How To Win Friends and Influence People

Another book I finished reading recently is Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People.  This book has a special meaning to me, and it was my 4th time reading it.  When I was in 6th grade, my grandpa, a very quiet man that I respect greatly, gave me the book and told me that every man needs to read it.  Written in 1938 and printed in the 50’s it was probably the oldest book I’d ever seen.  The stories reflect its age as more than a few are based on Abraham Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt.  

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Carnegie examines disagreements, negative criticisms, how we respond to them, and how to better make them.  If we all followed just our instincts when dealing with people we’d have a mess of yelling and fighting that would lead nowhere over nothing.  It teaches the nature of people and the best methods of interacting.  As a 6th grader especially I learned a great deal from this book.  At that age I obviously had a lot of disagreements with my mother that we could not resolve.  This book opened my eyes to the futility of the disagreements and how we might have a shot of dealing with them.

One of my favorite lessons from the book has gotten me out of several speeding tickets.  It works well both with the police or anyone who has caught you in a wrong.  The technique is unlike what you might instinctually do.  Instead of denying or playing dumb like most, admit your error right away and if you are indeed sorry apologize.  “I’m sorry officer, I just got off the highway and was not watching my speed.  Its 35 here and I must have been going over 40.” Carnegie even goes so far as to recommend that you suggest a harsh punishment for yourself.  Often this results in surprise and a typical contrarian response.  The officer has much less incentive to punish someone who’s made a mistake and has obviously learned their lesson.

So does it work?  I’ve been pulled over 12 times and gotten only 1 ticket which I blame on the 4 friends crammed in the back seat complaining that “we’re going to be late to the choir concert” while I politely asked them to shut the hell up.  To this the officer’s contrary response was of course “Well you would have been there by now if you hadn’t been speeding.”

Its easy to forget the lessons, so I read it every few years to keep them fresh in my mind.  Each time the lessons are more and more obvious which I take as a good sign that my nature is changing to naturally use the mentality.

I had no idea when my grandfather had me read it, but the book is quite famous.  It was one of the first self-help books ever written and has sold over 15 million copies.  Our investor Paul Graham requested that we all read it before starting Y Combinator.  Its a great reference to teach nerds how to deal with people :).

If you’ve read it and are looking for something a bit on the next level I also highly recommend The Art of Loving, which actually mentions HTWFIP but gives more of the WHY than the HOW on dealing with people.

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