on July 19, 2001
That this book sold over 15 million copies must give us pause. That kind of sales record might indicate that it is filling a basic need. What need is that? The need to feel good about yourself and to think that you are doing the right thing. And so we get a simple and simplistic set of lists and formulae that tells us how to behave so that we can win friends and influence people. Would that life were that simple! The author claims these rules are scientifically based because he has done some real research by reading the opinions of famous people on this subject and by hiring a researcher to read things when he didn't have the time. The general rules are therefore supposedly derived from authoritative sources. But for the most part they are illustrated by sets of anecdotes that have come from the author's students who enrolled in his courses because they felt they needed to improve. Therefore the premise is shaky and the data base faulty. Those of us who know logic would say that there has been a partial selection of evidence such that what is presented here doesn't reflect the true universe of possibilities. Therefore no scientific conclusions can be drawn about whether the ideas proffered work or not. Other logical errors present therein include begging the question, false analogy, and over generalization. The major problem, however, is that that book asks people to be fake. We have plenty of fake things around these days, too many in fact. We don't need fake people. Diogenes found when requested by Alexander the Great no difference between the bones of his father and those of his father's slaves. Surely the philosopher must have known that that was the wrong answer. But he gave it anyway and lost his post. I say it is better to lose one's position and keep one's integrity. For, at last, are leveled, king and slave, without distinction, in the silent grave.
on September 21, 2001
You're really going to let me have it, aren't you? How DARE I give but one star to the great How to Win Friends and Influence People?
Forgive me. I do so as a matter of principle.
This material works -- depending on how you define "works." What is your objective? If your principle aim in reading this book is to improve your likeability in more superficial day-to-day relationships, in business contexts in particular, you have found your manual. If your capacity to rationalize is strong enough to allow you to believe you aren't constantly being insincere when putting this book's advice into practice, or you simply aren't bothered by insincerity, then buy the book, and again, please forgive my low rating. You will, following the advice, be more likeable and persuasive. And if your definition of "friends" is sweeping and indiscriminate, you'll make more of those, too.
I have two criticisms of the book.
First, I find much -- not all -- of its advice unbearable to follow. You may be nothing like me, and would not have this problem. But while I recognize the importance of friendliness, care with others' feelings, and "getting along," I can endure only so much insincerity. This book goes too far. The awkward word would be "schmoozing"; How to Win Friends and Influence People is a guide to mastery of that practice. Were I to follow the advice given closely, I would be unable to look myself in the mirror without nausea. If working towards your black belt in schmoozing isn't for you, you might feel as I do about a substantial portion of Carnegie's advice.
My second criticism is the real reason for the single star. This is where principle comes in. A reviewer below expresses it well, and got few helpful votes for it. But I believe he has it *right*: THIS SORT OF MATERIAL CAN BE USED JUST AS EASILY FOR EVIL AS FOR GOOD. (Sorry for shouting.)
Let me illustrate with the situation that resulted in my becoming motivated enough to write this review, even though I read the book over two years ago.
There's a fellow who represents one of the resellers we do business with where I work. We buy a lot of computer networking gear from him. I have absolutely been able to determine that this fellow is unscrupulous and dishonest. He really tries to get away with things, like surreptitiously altering final lease agreements before the upper-level boss signs them, claiming he doesn't remember points he agreed to, and changing figures and pricing because the changes may not get noticed (that happens!). When (if) these things get noticed, he just claims they were "mistakes."
I tried to point these behaviors out to two of my bosses, but somehow they couldn't accept it. They kept saying things like, "[First name]? No, [first name]'s a 'good guy'; there must be some mistake" and "I don't buy that; [first name] is one of the most decent, customer-focused reps I know." I even got myself in a little hot water with one of these managers by writing a "harsh" e-mail about this rep.
This was driving me *nuts* because I know this is not true. This rep is dishonest. So, I tried to figure out why neither of my bosses were willing to accept, or even consider, what I was telling them. Why does this guy seem to be able to get away with anything?
I am confident I figured it out: he has VERY STRONG SOCIAL SKILLS. I've been in a few meetings with him and had one lunch with him. He is soft spoken and mild mannered, he takes a seemingly genuine interest in you and what you're up to in your job and even your life, he compliments you and your efforts with remarkable sincerity, he expresses admiration for you ("that is something; I really wish I had your ability to..."), he is self-deprecating, he smiles, more. It's quite disarming. He seems to be very effective at putting the principles espoused in Carnegie's book INTO PRACTICE.
And that's why he is, I must say, a likeable fellow. But because of this, he gets away with a marked lack of integrity in his practices. Yes, there's no question Carnegie's principles work (see above on "work"). It would be foolish not to incorporate at least some of Carnegie's basic suggestions into one's social repertoire. But again, these principles can be used for "evil" just as easily as they can be used for good. People all too easily mistake likeability for such things as integrity, ability, and sincerity. Do we want to encourage insincerity for the sake of social effectiveness?
By all means, getting along is an essential skill. And some people use the importance of being "sincere" as an excuse to be crass, to be disrespectful, to be careless with others' feelings. As such, some of Carnegie's advice has its place. But I feel that what we really need, over all, moderated with kindness and care, is more TRUTH in our interpersonal relationships. And less effort directed towards the use of social skills as a tool to manipulate others in pursuit of our personal goals.
