How to Win Friends & Influence People – Avoiding a pile of buttered bagels

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie was published in 1936. The title back then was, “How to Wineth Friends and Infulenceth People”… just kidding. All I’m saying is that it’s among the oldest of my self-help books. You may wonder, then, how it adapts in this crazy world of ours? Actually, quite well! Consider this quote:

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie

Doesn’t sound ancient at all, does it? We’ve all been talking about this kind of stuff for decades.  Back in the 1930’s, I would wager a guess that it was downright shocking!

Touted as “The first – and still the best – book of its kind” (okay, that was taken right from the cover and may be a tad bit biased)… I have to say that it’s no lie. This book kinda rocks!

I could talk about Carnegie’s young-to-mid-life adulthood… his life in sales and later, as a writer and lecturer. I could talk about how someone like him appeals to me because I’m in sales during my day job and have been for years… and have only recently realized how tightly sales and self-help are wound together. (Teensy Hint: What you think of yourself translates to how well you do in sales.)

I could talk about his fervent followers – and there have been millions for as long as I can remember.

Instead, I’m gonna talk about this book.

On almost every page, there’s something worth quoting. And that’s saying something, as there are 250+ pages in my paperback.

“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.” ― Dale Carnegie

“Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.” ― Dale Carnegie

I like this next quote… A LOT. I’ll tell you why, after:

“Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?”

“Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?”  ― Dale Carnegie

I once joined a message board about saving marriages, back when I was married the first time. One of the things I appreciated was a very popular discussion topic there: fulfilling your spouses needs. I’m linking to an article that talks about it here.

I like Carnegie’s example in the quote above…  but I have one for humans… straight from my own life and marriage.

My husband and I had been married a few years and worked at the same office. Some might find this stifling and awful but we loved it. We drove into work together (one car, one car insurance, one car repairs, etc, etc, etc!) and home too, of course.

We worked in different departments so didn’t see each other unless we went out of our way. He often (and very kindly) came upstairs and asked me if I’d like a coffee on his way out to get one. I almost always said yes.

One day, when he came back, he had a bagel… raisin, toasted, with gobs of butter. Yum, yum, right? Well, actually, no. I don’t like melted butter on breads. I like it with lobster. Or artichokes. Not bagels. Also, I don’t like food surprises. Maybe it goes back to my days with braces. Or being fat. I’m not a great “in public” eater. Anyhow, he thought I would like it because HE would like it.

So, we had to have a difficult discussion about his needs being different… you know, than mine. And yes, at first, I was very anxious – worse than usual. And yes, his feelings were hurt, though I tried to be as gentle as I could.

It seems so simple but seriously, think about a time when you did something for another that didn’t seem to go well… even though you did it with the best intentions.

Think about a time when someone did something for you that you didn’t really want but you accepted anyway… you know, to keep the peace.

Wouldn’t it be easier to straighten it out before these “gifts” become a pile of bagels you can’t eat?

That’s what I think Carnegie is saying in the quote about the strawberries, above. We all have different needs and if you give someone the wrong “need”… it won’t attract them… and you’ll be left wondering what you did wrong.

This book is a million kinds of excellent and packed with advice. There are principles and suggestions in the post-intro (those pages numbered with xxii’s) on how to get the most out of the book. Be sure to read that first (I often skip intros in non-fiction books, to my peril. I also don’t read instructions on how to build things, also to my peril – and embarrassment).

Friends, this book is a classic for a reason. It’s conversational and clear. If you haven’t read it… you should.