Carnegie’s most influential work has timeless (though sometimes antiquated) advice on people and human relations that the world still sorely after almost a century of its publication.

The Essentials

In a Nutshell

Have you ever wondered how you can improve your relationships? The social interactions that we have, whether with our family, friends, or colleagues, seems to always end up a bit better if we could have just handled things a bit differently. This is apparently a common occurence (even a century ago!), and Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People will show us actionable tips on how to better handle our day-to-day interactions.

The book contains four chapters:

  • Fundamental Techniques in Handling People:

This chapter tackles the foundational concepts that pretty much encompasses the author’s intent. It has themes that are repeated throughout the book, such as giving sincere appreciation and prioritizing praise over criticizing. If you could only read a chapter, this is the one that you don’t want to miss.

  • Six Ways to Make People Like You:

Moving on to more actionable items, akin to “life hacks” if you will, this chapter is a goldmine of tips that you can literally apply and benefit from for your next social interaction. Though some may appear as no-brainers (one section’s advice is to literally “smile”), the author’s anecdotes makes the section a fun read and really helps drive the points home.

  • How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking:

In contrast to the previous chapter, this one focuses on traversing tricky situations to get your way (or at least influence the other person to your line of thinking). Solid advice such as avoiding arguments, admitting fault quickly, and the “yes, yes” method are explained. This chapter is the meatiest of the four, yet the anecdotes and short stories does help illustrate the concepts and their importance.

  • How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment:

The closing chapter focuses on cultivating leadership qualities by optimizing how we interact with the people around us. Scenarios that are hard to maneuver around, such as giving orders or calling out mistakes, are thoroughly discussed. The contents of this section, surprisingly, are both useful to people in leadership roles and those who are not.

The book then ends with a section containing biographical information about Dale Carnegie.

My Thoughts

The anecdotes in this book are given as examples on how the underlying technique of a section is applied. These short stories themselves covers a diverse amount of scenarios: from job interviews to coal mining to truck sales. Personally, I think that the age of the book shows through some of the example anecdotes which a lot of readers might not be able to relate to. It just seems that the book is written with a lens of a different world, and since it is written almost a century ago, it might as well have been.

To be fair, the antiquated stories and the writing style that screams of the roaring 20s has been a real treat to myself. Historical trivia about prominent figures, albeit centered around American context, is really fun to read through. War stories, high-ranking generals, Lincoln and Roosevelt – how the book’s teachings are practically applied by these people and scenarios really scratches my itch for history.

Which brings me to my last point: the book is quite short (~300 pages), but some of the chapters are a slog to get through. I feel like the author sometimes give too much repetitive examples to drive his point across, which is really tough to consume as each technique and idea are fundamentally simple and have already been discussed by the earlier chapters. Sure, my expectations are probably skewed as I’ve been reading the book the same way as if it was a novel (which isn’t too bad, actually). The book, as the author implies, is a handbook and is to be read as such. But the pacing of some of the chapters could really improve if the volume of stories are cut down, or maybe even compiling them onto a chapter by themselves.

Recommendations

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a timeless classic, and after reading a few chapters, one can immediately see why. It is a catalyst in the self-help genre, and although the content is somewhat date to a degree, it can still provide immense value to the commoner of the 21st century. I highly recommend it to my fellow professionals in the IT field, in which despite us having the unfair reputation of lacking social skills, a bit more prowess in people skills will make us a stronger part of the community.

I give it a rating of 4/5.


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