Is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Still Worth Reading?

My personal copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, sitting on my desk.
My personal copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, sitting on my desk.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like to read. And anyone who knows me really well knows that I like to read on self-improvement.

Even though I read a lot, I rarely write reviews. Sometimes that’s because I need time to internalize a book’s message. Other times it’s because a book underwhelmed me, and I don’t like to leave a critical review.

Then occasionally, a book comes along that impresses me so much that I can’t help but write about it. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of those, as is War and Peace.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is also one of those books.

I had known about this book for a while. My mom likes to use the phrase “win friends and influence people” (even though she’s never read the book herself), so you could say I grew up hearing about it a lot. I don’t know anyone else who has read this book, though.

After reading many self-improvement and “soft skills” books over the past five years, I decided to read this classic. I found that many other self-improvement books, while meaning well, fell flat to some extent. They lacked something. I hoped that, because this book has stood the test of time (80 years in print and millions of copies sold), it would contain whatever it is that those other books don’t have.

For context, I am an extraverted introvert. I enjoy being around people in small groups and in small doses, but have to retreat to solitude at the end of the day to recharge. I’m not socially incompetent, but I’ve always felt I had subpar social skills, even among those within my “inner circle”.

I was blessed to get a college job that forced me to improve my social skills and deal with people more, mostly over the phone and via email. My boss kindly coached me in ways to improve my communication, and over time I developed a sense of “how to say things best”. I practiced these “tactics” over and over, and I began to see that people almost always responded positively and predictively to them. Pretty soon, these skills became second nature, and now I’ll forever use them without thinking twice about it.

I say all that because I waded into How to Win Friends and Influence People with at least some sense of how to win friends and influence people. Still, I figured there was plenty more that I didn’t know.

Boy, was I right.

Carnegie is a rags-to-riches kind of guy from a little farm in northwest Missouri. Read his story in the book.

First of all, if you are organized and methodical like myself, this book is for you. Carnegie simplifies and codifies the basics of human behavior. You can flip to the last page in each part and read the rules for winning friends, leadership, etc. Review these often!

Second, for each rule, Carnegie provides a plethora of stories from real people. This isn’t some theoretical psychological ivory-tower talk. People have tested and proven this stuff, time and time again. Read their stories to learn how they did it and how you can do it, too. (Note: The latest editions contain some updated anecdotes that are more relevant for today’s readers.)

Third, the sections are short. You could read one rule a day and put it into practice. Or you could read a whole section. I did both as I devoured this book.

As I read, I found myself making mental notes: “Hmm, that’s interesting. I need to try that out.” Or, “I think I already do a pretty good job of this.” Or sometimes, “Oh! So that’s why people act that way!”

So, if you’ve read this far in my review, I bet you’re wondering whether it has helped me.

Well, I read this book in about two weeks, giving myself plenty of time to digest each section. I needed to think about how to best put the rules into practice in my everyday life, whether at work, home, or elsewhere. I just finished the book a few days ago, so I haven’t had a chance to put everything into practice yet.

That said… I’m already seeing positive results.

I sat down with my old boss a couple weeks ago with a business proposition for him. I didn’t even do much of the talking. I let him talk about his business, life, and so on. I asked a few questions here and there because I wanted to see things from his point of view, and nodded with interest as I listened to his answers.

By the end of our meeting, and with little pushback on his part, he accepted my proposition. And all I had to do was listen with interest and let him do the talking.

Given, we’ve known each other for a while and have a high degree of trust in each other, so I’ll give another example.

At a friend’s wedding, I reconnected with some friends I hadn’t seen since high school. I’m not a Type-A personality, but I took control of each conversation and started by asking them how they were doing, what they were doing, and so on. I don’t like to talk much anyway, so all I had to do was stand, smile, and listen. Some of them went on and on and on… because they felt like I cared about what they were saying. And I did.

The end result? Reconnected with old friends, who lamented the fact that I had to leave early. (We would’ve partied all night!) I gave one guy a compliment and it hit him like a fly ball out to left field! He and I had never been super close, so it was the last thing he expected to come out of my mouth. The surprise on his face was priceless.

