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How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age
Why Carnegie’s Advice Still Matters. In 1936, Dale Carnegie made a compelling statement to his readers: “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face.” This is the foundation of How to Win Friends and Influence People, and it is still true today. However, developing strategies for dealing with people is more complex.
Messaging speed is instantaneous. Communication media have multiplied. Networks have expanded beyond borders, industries, and ideologies. Yet rather than making the principles in this book obsolete, these major changes have made Carnegie’s principles more relevant than ever. They represent the foundation of every sound strategy, whether you are marketing a brand, apologizing to your spouse, or pitching to investors. And if you don’t begin with the right foundation, it is easy to send the wrong message, to offend, or to fall embarrassingly short of your objective. “Precision of communication,” insisted American writer James Thurber, “is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false, or misunderstood, word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.”
Consider the era of hair-trigger balances in which we live today, more than fifty years after Thurber penned the phrase. The stakes are higher. Amid the amalgam of media, distinction is more difficult. Every word, every nonverbal cue, every silent stare is scrutinized as it has never been before. One wrong move can have far greater implications. Still, every interaction from your first good morning to your last goodnight is an opportunity to win friends and influence others in a positive way. Those who succeed daily lead quite successful lives. But this sort of success comes at a philanthropic price some aren’t willing to pay. It is not as simple as being ad-wise or savvy about social media.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership,” said the presidential speechwriter James Humes. In other words, people skills that lead to influence have as much to do with the messenger—a leader in some right—as with the medium. This book will show you how and why this is true, just as it has shown more than fifty million readers around the globe, including world leaders, media luminaries, business icons, and bestselling authors. What all come to understand is that there is no such thing as a neutral exchange. You leave someone either a little better or a little worse. The best among us leave others a little better with every nod, every inflection, every interface. This one idea embodied daily has significant results.
It will improve your relationships and expand your influence with others, yes. But it will do so because the daily exercise elicits greater character and compassion from you. Aren’t we all moved by altruism?
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” Carnegie’s assertion remains relevant, albeit counterintuitive, because it reminds us the secret to progress with people is a measure of selflessness swept under the drift of the digital age.
We live in an unprecedented era of self-help and self- promotion. We watch YouTube videos like the Double Rainbow go viral in a matter of weeks and garner the sort of global attention people used to break their backs for years, even decades, to obtain. We witness allegedly leaked sex videos create overnight celebrities. We watch talking heads and political pundits tear down their competition and elevate their ratings. We are daily tempted to believe that the best publicity strategy is a mix of gimmick and parody run through the most virally proficient medium. The temptation is too much for many. But for those who understand the basics of human relations, there is a far better, far more reputable, far more sustainable way to operate.
While self-help and self-promotion are not inherently deficient pursuits, problems always arise when the stream of self-actualization is dammed within us. You are one in seven billion—your progress is not meant for you alone.
The sooner you allow this truth to shape your communication decisions, the sooner you will see that the quickest path to personal or professional growth is not in hyping yourself to others but in sharing yourself with them. No author has presented the path as clearly as Dale Carnegie. Yet perhaps even he could not have imagined how the path to meaningful collaboration would become an autobahn of lasting, lucrative influence today.
More Than Clever Communication
While the hyperfrequency of our interactions has made proficient people skills more advantageous than ever, influential people must be more than savvy communicators.
Communication is simply an outward manifestation of our thoughts, our intentions, and our conclusions about the people around us. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” These internal drivers are the primary differentiator between today’s leader and today’s relational leech.
The two highest levels of influence are achieved when (1) people follow you because of what you’ve done for them and (2) people follow you because of who you are. In other words, the highest levels of influence are reached when generosity and trustworthiness surround your behavior. This is the price of great, sustainable impact, whether two or two million people are involved. Yet it is only when generosity and trust are communicated artfully and authentically that the benefits are mutual.
Because we live in an age when celebrity influence can be borrowed like credit lines and media coverage can be won by squeaky wheels, it is all the more critical that every communication opportunity matter—that every medium you use be filled with messages that build trust, convey gratitude, and add value to the recipients. The one thing that has not changed since Carnegie’s time is that there is still a clear distinction between influence that is borrowed (and is difficult to sustain) and influence that is earned (and is as steady as earth’s axis). Carnegie was the master of influence that is earned.
Consider a few of his foundational principles—don’t criticize, condemn, or complain; talk about others’ interests; if you’re wrong, admit it; let others save face. Such principles don’t make you a clever conversationalist or a resourceful raconteur. They remind you to consider others’ needs before you speak. They encourage you to address difficult subjects honestly and graciously. They prod you to become a kinder, humbler manager, spouse, colleague, salesperson, and parent. Ultimately, they challenge you to gain influence in others’ lives not through showmanship or manipulation but through a genuine habit of expressing greater respect, empathy, and grace.
Your reward? Rich, enduring friendships. Trustworthy transactions. Compelling leadership. And amid today’s mass of me-isms, a very distinguishing trademark.
The original book has been called the bestselling self-help book of all time. From a modern standpoint this is a misnomer. “Self-help” was not a phrase Carnegie used. It was the moniker assigned to the genre created by the blockbuster success of How to Win Friends. The irony is that Carnegie would not endorse all of today’s self-help advice. He extolled action that sprang from genuine interest in others. He taught principles that flowed from an underlying delight in helping others succeed. Were the book recategorized, How to Win Friends would be more appropriately deemed the bestselling soul-help book in the world. For it is the soulish underpinning of the Golden Rule that Carnegie extracted so well. The principles herein are more than self-help or self- promotion handles. They are soulful strategies for lasting, lucrative progress in your conversations, your collaborations, your company. The implications are significant.
By applying the principles you will not only become a more compelling person with more influence in others’ lives; you will fulfill a philanthropic purpose every day. Imagine this effect compounded over the dozens of daily interactions the digital age affords you. Imagine the effect if dozens of people throughout an organization followed suit. Winning friends and influencing people today is no small matter. On the continuum of opportunities, it is your greatest and most constant occasion to make sustainable progress with others. And what success does not begin with relationships?
From ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ by Dale Carnegie & Associates. Copyright © 2011 by Donna Dale Carnegie. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY.
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