, every paragraph is inspirational, and every chapter is life changing. They are heartwarming to read and each page literally filled me with enthusiastic energy.

Moreover, Carnegie presents his thesis not as a countering argument against our existing views, but as a way to see the views from different angles and a whole new level of understanding, and back them with so many stories from history and [1930s] current affairs. He can tell like 10 different stories to make just 1 point, stories which can somehow merge together into one related chapter. He also quoted many books and relevant quotations from many great people.

It is very inspiring to read how great people control their behaviour and empowering their surroundings, people like Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Charles Dickens, Charles Schwab, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and many “ordinary individuals” with great stories to tell. I learn a lot in particular from the way Benjamin Franklin change his opinionated self into a master in diplomacy, and the way Abraham Lincoln handle his anger from past failures, which I feel directly related with my case.

Eventually, like many of the people giving reviews, this book has indeed changed the way I interact with people and has made the quality of my life instantly better. I’m starting to be back to my old self, start pleasantly talking with strangers, have a better control over my emotions, and perhaps most fundamentally in my eyes those many idiots have suddenly become those struggling people who have fundamental desire to feel important. Criticisms towards others have been reduced, while the sincere praises increased as well as the focus on their interests.

All in all, this is the fastest book I read so far cover to cover, and the easiest to make a review on. It is also the book that I highlighted the most up to a point that I began to think that it’s pointless highlighting them because I would’ve highlighted the whole book. It’s not hard to see why this book is such a hit for 80 years running, without a doubt one of the best I’ve ever read.

Key takeaways:

1 Nobody likes to be criticised. People rarely feel that they are wrong, and if criticised will usually try to justify themselves and be defensive, and ended up further damaging the task.

2 Feeling of importance: “If you tell me how you get your feeling of importance, I’ll tell you what you are. That determines your character. That is the most significant thing about you.” Lack of appreciation, therefore, is one of the main cause of damaged relationship. Lesson: give honest and sincere appreciation on others.

3 “So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

4 “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

5 “…. the average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together. Remember that name and call it easily, and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment. But forget it or misspell it—and you have placed yourself at a sharp disadvantage.”

6 Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. “So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”

7 “There is one all-important law of human conduct. If we obey that law, we shall almost never get into trouble. In fact, that law, if obeyed, will bring us countless friends and constant happiness. But the very instant we break the law, we shall get into endless trouble. The law is this: Always make the other person feel important.”

8 Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.

9 “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? Well, suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is non compos mentis. Then what? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph. And… A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

10 “If you tell them they are wrong, do you make them want to agree with you? Never! For you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgment, pride and self-respect. That will make them want to strike back. It is difficult, under even the most benign conditions, to change people’s minds. So why make it harder? Why handicap yourself? If you are going to prove anything, don’t let anybody know it. Do it so subtly, so adroitly, that no one will feel that you are doing it.”

11 “Few people are logical. Most of us are prejudiced and biased. Most of us are blighted with preconceived notions, with jealousy, suspicion, fear, envy and pride. And most citizens don’t want to change their minds about their religion or their haircut or communism or their favorite movie star.”

12 “I am convinced now that nothing good is accomplished and a lot of damage can be done if you tell a person straight out that he or she is wrong. You only succeed in stripping that person of self-dignity and making yourself an unwelcome part of any discussion.”

13 “Any fool can try to defend his or her mistakes—and most fools do—but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one’s mistakes.”

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