What’s wrong with Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”?

I always thought this was an awful book. I thought so because it sounded so egoistic to me. Win friends, influence people, all to one’s own advantage. What’s wrong with him?

Much to my surprise, I quite liked the book. As he explains, he did about 15 years of research before writing the book, and you can see it. It’s thorough, it’s well written, and it’s useful. And it’s not really egoistic. Of course in the end one benefits from it, but what I find nice is that others will benefit too, so it’s all about that. Somewhere towards the end he writes “The principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart. I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life.”

It’s hard to summarize the book in a few sentences. What it’s basically about is to change one’s attitude towards other people, to praise them instead of criticising them, to become a better person, so that one is on the same page and achieves common goals together. In the end, we often have common goals with the IT department at work, with our students, our colleagues, and our bosses. And of course with our partners and families.

Carnegie goes through many examples and then spells out a number of principles that I could repeat here, but they actually only make sense in light of the examples and his explanations. Still, if you’re curious, then you can find them here. What I find fascinating is that the examples and the principles make so much sense—one can really see that a lot of thought went into them.

So what’s wrong with Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”? I think the title. A better one would probably be “How to be a good person and have success and happiness in life at the same time”. I really enjoyed it. Recommended reading.

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About kleintob

Tobias Klein is an Associate Professor at Tilburg University. He is an economist by training and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Mannheim, Germany. Before that he visited the University of California at Berkeley Ph.D. program and the Ph.D. program at University College London, respectively for a year. He is passionate about economics, politics, food, and travelling. See http://www.tobiasklein.ws for his professional website.

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