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As a management consultant, I am always asking our clients and potential clients what their major issues are. It almost always boils down to persuading someone else to change. In many situations, the person describes the situation as getting worse rather than better.
As I ask more questions, I soon learn that the person I am talking to is totally thinking about the issue from her or his perspective, not the perspective of the person they want to influence. Carnegie describes a situation where he and his son couldn't get a calf into the barn. They pushed and pulled, and nothing worked. A maid came out, stuck her finger into the calf's mouth to simulate feeding and the calf followed her right into the barn.
As you can tell from that example, Carnegie is a student of the stimulus-response school of human behavior. The book is divided into four sections: Handling People; Getting People to Like You; Getting People to Agree with You; and Being a Leader. Each section is comprised of a few principles, which are each exemplified in a short chapter with a number of examples. Handling people has to do with avoiding the negative and unpleasant, appreciating the other person, and making the other person eager to accomplish some goal of their own.
Each section follows the same format. Basically, it's the same way that you train any living being. You provide positive feedback to the person which makes them feel better, the person responds positively to you making you feel better, you then help the other person to link what you want to share with them with something they want.
Many people will be offended by this idea. I have long studied that reaction and find that it relates to one of two basic assumptions: (1) the decision to act should be based on the objective merits (if I deal with emotions, I am being manipulative) or (2) I want you to acknowledge that I am right, that you are wrong, and that I am superior to you because I am right. Both of those perspectives get in the way of establishing warm human relationships. If you would rather do things without emotion, your life will be very dull. If you would always like to be right, you will be very lonely (even if you really are right).
Let's look at a more fundamental question. Can these techniques be used for questionable purpoes? Probably, is my answer. However, at some point, the person's manipulative game will be found out. See Robert Cialdini's book, Influence, on what happens to smugglers of influence over time.
The best results will come from those who have integrity and are principled. They and everyone else can see that they are pursuing something with another person that is in the best interests of that person, and that there are no hidden agendas. Here is where I think Carnegie is a little weak. You get the impression from the book that hidden agendas are okay. My experience is that all agendas should be totally upfront. Don't pretend you are trying to help someone, when all you are trying to do is sell them something they don't need. Do encourage them to get the information they need to make a good decision for themselves about your idea, product, or service. Leave the whole circumstance with a stronger, more trustworthy relationship than you started with. That's how I interpret the Dale Carnegie principles.
If you really would like to get better results in your human relationships, this book is essential reading. To skip this book would be like skipping reading and arithmetic in grade school. It contains essential tools that everyone needs to understand. Since these things are seldom taught in schools, this is a good place to start.
Modern gurus of human relationships and effectiveness like Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins have a substantial debt to Dale Carnegie. If you read all of them, you will tend to reinforce your new habits. I like the Covey and Robbins approaches as a complement to Carnegie, because both authors focus on having principles at the center of what you do. That will help reduce the risk of turning Carnegie into techniques that lead to suboptimal results, instead of a mutually reinforcing virtuous cycle for everyone.
Researchers consistently show that success in many fields (such as business, politics, and teaching) is very closely related to one's social skills. Many people will work very hard to be more successful, but skimp on the relationship aspects. That's a mistake. Work on the relationships first.
Enjoy having easier interactions with others, having more friends, being more influential on important subjects, being more open to being influenced by others, and leading where it needs doing!
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