Since it first hit the shelves in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, has been the definitive text in the world of influence and interpersonal dynamics. The only other book even remotely in the same league as How to Win Friends is perhaps Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Power of Persuasion.
Now, maybe you don’t give a hoot about making friends. That’s fine.
You should still read these books.
Because regardless of what you do for work, or where you’re at in life, if you’re reading these words, then you have to deal with people every. single. friggin. Day.
Though you might do your best to avoid those awkward social interactions around the water cooler, you will, eventually, have to communicate with another human being to achieve some goal or fulfill some unspoken desire.
How to Win Friends and Influence People will illuminate a lot of basic ideas that seem super obvious in hindsight, but if you were to analyze your past week of interpersonal interactions, you’d find you implemented very few, if any, of the principles laid out between these hallowed pages.
The basic premise of How to Win Friends and Influence People is that every person on this planet thinks, without equivocation, that they are the most important person on this planet. If you are able to fully grasp and utilize this concept, you will be well on your way towards building more mutually beneficial relationships.
If there is one single idea I would encourage you to take away from How to Win Friends, it’s this:
You can’t make anybody do anything.
You can only make them want to do something.
How you make somebody want to do a thing is of the utmost importance. Sure, we can coerce through force or threats, but that’s a shallow form of cooperation that, in the world we live in, will not carry you particularly far.
By contrast, if you’re able to elicit cooperation by intrinsically motivating the person across from you because it is something they care about doing well, then you, my friend, are on your way to success.
I studied Behavioral Psychology quite a lot in school (enough that they finally bribed me with a degree if I’d just go away), and as an author it is possibly the single field of study I leverage the most in my work.
Great stories are stories about people. Whether that’s a singular person versus nature, versus herself, or versus the world, you’ll find it difficult to achieve great commercial success without at least one person in your story. So books like How to Win Friends and Influence People are an amazing resource because they shed a light onto basic human behaviors we can leverage in our own writing.
Compelling stories unearth deeply rooted truths about the human condition. And much of the human condition is predicated on our daily interactions with other humans. You are doing yourself a disservice as a writer if you are not investing heavily in educating yourself in this field.
There are a lot of practical tips in How to Win Friends and Influence People, but be forwarned, the writing itself very much feels as though it is a product of the 1930’s. It’ll feel quaint and even a little naive at times, but stick with it and dig deep because there are quite a lot of hidden gems buried deep beneath the surface.
Because you were kind enough to make it this far into my blatherings, I shall now share with you 3 tips for how to handle people:
1) Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
I suck at this one. Truly. I am hyper-critical of myself and the world around me. Far too often I find myself criticizing others for doing something in a way I wouldn’t have done it.
If you’re looking for a singular piece of advice that will instantly improve your relationships, it is this. Don’t criticize. Stop being judgmental.
We all have have that person in our life who always has something to bitch about. Whether it’s the weather, the mailman, or the migrating moose population, they will always have something, or somebody, to criticize. These people are toxic. Their complaining is infectious. It drags everybody down into a pessimistic pit ill-will.
Compare that those rare unicorns of people who are always positive and upbeat. They never have a bad-word to say about those around them. We enjoy their company because they make us feel better about ourselves and the world at large.
The first step towards becoming one of those people is simple, but far from easy: Stop complaining.
Oh, hey, look…another thing I really suck at. This particular weakness is born from pride and ego. I’m bad at sharing honest appreciation with those around me because for so long I had it framed in my mind as a zero-sum game. To tell somebody how awesome they are at whatever task they are being praised for, is to imply that I am not as good at said task.
I’m obscenely competitive and can admit that my own vanity has stopped me from encouraging/appreciating those around me in the past.
3) Arouse in the other person an eager want
This ties into comment made earlier about the fact we can not make anybody do anything. We can only make them want to do a thing.
This all starts with inspiring an eager want in that other person.
How do you do this?
Well, I’m not going to spill the beans. Pick up Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to find out. You won’t be disappointed.