Saturday, January 06, 2007

How to Win Friends and Influence People

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie is a very interesting and practical book. Of the personal/professional development books that I have read, this one is probably the most valuable.

Carnegie summaries each chapter in one sentence as a "principle". Here they are:
  • Don't criticise, condemn or complain.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want.
  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile.
  • Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
  • Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  • Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong.".
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.
  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  • Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
  • Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
  • Appeal to the nobler motives.
  • Dramatise your ideas.
  • Throw down a challenge.
  • Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  • Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
  • Talk about your own mistakes before criticising the other person.
  • Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  • Let the other person save face.
  • Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be "hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise."
  • Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  • Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  • Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
Although these points give a bit of an idea what Cargnegie is advocating, I'd highly recommend reading the book. Each chapter is filled with stories - they are the valuable part as they provide examples of speeches, letters and conversations.

People have criticised the book as coldly manipulative. From reading the table of contents and the title of the book, I would be inclined to agree. Personally, from the content of chapters themselves, I find that a different story emerges. My reading is that Carnegie suggests that most people are fundamentally nice, and if they enjoy your company and you make them feel good they will reciprocate by looking out for your interests. Similarly, people will feel guilty if they are in the wrong, and will resolve their mistakes, as long as they are not angry from hurt pride or similar. Carnegie paints people as highly emotional beings, driven by pride and ego, but with huge untapped potential and happy to help others.

If I had to choose the 3 most important points from the book, I'd say:
  • People desire a sense of importance. Anyone will be pleased to have their opinion sought, talk about something of interest to them or have their achievements recognised and praised.
  • Use a light and indirect touch when trying to change people. Rather than criticising directly, explain a how you made a similar mistake in the past and the consequences, or give the person a good reputation to live up to.
  • When you make a mistake, don't hide it or argue. Instead, admit it straight out and blame yourself in the strongest terms.
I borrowed the book from the library, but am planning to buy my very own copy. It is worth having on the bookshelf and re-reading.


Michael Suzio said...

How funny. I'm a graduate of the course, and I'm totally working on seminars and lessons around the concept of "programmers are people too". I think programmers are (by nature) even more emotionally and ego-driven people than most. It's part of what makes us great in our creative endeavors.

Understanding how to work well with team-members and how human factors affect development are so key. If you want to get the most out of people you work with (whether as peers, mentors, or people you supervise), Carnegie is the best (most pragmatic, to use a term of current interest) approach I've seen yet.

In other words... great column! :-)

(Google linked to you when I looked for "fine reputation", and then when I saw RoR it piqued my interest).

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