How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My goodness, reading this version of Dale Carnegie’s cult classic book is like meeting a long-lost friend after many years and discovering they now have a bionic body.
‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ was a book I read in my late teens and it honestly changed my life. It remains the only book I’ve read for non-research purposes that I made detailed notes on (which I still have in a notebook somewhere). For years I have talked about this book in glowing terms to my students even though I never went back to the book myself (at least not wholly – occasional clips found online were enjoyed). Interestingly, it is perhaps the only ‘self-help’ book in the pop psychology genre which is quoted by social psychologists such as Richard Wiseman without being dismissed as trash. This reminds me, as a psychologist, that while research is methodical, it is also narrow and long-winded and we don’t always have all the answers. Sometimes, a person who has had many experiences and is an acute observer of people can glean universal truths which are long-standing without having to prove them in a laboratory.
But what if I was wrong? Nearly thirty years on, I come back to Dale Carnegie but ‘upgraded’ by Brent Cole to use new stories and present Carnegie’s advice for an age where many of us communicate more by text and social media than we do face to face. I wanted to see if I still really thought his advice life-changing, or even just relevant, or if I would realise I’d been conned all these years and finally see the fakery for what it really is.
What I read was both heartwarming and slightly disturbing. On the one hand, it really felt like coming home, seeing an old and trusted friend. I ‘hugged’ the words and the wisdom they contain and found myself nodding in agreement just like I did decades ago. The use of more relevant and up-to-date examples (such as from Barack Obama) is a welcome addition (Carnegie died in 1955 and his examples are aged and decidedly American) but the wise understanding of how people tick is just the same.
On the disturbing front, I realised just how much of my character (or at least the best parts of it, for what that’s worth) read like a summary of the book. To call Carnegie’s book ‘life-changing’ isn’t just a synonym for ‘really good’ for me. It was the first book which opened up the human psyche to me and gave me a key to understand both myself and those around me. I soaked in the advice and, still today, follow it without second thought. I makes me wonder just how much of me is really me.
There are caveats. I’m no Mother Teresa. There’s been times when I certainly have NOT followed this advice and, inevitably, things have gone badly wrong between myself and (an)other(s). But I can honestly say that where I have the best reputations I have most successfully applied Carnegie’s rules. But, to an extent, I’m also ‘Post-Carnegie’. If something has changed it is that we are all much more aware of interpersonal skills and how to ‘work’ people today and that means that sometimes, even when applying all his rules, some people are still just obstructive and difficult. They know the game and they’re not falling for it.
While I will not major on this area here (but will undoubtedly write about it somewhere else), I am finding that as I reach middle age that some people are worth applying Carnegie’s teachings to and others…simply are not. Perhaps I’m just becoming a grumpy old man but as I read this new version of his book I did think of people I’ve know for whom such-and-such a rule either would not work or I simply wouldn’t want to try. Perhaps I’m just becoming an irritable old bastard?
But I have digressed. In short, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a commonsense, practical understanding of how people work. Moreover, it is full of decency and kindness – again, where I’ve got it right this is what I’m best known for and it comes almost entirely from Dale. This book teaches you simply how to be a decent human being and to treat others much the same. The result were, and still are, remarkable. It’s up to you if and when you wish to apply the principles and with whom.
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Social Entrepreneur, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist, D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out soon – don’t miss them!
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken writes for a number of publications around the world. Past reviewer for Paste magazine, The Doughnut, E2D and United Airways, and currently reviews for Lancashire Life magazine.