This is the first post in a multi-part series where I share the highlights of the sections/subsections of the book How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Although the book was originally published in 1937, in my opinion it still has staying power as a guide for interacting with other people. I first read the book in May 2013 and it’s on my “to review yearly” list; it was recommended by multiple people I respect, and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to others.
There are four main sections, each with principles that provide general guidance. Each of those principles will be its own post in this series. The posts will not be exhaustive; I’ll simply present a handful of meaningful remarks I gleaned from the book in CliffsNotes-style.
Fundamental Techniques for Handling People
Principle 1: Don’t Condemn, Criticize, or Complain
- People rarely find blame in their own actions; they rationalize.
- It’s foolish to scold. 99/100 times, people don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be.
- Criticism puts a person on the defensive, and usually makes him strive to justify himself.
- Criticism wounds a person’s pride, sense of importance, and arouses resentment.
- The person we’re going to correct/condemn will probably justify himself and condemn us in return, or will say what President Taft did in his quarrel with Theodore Roosevelt in 1912: “I don’t see how I could have done any differently than what I have.”
“Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean.” — Confucius
- People resent rebuke and stinging criticism.
- We deal with creatures of emotion, not logic.
“I will speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know of everybody.” — Benjamin Franklin
And finally, here’s the text of the poem Father Forgets by W. Livingston Larned:
Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.
There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.
At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply,
“Hold your shoulders back!”
Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive‐and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!
Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped. You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither.
And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs. Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me?
The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding‐this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.
And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!
It is feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy‐a little boy!”
I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.
Give honest, sincere appreciation.