I have often been asked, “What is your favorite book?” This is such a difficult and unfair question, because great books, like great people, come in such a wide variety of subject matters and types: fiction, poetry, biography, history, philosophy, science, etc., and “greatness”, like beauty, has myriad forms and is often “in the eye of the beholder”. “Favorites” are better stated by category. However, if I am asked, “What book benefited you the most,” I can answer. That book is Dale Carnegie’s masterpiece of self-help, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Only 200 pages or so, it was first published in 1936, and it is still on the bookshelves and selling well in 99.99% of the bookstores in the Western World.
Such classics should not be summarized or critiqued; they should be read in its unvarnished entirety, and I don’t want to spoil it for you. My purpose here is simply to convince you to read this book. Toward that end, to illustrate its wisdom, here are just three of the life lessons that have so improved me and my life’s experiences:
- Putting the Other Person Wants First. When you want something, anything, from someone else, do not ask for it up front; first, put yourself in their shoes, wear their hat, and determine what they want that you can provide. Then, always begin your request (oral or written) by stating what you can do to help them. Once having their attention and interest, by offering to help them get what they want, you can end with your request, which will then be much better received. This has worked for me all of my life.
- Never Criticize. Never criticize; offer constructive suggestions and always precede them with a compliment. (Compliments are sincere praise and are always welcome; flattery is insincere and offends. Everyone does something that you can praise. Before offering your constructive suggestion, give a compliment on a related subject.
- Convincing Others. We can’t change the strong opinions of others, period, no matter how sound our logic or how eloquently we express it. Most of us are epigenetic; that is, we have very strong, genetically influence opinions (for example, on subjects like race, religion and politics). Even when we know that our views are wrong, we rarely change them. Carnegie wisely admonishes us: If you wish to change the opinions of others, ask questions (without a negative edge or body language) that may lead the other person to give answers that lead him/her in your direction.
Every man, woman and child needs to read this book. I forced my children to read it, and I enticed my grandchildren to read it. I have read it several times from cover-to-cover, and I have reviewed it hundreds of times. Do yourself a huge favor: Read this book and read every chapter twice before reading the next one. When you’re finished, urge every member of your family to follow your lead. Then, keep this jewel handy and leaf through the summaries of each chapter now and then. I have never commended this book to anyone who didn’t love it. No other book has done more to help me get along with other people. Be sure to read it.