Whenever I come across a list of books that are “guaranteed to change your life”, two works are invariably near the top: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Having heard nothing but praise for each of these titles, I finally found the time to add them to my reading list and finished both last month.
Even after seeing it recommended for years, I hesitated to pick up How to Win Friends and Influence People. The title sounded like a nice way of saying How to Get What You Want and Manipulate People—not a topic that overly interests me. Since Ishmael seemed to have a reasonable amount in common with my most recently completed book, though, I finally decided to give Carnegie’s classic a shot, opting for the most recent adaptation of the original—How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age—thinking that it would be more relevant to my day-to-day life than the decades-old original.
I’m happy to say that my misgivings were incorrect. Rather than offering tactics in manipulation, Carnegie and his associates stressed the importance of cooperation and achieving one’s goals by helping others or, at the very least, treating them with respect. The book also focuses on observation and listening to others. Through these means, it’s possible to give others what they desire and need, which tends to have the fortuitous side effect of increasing your standing with that person.
This advice has natural applications in the professional world—ensuring that your employees are happy and have the environment and tools necessary for peak performance is a great way to increase the productivity of your business. Unfortunately, this meant that I was a bit outside of the target audience. That’s not to say, though, that this book has no application in personal life; being an effective listener and observing your loved ones’ desires and needs is vital to be a positive impact upon the lives of your friends and families (and who doesn’t strive for that?). Remembering the humanity of the people behind a business that overcharged you or recognizing that accomplishments mean so much more than getting the credit for those accomplishments are also incredibly valuable and relevant to everyday life.
This book is chock-full of valuable insights and perspectives. If you’ve already spent a great deal of time and effort thinking about how to make others happy, though, this book may seem somewhat redundant. Had I read it about five years ago, I personally would have gained much more; as it stood, I had encountered a good number of the points that Carnegie raises on my own by the time I finally picked it up. That said, I did encounter several perspectives through reading this book that I had not previously considered, and I gained a deeper understanding of why some things work while others fall flat.
To summarize, I feel that this was a surprisingly wonderful book that is well worth the read even if the content itself is not particularly surprising. At times, however, it concentrates too much for my needs on the world of business. As such, I give How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age four stars out of five.