But what was even better was the fact that, by employing these rules, I drummed up conversations with people I’d never met before. I had some fantastic conversations with some fantastic people: an attractive young lady who (like me) stood alone at the reception, several of my friends’ parents, other guests…. Breaking the ice and establishing rapport was a piece of wedding cake.

I’ve even noticed a change in myself. Smiling more has improved my outlook on life. I feel more in control of things that happen at work. I can better gauge others’ expectations and meet them. I’m not afraid to sit down with my manager and discuss a problem.

I feel more in control of life in general. I feel more confident. And confidence is contagious in the best way possible, folks.

To answer the question this article poses, yes—How to Win Friends and Influence People is absolutely still worth reading.

Why? Because even though times change, people remain the same. Human behavior is the same across the ages—just pick up any history book and see for yourself. People twenty, two-hundred, and two-thousand years ago responded to social cues the same way they respond today.

If you want to improve your social success, read this book. Read it, and be diligent in putting its principles into practice. That’s the only way you’ll ever be able to improve. Knowledge isn’t power, but applied knowledge is.

There is a key, though: You must be genuine in your interactions with other people. Smile from the heart. Nod in affirmation. Try to see the world through their eyes. If you do… even if you do it imperfectly… you will win friends and influence people.

I have. So let’s see you do it, too.

Buy your copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People today.


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What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

Well, now I’m telling you! My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in everyday English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to.

It teaches you about the basic components without getting too technical, so you can become more computer-literate.

It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

Imagine feeling confident that you can solve your own tech problems without calling your tech-savvy friend, child, or grandchild. Imagine quickly feeling at home with software or apps you’ve never used before.

With How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, you will!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

P.S. If you opt for the paperback version, you can also get the Kindle version for only $0.99 more and read wherever you go on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle e-reader. Also, be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book.

Book Review: Roughing It by Mark Twain

miners_dream

Mark Twain in the Old West. It doesn’t get much better than that.

When most people think of Mark Twain (real name Sam Clemens), they think of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. What most people don’t know is, aside from writing the tales of these two boys wont to misbehave, he also wrote some very interesting books on his world travels.

In my junior English class in high school, we spent half of the fall semester learning about Mark Twin: his life, his writings, etc. I don’t remember a lot of that, but what I do remember was mention of two of his travelogues: The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It. The brief overview I heard in class was enough to intrigue me to check out these books of his. The Innocents Abroad tells of Twain’s travels, well, abroad, through Europe and the Middle East. Roughing It, written after the former, actually happened first, so I chose to read it first.

What ensues is a mostly-believable tale (Twain had a knack for stretching the truth just shy of the breaking point) that starts at the eastern end of the Pony Express in St. Joseph, Missouri, and heads west from there. Twain and his brother Orion Clemens, who was appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory, travel together and experience all manner of situations, most of which Twain makes humorous in hindsight with his unique wit. He visits Salt Lake City and tells of his observations of and interactions with the polygamous Mormons (and even provides a candid appendix at the end of the book chronicling Mormon history to the date); he presses on to Nevada and tries to “get rich quick” from mining for gold and meets all kinds of interesting characters there; he then heads to California and spends some time in San Francisco before finally setting sail for the Sandwich Islands (now the state of Hawaii) to describe the “conversion” of the natives by missionaries and explore volcanoes.

All along the way, Twain relates humorous conversations, tall tales, and plenty of profound thoughts (such as the fact that the Sandwich Islanders, who squatted on their hams, may have been the first ham sandwiches). As with anything Twain writes, the line between what really happened and what he embellished is blurred, so the reader must take a lot of what he says with a grain of salt. Still, he paints a vivid picture of life in the western part of the country during the 1860s that is worth the read for the history alone, but entertaining because Twain wrote it.

The book also includes illustrations that, along with the anecdotes, are downright hilarious. Below is an excerpt that made me laugh out loud, from Twain’s experiencing a terrible earthquake in San Francisco, and the accompanying images.

