It occurred to me that you can never overstate the perfectly apparent and that has been the key to Carnegie’s success
I wasn’t quite sure how to take it when a psychiatrist friend of mine gave me Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ last week. If I were a more sensitive soul I may have felt a faint pang of critique but as I’m open to self-improvement I settled down to read the book over the bank holiday weekend.
I’ve never really ‘done’ self-help books before but my psychiatrist friend informed me this is one of the ten books you should read in your lifetime. As I hold both his friendship and opinion in the highest of regards Dale and I spent the weekend in one another’s company.
He’s engaging and a brisk writer but as I read it, it occurred to me that this was stating the bleeding obvious. A nutshell summary for making people like you runs as follows:
- Be genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember people’s names.
- Listen and let people talk about themselves.
- Make the other person feel important – and do this sincerely.
Well, strike me down with a feather. The above is simply having good manners, I said to myself. But manners matter and as I went through the course of the next few days I noticed how rarely people apply the above principles in their everyday communication and, if they do, how selectively they do so.
It occurred to me that you can never overstate the perfectly apparent and that has been the key to Carnegie’s success. And we so often fail to do so. The small gesture, kind word, compliment or simple appreciation goes a long way to making life’s sometimes jagged journey a much smoother, happier and more pleasant ride.
The influence part of the book’s title had me less convinced. I don’t want to become one of those salespeople who almost tricks people into buying what they’d rather not have. Though in my case, it’s unlikely that anyone would buy a £5 million flat due to the dextrous techniques of an estate agent with one self-help book under his belt. And I hope that my skills will never become such that anyone would buy a property through me unless they really wanted it.
I found myself (in the first glow of post-Dale tutelage) practising the Carnegie method when visiting an exhibition on Monday. I repeated my friend’s name, had a rictus grin plastered to my face and took a keen interest in the minutiae of his life extending to the details of his washing machine being fixed. ‘Sebastian,’ he said as we had a drink after the show, ‘is everything OK? It’s like your personality has been possessed by some Stepfordian force.’
‘I’m just practising from this new book teaching me how to win friends.’
‘The thing is, I’m already your friend,’ he responded. ‘Can you start being normal now?’
Fair point, I thought.