One of my readers recently asked me this: “I just finished Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People,’ and I wanted to ask for your experience with this book. I ask you this because I really want to know how to improve my social skills. I’m in my 20’s and I really want to make friends. Social anxiety is a thing in my life but I’m really looking forward to getting through it.”
Dale Carnegie’s book was published in 1936—more than 80 years ago! It’s been reissued and edited over the years, but the content has been mostly the same. Is this “old” book’s advice still relevant in today’s age of social media, multitasking, and social pressure?
Before I share my experience with the advice from How to Win Friends and Influence People, I want to stress that I think it’s a great book. And it’s definitely worth reading.
But it also contains some outdated advice. Particularly in the “Six Ways to Make People Like You” section of the book. I’ll list them down below and explore what I’ve seen work (or not) in the present day.
1. Become genuinely interested in other people
“You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.”
When you’re making friends, you’ll want to get close to people who share the same interests, hobbies, passions, and values. Otherwise, what’s the point? It’s best to approach people who like similar things—no need to fake it.
It’s different if you’re on a networking mindset. People with different interests can be working in the same industry. Maybe you both work in digital marketing, and one of you loves to run while the other hates it and prefers playing golf.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a mutually-beneficial business relationship with each other. But you don’t have to force yourself to like playing golf, just to connect with that person. Be yourself and don’t try to please people.
Just remember that most people only care about themselves. If you meet those types of people, there’s no need to be interested in them. In my experience, it’s better to spend your energy on people who’re also interested in you.
“Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’… The effect of a smile is powerful.”
Sure, it’s great to smile. But you can also make friends without smiling all the time. This is where How to Win Friends and Influence People doesn’t convince me.
In business, it’s good to be polite and friendly. But you should know by now that serious entrepreneurs don’t care much about what they see on the surface. They know that the real side of a business and a person is always underneath.
They silently ask things like: “Does this person know what he’s talking about?” “Can I trust this person?” “What are the actual results of his business?” So, focus on those things instead.
3. Remember a person’s name
“The average person is more interested in their name than in all the other names in the world put together.”
This is great advice and plays into people’s selfish nature. Getting a person’s name right is important. You don’t want to send someone an email, asking them for something, and misspell their names! It simply shows you’re not paying attention if you do that.
I’ve experienced this. I’ve received emails where someone asks me to do something for them (maybe they’re pitching me for a business opportunity, or a product review, etc.), and they can’t even get my name right.
The impression I get from these people is that they don’t pay attention to details and, therefore, they don’t care. And if they don’t care about the details of their own business, why should I?
Attention to detail is a must if you want your pitches to be successful.
4. Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves
“The easiest way to become a good conversationalist is to become a good listener.”
Again, this is a good point from How to Win Friends and Influence People. This applies to friends, family, clients, and business partners. In an age of social media and shortened attention spans, people are too busy talking about themselves that only a few know how to listen attentively.
A client or investor will choose you over others if you show that you understand their needs and demonstrate what you can do about it. Likewise, you can make friends feel closer to you when you listen to their stories with full attention.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
“The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.”
When you’re talking to a client or potential investor, it’s all about what they need and what their priorities are. Salespeople fail in selling their products because they keep talking about what their product can do or what features it has. Nobody cares about those. So, let the other people talk about their interests, needs, and concerns. Listen attentively. Then focus on informing them how your product/service can help.
This is also the key to making friends. You’ll naturally be more inclined towards people who enjoy the same stuff as you. You can try to expand your social circle and be friends with people interested in other things, but make sure you’re not faking it. Otherwise, you’ll look like you’re trying too hard.
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
“The golden rule is to treat other people how we would like to be treated.”
When people encourage you on your milestone and progress, you become more driven to achieve your goals.
People who’re on the same track and wavelength can help us take accountability for our progress. They also provide a sense of importance through their encouragement.
This is the power of a community. That’s why I created The Sounding Board—a safe space for entrepreneurs to make genuine connections, test business ideas, and share insights.
Winning Friends and Influencing People is Not Always About Others
As you can see, most of the advice from How to Win Friends and Influence People is still relevant. The only thing you want to be aware of is that you don’t become a people pleaser. There’s no honor in that. In fact, most people don’t like it when you try too hard to please them. It makes others uncomfortable.
You’ll also notice that the book focuses on the other person a lot. It’s all about the other person’s interests, hobbies, and concerns.
But healthy relationships are a two-way street. You can’t always be the listener or the one trying to understand. This is what the book didn’t stress enough. You have to allow yourself to be heard. And if others don’t like that, so what?
If your friends are only interested in talking about themselves and what they like, then I suggest you look for new friends. Many people in the world would be interested in what you have to say, and vice versa.
Finally, if you want to influence someone to your way of thinking, you can’t do that by simply listening. You also need to speak up and learn to tell your story and share your ideas effectively.
Image courtesy of Austin Distel.