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16th May 2018

7 life lessons you can still learn from the original self-help book

'How to Win Friends and Influence People' is still relevant today

Alex Roberts

Although published in 1936, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ remains the go-to book on self-help and personal improvement

Enter any high street bookstore, head to the bestseller section and you will find an array of self-help titles. They’ll typically revolve around topics such as getting rich, getting fit and building strong relationships.

Aside from religious texts, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People was arguably the first self-help book to inspire people to take control of their lives.

Despite a publication date of over 82 years ago, its key themes are still relevant today.

The book is split into seven sections, if you include the introduction – 12 Things This Book Will Do For You.

Lesson 1 – Reading The Book Will:

  1. Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions.
  2. Enable you to make friends quickly and easily.
  3. Increase your popularity.
  4. Help you to win people to your way of thinking.
  5. Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.
  6. Enable you to win new clients, new customers.
  7. Increase your earning power.
  8. Make you a better salesman, a better executive.
  9. Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, keep your human contacts smooth and pleasant.
  10. Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist.
  11. Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts.
  12. Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates.

Each of the subsequent six sections combines useful life lessons with a distinct plan of action.

Here are the pick of the bunch:

Lesson 2 – Fundamental Techniques In Handling People

Carnegie states that you shouldn’t criticise, condemn or complain about people.

If criticism is warranted, a better way of working is to provide constructive feedback that points others in a positive direction. Generally, you should focus on appreciating others.

This seems pretty cut-and-dry nowadays, but how many of you have worked for a boss that doesn’t understand it?

Richard Branson, among others, has highlighted the importance of looking after his staff long before his customers, so who is to argue with such an approach?

Lesson 3 – Ways To Make People Like You

The main method of making people like you is simple: become interested in others, if you want them to become interested in you.

Bad with names? Try and rectify that. Addressing people by their first name as often as possible ensures they feel valued and that chatting to them is personalised.

Listen to people, and encourage them to talk about themselves. You may feel absolutely ecstatic about the morning’s workout, your new haircut or what you’ve got for lunch. Just keep that to yourself to begin with.

Asking others about their interests increases the chances that the situation is reciprocated – so they should be interested in you too.

Lesson 4 – Win People To Your Way Of Thinking

Avoid all arguments. Admittedly, this is easier said than done in the age of social media.

It’s ridiculously easy to call someone every name under the sun when they believe that Joe Hart is still a good goalkeeper.

Respecting the opinions of others and listening to their ideas is a more effective way of working.

Letting someone present their case and asking questions around it (rather than shooting it down directly) is more likely to win them around to your point of view, when you get the chance to present it.

Lesson 5 – Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment

While closely linked to Lesson 4, this section is aimed more at those looking to lead a group of people to success.

Instead of harsh criticism, showing praise and appreciation is preferable when having people work with you.

This approach also involves admitting responsibility for mistakes and only indirectly hinting at the errors made by others.

Playing football at the weekend? Admit it when the man you’re supposed to be marking heads in from a set-piece. If your striker is missing too many chances, say that the team needs to be more clinical in front of goal.

Lesson 6 – Ask For A Favour

In the original book, this section is actually entitled ‘Letters That Produced Miraculous Results’. Replace ‘letter’ with email or WhatsApp message, and you’ve got the modern equivalent.

Carnegie pits two different kinds of letters against each another. One burdens the recipient with a task they will feel forced into doing.

An example would be ‘You have to call this client’.

The second letter asks for the same outcome, but as a favour. This approach, Carnegie states, is far more likely to have someone complete the task for you since they won’t want to let you down and seem like a bad person.

Think ‘Would you be able to do me a favour and call this client?’

Lesson 7 – Rules For A Happy Home Life

Even in 1936, Carnegie was advising his readers not to nag their partners or criticise unfairly.

If you want to head out with your mates, just go!

Seriously, the secret to a happy home life, Carnegie states, is to appreciate your partner honestly and show courtesy to them where appropriate.

He also suggests reading a good book on sex.