How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital
Age by Dale Carnegie & Brent Cole
DALE Carnegie could be credited (or blamed depending on your
perspective) for the glut of motivational books that have been published since
How to Win Friends and Influence People was released that
year and was rated by Time magazine in 2011 as one of its top hundred books of
The sagacious investor, Warren Buffett, has only one diploma
hanging in his office: his certificate of Dale Carnegie training.
The version I am reviewing here follows the format of the
original 1936 edition, but does more than simply use twenty-first Century
examples - it adapts the time-honoured principles to the age of the social
If there ever was a time when Carnegie's principles need to
be taken seriously, it must certainly be now.
The first principle, "If you want honey, don't kick
over the hive", has been retitled "Bury your boomerangs".
The boomerangs are the things you say and write that when
aimed at others, spin back and hit you.
An article from the Huffington Post quoted in the book
describes 13 Facebook posts that got their authors dismissed from their jobs.
Googling "dismissed from my job because of Facebook" yields 46
In 1936 an unwarranted letter might have been seen by the
recipient and a few others, all of whom might be appeased; today, try
retracting what you tweeted or said in front of a TV microphone you believed
Carnegie counselled: don't criticise, condemn or complain.
Most people can distinguish between what is nothing more
than flattery and what is an affirmation. Flattery is telling the person what
they want to hear, affirmation requires more thought; it requires seeing the
person well enough to sense what to affirm.
For that reason affirmation can have the life-changing
impact that flattery never has. This is Carnegie's second essential principle
of engagement: "Affirm what's good".
In the section on making a lasting, positive impression on
others, Carnegie opens with the call to "take an interest in other's
Quoting a piece of research conducted by the New York
Telephone Company in the 1930s, the most frequently used word in conversations
was the personal pronoun "I". The significance of self-interest has
not changed, nor is it likely to.
Andrew Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic and
political blogger, invited readers to submit shots of the world just outside
their homes. This interest in other's interest went on to become the
centrepiece for the Atlantic Monthly's online strategy, and enhanced his
People are attracted to people who care about what interests
Carnegie placed great store on the value to relationship of
smiling. The research finding of Christakis and Fowler confirms that people who
smile tend to have more friends, with smiling getting you an average of one
more close friend.
This is not trivial, as people only have about six close
With much of our communication mediated through digital
technologies, smiling takes on a new challenge: how to express warmth over the
phone, sms, email or twitter.
This is only a challenge, not an impossibility with the
assistance of emoticons (the little faces) for informal settings and the use of
the recipient's name in the text wherever possible for formal ones.
When the lead singer of a little-known band had his guitar
smashed by careless baggage handlers on a United Airlines flight, he sought
redress from the airline for a year with no result.
No one listened or showed any concern for his situation. In
frustration, he wrote a song describing his experience, made a video of it with
friends and posted it on the internet.
Within two weeks it had attracted 4.1 million views, and the
Times of London reported that the video had precipitated a $180m drop in
United's share price.
Not listening to customers is always expensive, but not
listening to friends, colleagues and family is no less damaging.
The converse is similarly true; listening is a very engaging
Carnegie cites avoiding arguments as a key ingredient in
meriting and maintaining others' trust. I do not know of anyone who put this
better than the humourist, Dave Barry: "I argue very well. Ask any of my
"I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent.
People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their
great respect, they don't even invite me."
There is probably nothing in this book of interpersonal
insights that you do not know, so you will learn nothing new.
What makes this worth a quick read on your next flight is
that it will remind you of what you already know - and in the reminder lies the
Readability: Light +--- Serious
* Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on
leadership and strategy.