Over at Get Rich Slowly, JD sings the praises of How to Win Friends and Influence People. I was going to post about that book but JD’s said anything I would, so go read it there.
I think it’s an entertaining book, but the problem with using it for its intended purpose is that everybody has read it.
Also, the kinds of people (at least in this industry) whose asses I feel the need to blow smoke up have mostly spent 10 years refining their internal smoke detectors and will immediately try to turn the coversation towards the actual issue and away from being “won.”
I know Carnegie insists it’s not about blowing smoke, but it totally is. If it was sincerity, you wouldn’t need the book.
I’m not sure why you couldn’t do it sincerely. I mean, there was nothing new about any of that in 1930, either — you think the Rockefellers didn’t have those internal smoke detectors, or that Roosevelt wasn’t aware of the Socratic method?
But yes, it all requires sincerity. It’s not a toolkit. It’s recommendations on how to approach everyone, not just the people above you you have to win over. If there’s an option of applying it selectively then the point has been missed.
For instance, “Let the other fellow feel that the idea was his” isn’t about trying to trick someone into thinking they came up with your idea; it means bringing them around to your side, persuasively, so they understand that what you’re asking is something to benefit them, not just you.
So yes, the whole point is that you have to do it sincerely, and Carnegie hardly hides that point. But I can’t agree that there is no way to learn how to do those things sincerely. Take the “Nine Ways to Change People” section: there are certainly managers who don’t ask questions instead of giving direct orders, and who don’t begin with praise before finding fault, and who blame the eventual outcome of all of this on their reports. But there are also managers who used to be like that, but have since learned to manage people better by learning those techniques. That latter group clearly learned how to manage from somewhere — why couldn’t that “somewhere” be this book?
My own reaction to a lot of the points was essentially “Huh, yes, I already knew that. But I don’t know if I do it. In fact, I probably don’t.” And the necessary first step of a real change in the way one interacts with others — the sort that doesn’t set off those smoke detectors because it is sincere — is awareness of the problem.
How to Win Friends isn’t like Getting Things Done, a laundry list of techniques that you can start using today to get the sale or the promotion. It’s a proposal to make a fundamental change in all of the ways you connect to other people. Sure, everyone probably already does some of those things, and most will probably find it impossible to do all of them, but more of them will be more fullfilling than fewer.