Just Read: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, and Thoughts on Social Movements

This is a book I can’t believe I haven’t read until now.

It is as highlighted as the other classic I couldn’t believe I read until now, The Effective Executive (Just Read: Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done).

Both are gifts of another book, Tools of Titans (Just Read: Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, Tim Ferriss).

I’m sure many people have heard the title before and probably learned many of the principles in various other experiences.

I’m not sure how many people have actually read this book or applied its principles.

I encounter many people who don’t apply its principles, and I don’t apply them myself as well I could (another principle, evaluate myself). I hope that I and everyone around me does. The world depends on it.

What’s incredible to me is that the book was written in 1937, and yet contains references to behavioral science that has only recently been understood to be true.

The only disconcerting thing about this particular edition is that it has been “strategically updated” in parts to make it more timely, so next to a conversation about lumber mills there’s one about Walt Disney World or Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoughts on Social Movements and Changing Old Ideas

In addition to quoting some of the most meantingful passages to me below, I also thought about the work in the context of social movements. These are the times where people are actively not being won over; more the opposite. Where does this fit in with unequal power relationships that result in the human catastrophes that this book describes?

Situations like this:

Or the situation that Tim Noakes (@ProfTimNoakes), physician and scholar describes in his new book Lore of Nutrition: Challenging conventional dietary beliefs (reading that now), replete with professional and academic bullying to an impressive degree. Starting that book right after this one has been a distinct contrast.

Quotes and Commentary

See what you think:

I once succumbed to the fad of fasting and went for six days and nights without eating. It wasn’t difficult. I was less hungry at the end of the sixth day than I was at the end of the second. Yet I know, as you know, people who would think they had committed a crime if they let their families or employees go for six days without food; but they will let them go for six days, and six weeks, and sometimes sixty years without giving them the hearty appreciation that they crave almost as much as they crave food.

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (p. 50). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Remember, this is 1937 – fasting was a fad? Nod to to the present day discarding of old ideas about nutrition developed in the late 20th century.

More importantly, the need for humans to be appreciated and to matter.

Hurting people not only does not change them, it is never called for. There is an old saying that I have cut out and pasted on my mirror where I cannot help but see it every day: I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. Emerson said: “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” If that was

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (p. 54). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Relevant in the scope of arguably the most successful social movements of our time, LGBTQ equality. Time and time again, attempts to hurt or dehumanize fail. It’s why love always wins.

If we want to make friends, let’s greet people with animation and enthusiasm. When somebody calls you on the telephone use the same psychology. Say “Hello” in tones that bespeak how pleased you are to have the person call.

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (p. 85). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

This is more personal – people make fun of me because when they ask how I’m doing, I rotate through several phrases, with authenticity:

  • “incredible”
  • “amazing”
  • “never better”
  • “best day of my life”

…because they are true. Try it yourself. They’ll be true for you, too.

You don’t feel like smiling? Then what? Two things. First, force yourself to smile. If you are alone, force yourself to whistle or hum a tune or sing. Act as if you were already happy, and that will tend to make you happy.

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (p. 95). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Also personal. I have learned how to smile, and now I offer 60 second smile-training on demand to people who haven’t learned yet. I haven’t yet met anyone who doesn’t look good in a photograph. The key is smiling.

This policy of remembering and honoring the names of his friends and business associates was one of the secrets of Andrew Carnegie’s leadership. He was proud of the fact that he could call many of his factory workers by their first names, and he boasted that while he was personally in charge, no strike ever disturbed his flaming steel mills.

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (p. 104). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Again, relevant to the most successful social movements of our time. In health care, honoring and respecting people’s names is the most basic part of health care (the verb, not the noun). In this century, this is extended to the use of proper pronouns.

Built for the Future: My business card includes my pronouns (yours should, too)

Martin Luther King was asked how, as a pacifist, he could be an admirer of Air Force General Daniel “Chappie” James, then the nation’s highest-ranking black officer. Dr. King replied, “I judge people by their own principles—not by my own.”

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (p. 162). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

This is a reference to respecting one’s adversaries. Maybe out of place, maybe not…

The sun can make you take off your coat more quickly than the wind; and kindliness, the friendly approach and appreciation can make people change their minds more readily than all the bluster and storming in the world.

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (pp. 181-182). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Self evident. Takes as much energy to be kind as it does to be unkind (actually less energy to be kind) 🙂 .

In short, if you want to improve a person in a certain respect, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics. Shakespeare said, “Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” And it might be well to assume and state openly that other people have the virtue you want them to develop. Give them a fine reputation to live up to, and they will make prodigious efforts rather than see you disillusioned.

Carnegie, Dale. How To Win Friends and Influence People (p. 268). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

This is not just impressive in its truth; also in its prescient prediction of the science that would only emerge 80 years later. This refers to moral self-license, the activity whereby people with inclusive values may at the same time discriminate. What’s been studied is appealing to people’s image of “who I am, versus what I do.” (see: Just Read: Moral Self-Licensing – a continual challenge to eliminating bias in health care)

The conclusion

Still the same for me.

  • We’re all here to help the world learn to ❤️ better.
  • ❤️ always wins.
  • Embrace curiosity.
  • In health care, I wish these personal and professional conflicts on every nurse and doctor in their lifetimes, so they can re-commit to these principles.
Ted Eytan, MD