How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – A Book Review

“There’s far more information in a Smile than a frown. That’s why encouragement is a much more effective teaching device than punishment.”

GENRE: Self-Help/Non-Fiction/Psychology
AUTHOR: Dale Carnegie
PAGES: 278

Dale Carnegie is an American writer, lecturer, and the developer of famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills. Dale Carnegie was a poor farmer’s boy and the second son of James William Carnegey and Amanda Elizabeth Harbinson. He was born in 1888 in Maryville, Missouri. His first job after college was to sell Correspondence courses to ranchers after which he moved on to selling bacon, lard and soap for Armour & Company. He soon started teaching a course in public speaking and how to influence people which became quite popular seeing hundreds of thousands of people seeking the course. This was simply because at that point in time there were philosophies but no concrete & practical methodologies which were taught.

The book is written in straight forward Chapter by Chapter format, each chapter comprising of one principle followed by real world examples of its implementation by – well known figures to people in normal corporate jobs taking the course. The prose of the book is quite simple to understand, and though the book was written in 1932, the principles are still as valid in the present time as they were in 1932. This could be attributed to the fact that human response or behaviour remains the same when subjected to certain conditions.


The book is divided into four parts containing four different categories, each in-turn containing various principles about it. These are as follow:

Part One: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1. “If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive”
2. “The Big Secret of dealing with People”
3. “”He who can do this has the whole world with Him. He who cannot walks a lonely way”

Part Two: Six ways to make people like you
1. Do this and you’ll be welcome anywhere
2. A Simple way to make a good first impression
3. If you don’t do this, you are headed for trouble
4. An easy way to become a good conversationalist
5. How to interest people
6. How to make people like you Instantly

Part Three: How to win people to your way of thinking
1. You Can’t Win an argument
2. A sure way of making Enemies – and how to avoid it
3. If you’re wrong, admit it
4. A drop of honey
5. The secret of Socrates
6. The safety valve in Handling complaints
7. How to get cooperation
8. A formula that will work wonders for you
9. What everybody wants
10. An appeal that everybody likes
11. The movies do it. TV does it. Why don’t you do it?
12. When nothing else works, try this

Part Four: Be a Leader: How to change people without giving offence or arousing resentment
1. If you must find fault, this is the way to begin
2. How to criticise – and not be hated for it
3. Talk about your own mistakes first
4. No one likes to take orders
5. Let the other person Save face
6. How to spur people on to Success
7. Give a dog a Good name
8. Make the fault seem easy to Correct
9. Making people glad to do what you want.

Most of the above principles written are kind of self-explanatory. However, Dale Carnegie iterates and re-iterates it in the book that these principles will not work if you wish to manipulate people. Only genuine interest works. This is because most of us can understand quite well when we are receiving false compliments. For “Of Course Flattery seldom works with discerning people. It is shallow, selfish and insincere. It ought to fail and it usually does. True, some people are so hungry, so thirsty, for appreciation that they will swallow anything, just as a starving man will eat grass and fish worms.” Thus, in order to master these principles, one has to take the first step and be genuine and take an interest in other people. After all, that is the whole purpose of taking this course. Nothing appears magically and the only thing people are really interested in are themselves; it is the basic human behaviour.

Let me re-iterate this with an excerpt of the book giving an example:

Look at the letters that come across your desk tomorrow morning,” (emails, in the present context) “and you will find that most of them violate this important canon of common sense. Take this one, a letter written by the head of the radio department of an advertising agency with offices scattered across the continent. This letter was sent to the managers of local radio stations throughout the country. (I have set down, in brackets, my reactions to each paragraph.)

Mr. John Blank,

Dear Mr. Blank: desires to retain its position in advertising agency leadership in the radio field.

[Who cares what your company desires? I am worried about my own problems. The bank is foreclosing the mortage on my house, the bugs are destroying the hollyhocks, the stock market tumbled yesterday. I missed the eight-fifteen this morning, I wasn’t invited to the Jones’s dance last night, the doctor tells me I have high blood pressure and neuritis and dandruff. And then what happens? I come down to the office this morning worried, open my mail and here is some little whippersnapper off in New York yapping about what his company wants. Bah! If he only realized what sort of impression his letter makes, he would get out of the advertising business and start manufacturing sheep dip.]

