Brief Book Review: How To Win Friends and Influence People

By Dale Carnegie

Summarised in one quote

Try to build bridges of understanding. Don’t build higher barriers of misunderstanding. (p.125)

There is something peculiar about reading a one of most read non-fiction books of all time, published in pretty much any language you can think of in a bazillion different editions since its first publication in 1936. Like wearing a stretched knitted sweater that’s been worn by the entire neighbourhood.

Despite its popularity, I initially found it difficult getting past the grating title of Carnegie’s book. The idea of ‘winning friends’ and ‘influencing people’ feels manipulative and insincere in today’s PC culture. But shear curiosity abided, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this age-old classic is not rooted in deception or dishonesty as I expected, but generosity and empathy.

My most profound revelation while reading this book wasn’t the revolutionary nature of Carnegie’s advice, quote the opposite. How To Win Friends and Influence People wouldn’t look out of place as a condensed Medium listicle published by The Mission in 2017. It goes to show that nothing is truly new, and humans are slow to learn and quick to forget.

There are far more relatable ways to understand the concepts in How To Win Friends and Influence People in a more modern context. But Carnegie’s work may make you question the true value of what you are reading in the first place.

A Story to Remember

There was one short story in How To Win Friends and Influence People that truly surprised me. It involved the Sun and Wind making a bet over who could remove the coat of an elderly man below.

Wind tried first, mustering all of its strength and unleashing a blowing gale against the old man. But no matter how hard Wind blew, the man gripped tighter and tighter onto his coat.

Wind gave in and allowed Sun to step forward. Sun took a moment, and then beamed its brightest smile upon the man. Wiping his brow, the old man glanced gratefully to the sky and happily removed his coat.

I love the imagery this simple story conjures, and how succinctly it distills the maxim that pure force rarely leads to co-operation.

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