There are a number of ways to introduce this book to you – how it is certainly one of the top books to read in your teens or your twenties. Or how good communication skills are one of the most common traits of highly successful people, or how the author of this book began conducting seminars for people who were interested in just that – becoming successful in their careers. Alternatively, one could reflect on how in the past decade or two, technology has significantly impacted human relations, specifically the way we communicate with each other and how this book helps us build those fundamental interpersonal skills.
Much has already been said and written about this book and the value holds for its readers. And rightly so, this book has been around for quite some time now: It was first published in October 1936 and a revised edition was published in 1981. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People is as relevant today as it was 85 years ago and quite frankly, needs no introduction.
Dale Carnegie was a salesman, lecturer, trainer and public speaker during his career. He authored several books, and developed and delivered several courses on self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills during his lifetime. It was after attending once such course, that a publisher persuaded Carnegie to let a stenographer take notes from his course to be published into a book. The rest, as they say, is history. What is interesting to note here is that the origins of the book was a practical course for skill-building. Hence, the book is more of a workbook than a novel and the author encourages his readers to do just that – to read, reflect, apply, reflect, re-read on repeat!
The book’s conversational style and abundance of anecdotes makes it easy to read; another testament to the manner in which it was conceived. The book originally had six sections which were later brought down to four in 1981. In each section, Carnegie talks about a few principles and elaborates with examples on how one might apply them. Much has been written about these principles and is available easily on the internet. That said, when it comes to developing skills, knowing is not doing, doing is doing! The only way to derive value is if we reflect and apply what we read.
In a world where the majority of us are focussed on making sure we get our message across and our voice heard, this book comes as a welcome refresher, encouraging us to take a step back and reflect on the outcome we want and whether our communication is aligned to it. What might seem like a no-brainer to us, might be completely oblivious to the other person; or worse - it could be diametrically opposite to what they believe. We come across many such situations in our daily lives. However, identifying (or developing) a reason to pick up the study of this book is key to sustaining the efforts. If you’re not there yet, just picking it up for a read, cover-to-cover would work just as well to get you started. Sometimes building awareness is the first step to doing something about it.
A lot of the principles Carnegie has written about have stood the test of time. Out of the 450,000 people who graduated from his institute at the time of his death in 1955, there are many recognisable names, including Warren Buffet’s. And this list has only grown since then. However, one can’t help but wonder, had Carnegie lived during our times, would his course be any different? And so would the principles in the book be any different? I leave that as a thought experiment for you to ponder in amusement.