This agency’s national advertising accounts were the bulwark of the network. Our subsequent clearances of station time have kept us at the top of agencies year after year.

[You are big and rich and right at the top, are you? So what? I don’t give two whoops in Hades if you are as big as General Motors and General Electric and the General Staff of the U.S. Army all combined. If you had as much sense as a half-witted hummingbird, you would realize that I am interested in how big I am – not how big you are. All this talk about your enormous success makes me feel small and unimportant.]

We desire to service our accounts with the last word on radio station information.

[You desire! You desire. You unmitigated ass. I’m not interested in what you desire or what the President of the United States desires. Let me tell you once and for all that I am interested in what I desire – and you haven’t said a word about that yet in this absurd letter of yours .]

Will you, therefore, put on your preferred list for weekly station information – every single detail that will be useful to an agency in intelligently booking time.

[“Preferred list.” You have your nerve! You make me feel insignificant by your big talk about your company – nd then you ask me to put you on a “preferred” list, and you don’t even say “please” when you ask it.]

A prompt acknowledgment of this letter, giving us your latest “doings,” will be mutually helpful.

[You fool! You mail me a cheap form letter – a letter scattered far and wide like the autumn leaves – and you have the gall to ask me, when I am worried about the mortgage and the hollyhocks and my blood pressure, to sit down and dictate a personal note acknowledging your form letter – and you ask me to do it “promptly.” What do you mean, “promptly”? Don’t you know I am just as busy as you are – or, at least, I like to think I am. And while we are on the subject, who gave you the lordly right to order me around? … You say it will be “mutually helpful.” At last, at last, you have begun to see my viewpoint. But you are vague about how it will be to my advantage.]

Very truly yours,
John Doe
Manager Radio Department
P.S. The enclosed reprint from the Blankville Journal will be of interest to you, and you may want to broadcast it over your station.

[Finally, down here in the postscript, you mention something that may help me solve one of my problems. Why didn’t you begin your letter with – but what’s the use? Any advertising man who is guilty of perpetrating such drivel as you have sent me has something wrong with his medulla oblongata. You don’t need a letter giving our latest doings. What you need is a quart of iodine in your thyroid gland.]

Now, if people who devote their lives to advertising and who pose as experts in the art of influencing people to buy – if they write a letter like that, what can we expect from the butcher and baker or the auto mechanic?”

Isn’t that how we all think when we open our laptops and access our daily work emails? Let’s be honest, we are all thinking along these lines – when we get our company’s newsletters telling about how big they have become or they got the advertisement on Times square or how they got a new website up and running, and so on and so forth. And can you see what mistakes the companies are making in those newsletters or emails? I think it’s self evident.

You have to take interest in people. Period. You have to talk about what they want, and not what you want – a mistake fatal to a Sales person’s career. There are various principles that are talked about in the book but this is what forms the core of those principles to apply. These were followed by Lincoln to Rockefeller to any great man you know. These are being followed by the successful entrepreneur you see or even by a normal person in your office who have made great progress in his career of which you’re so jealous of.


Talking to the point, the book is worth reading. For everyone who are willing to make a change in their life, this book is worth its salt. The style of writing is simple and easy to understand to an average or even a new reader and the principles very practical. As they have stated in the book, you can read and re-read each chapter and can treat this book as a working handbook; or as they have stated in the book:

In order to get the most out of this book:
a. Develop a deep, driving desire to master the principles of human relations,
b. Read each chapter twice before going on to the next one.
c. As you read, stop frequently to ask yourself how you can apply each suggestion.
d. Underscore each important idea.
e. Review this book each month.
f. Apply these principles at every opportunity. Use this volume as a working handbook to help you solve your daily problems.
g. Make a lively game out of your learning by offering some friend a dime or a dollar every time he or she catches you violating one of these principles.
h. Check up each week on the progress you are making. Ask yourself what mistakes you have made, what improvement, what lessons you have learned for the future.
i. Keep notes in the back of this book showing how and when you have applied these principles.

I highly recommend this book. A Timeless bestseller indeed!

You can also read a short version of this review on Blogger.

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