The “curiosities” of the earthquake were simply endless. Gentlemen and ladies who were sick, or were taking a siesta, or had dissipated till a late hour and were making up lost sleep, thronged into the public streets in all sorts of queer apparel, and some without any at all. One woman who had been washing a naked child, ran down the street holding it by the ankles as if it were a dressed turkey. Prominent citizens who were supposed to keep the Sabbath strictly, rushed out of saloons in their shirt-sleeves, with billiard cues in their hands. Dozens of men with necks swathed in napkins, rushed from barber-shops, lathered to the eyes or with one cheek clean shaved and the other still bearing a hairy stubble.

woman_and_baby

[…]

A certain foreign consul’s lady was the acknowledged leader of fashion, and every time she appeared in anything new or extraordinary, the ladies in the vicinity made a raid on their husbands’ purses and arrayed themselves similarly. One man who had suffered considerably and growled accordingly, was standing at the window when the shocks came, and the next instant the consul’s wife, just out of the bath, fled by with no other apology for clothing than—a bath-towel! The sufferer rose superior to the terrors of the earthquake, and said to his wife:

“Now that is something like! Get out your towel my dear!”

woman_and_towel

Another tale that struck me, that also ironically involves clothing, happened during Twain’s visit to the Sandwich Islands. I’ll save my remarks until after the excerpt.

In the rural districts of any of the Islands, the traveler hourly comes upon parties of dusky maidens bathing in the streams or in the sea without any clothing on and exhibiting no very intemperate zeal in the matter of hiding their nakedness. When the missionaries first took up their residence in Honolulu, the native women would pay their families frequent friendly visits, day by day, not even clothed with a blush. It was found a hard matter to convince them that this was rather indelicate. Finally the missionaries provided them with long, loose calico robes, and that ended the difficulty—for the women would troop through the town, stark naked, with their robes folded under their arms, march to the missionary houses and then proceed to dress!—

natives_and_missionary

The natives soon manifested a strong proclivity for clothing, but it was shortly apparent that they only wanted it for grandeur. The missionaries imported a quantity of hats, bonnets, and other male and female wearing apparel, instituted a general distribution, and begged the people not to come to church naked, next Sunday, as usual. And they did not; but the national spirit of unselfishness led them to divide up with neighbors who were not at the distribution, and next Sabbath the poor preachers could hardly keep countenance before their vast congregations. In the midst of the reading of a hymn a brown, stately dame would sweep up the aisle with a world of airs, with nothing in the world on but a “stovepipe” hat and a pair of cheap gloves; another dame would follow, tricked out in a man’s shirt, and nothing else; another one would enter with a flourish, with simply the sleeves of a bright calico dress tied around her waist and the rest of the garment dragging behind like a peacock’s tail off duty; a stately “buck” Kanaka would stalk in with a woman’s bonnet on, wrong side before—only this, and nothing more; after him would stride his fellow, with the legs of a pair of pantaloons tied around his neck, the rest of his person untrammeled; in his rear would come another gentleman simply gotten up in a fiery neck-tie and a striped vest.

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The poor creatures were beaming with complacency and wholly unconscious of any absurdity in their appearance. They gazed at each other with happy admiration, and it was plain to see that the young girls were taking note of what each other had on, as naturally as if they had always lived in a land of Bibles and knew what churches were made for; here was the evidence of a dawning civilization. The spectacle which the congregation presented was so extraordinary and withal so moving, that the missionaries found it difficult to keep to the text and go on with the services; and by and by when the simple children of the sun began a general swapping of garments in open meeting and produced some irresistibly grotesque effects in the course of re-dressing, there was nothing for it but to cut the thing short with the benediction and dismiss the fantastic assemblage.

You can decide for yourself if the above is (completely) true. In my not-so-humble opinion, the missionaries would have done well to bring only the Gospel and leave the clothes, and their prudish mores, at home.

Nevertheless, if you want a good laugh and a good history lesson, then pick up a copy of Roughing It. It is anything but a rough read; in fact, it is Mark Twain at his wittiest.

Buy Roughing It on Amazon

Read Roughing It for free or read it online at Project Gutenberg