My single star won't hurt the average on Carnegie's book. There are many stellar reviews. But if you were to ask me whether the world would be a better place with or without this book, I'd hesitate.
Then I'd answer: "without."
A little follow-up. I sent an e-mail to another fellow who proffered a less-than-glowing review. In corresponding with him, I learned that people from Dale Carnegie Training (proudly listing "Franchise Opportunities" on their Web site) had written him many times with unflattering (at minimum) commentary in response. Remarkable, no?
Insofar as the non-helpful votes, maybe I was more helpful than I thought. :-)
on September 19, 2001
"Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automation, who does not know or understand himself, and the only person that he knows is the person that he is supposed to be, whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech, whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter, and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain...he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality..." As I can validate with the man who recommended this book to me, this observation by Erich Fromm is 100% on target with "Win Friends and Influence People".
This man, who practiced this book, presented himself as superficial, artificial, irregular, and consequently very annoying. He proved to me that these techniques do not facilitate communication- they stifle it. Instead of being direct, this man would only have the courage to give hints or make indirect statements in the form of questions. If I would attempt to explain something to him he didn't understand, he would immediately light up and go, "Oh! I see what you mean buddy." In my head I would think 'You couldn't possibly understand- I didn't even start explaining!' But that's how this "Win Friends" philosphy made him- he's not willing to go through any difficulty at all to understand and communicate with others.
The techniques in this book basically converted this man into a robot. Nobody really knows what kinds of things he's interested in - although at first you think his interests have a lot in common with yours. The man has no sincerity or credibility. When I see him smiling I don't know if he is genuinly happy or just trying to appear pleasant. When he says he agrees with me, it means nothing because he always seems to agree with everyone. I've come to take his liberal and exaggerated complements of me as insults because in doing this, he ignores what is truly worth praise and I know that anything he does for me is really only for his image.
I'll sum up this book for you:
1. Fake interest in other people's hobbies to get what you want out of them.
2. Pretend to agree with whatever people tell you so you'll be more popular.
3. Only express positive feelings ; do away with sincerity.
4. Make false excuses for your actions that people would be embarrased to turn down, called "Appealing to the Nobler Motives."
5. Talk your way out of what you behave yourself into (as if this was possible).
I witnessed the ineffectiveness of a man who devoted himself to this book; I tried this book myself for a while. My conclusions: It contains nothing more than deceptive, manipulative, superficial techniques that have no use and will lead to the detriment of yourself and your relationships. Instead, I recommend reading the book that made this one obsolete: "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Dr. Stephen R. Covey.
on August 15, 2002
I usually dont read or comment on low-brow books such as this, however this book has had such a vile impact on our world that it would be irresponsible for me to do otherwise.
One need only to have listened to the oblique babbling of most corporate managers to realize that this is their Bible.
Admittedly it will help your career. You will learn how to speak out of both sides of your mouth, appear agreeable at all times,
and engage in all manner of corporate BS. Everyone will like you, except for those ne'er-do goods-who abhor pretension and deceit. And, most importantly, you will get that raise! After all, get real, being honest, principled and lucid won't pay the rent and may even get you a pink slip.
If you want to "get ahead" buy this book!
If you are like me and amuse yourself by reading the kind of obfuscate and dissimulating language found in those emails from managers that arrive in your workplace computer, get this book for a good laugh! Dale Carnegie is the St. Paul of American Yuppies.
on August 19, 1998
Please be cautious about reading this book, and make sure you read it with a critical eye.
I first read this book when I was 14, and thought it was the greatest book I'd ever read. I believed in everything it said and applied it in my daily life. The principles appeared to work for a short time, however in the long run they DO NOT WORK, and lead to years of misery and suffering! This book has ruined my life for the past 15 years, I wish I never read it, and I wish I could unlearn it.
I was not critical of books when I was 14, and I believed the principles in this book would work. They do for the short term, and then they backfire! You must read this book with a critical eye, or it will ruin you; and please don't read it to children, because it will ruin their lives too.
on August 31, 2003
Warning, Read The 7 Habits of Highly Influential People if you are actually interested in learning something.
I read this book in about 10 minutes. The reason I did this is because it is a ridiculous waste of time. These techniques are so old that anyone who needs to read a book about them has been living in a closet. It reads as though you are listening to an old man telling you the ways of the world and what works. But the old man is desperately trying to put you to sleep.
If you think this book is really going to help you, it will not. The techniques in the book include ones like "Smile."
I'm sorry but I think people have figured out by now that smiling helps get what you want.
The principles of the book are all valid, but they are wrapped around boring stories that try to show you how the ideas work.
In my humble opinion, this book could have been written in 30 pages. You only need to look at the title of the chapter/last page of the chapter where it tells you the principle that you should use. This will get you the most out of this book.
Do not buy this book, it is a waste of money.
Go to your local library and borrow it, since it is so popular, they will have it.
What's amusing is that if you read the book and try to adhere to it, there is no way that you can write a negative review about the book because youve now become a yes man. This book reminds me of a handbook that some corporate brownnoser created. Which does not mean it doesnt work...just that it is trite.