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Excellent principles but showing its wrinkles
on 3 June 2015
It is a great shame Dale Carnegie is no longer around. As mentioned in the foreword, he liked to constantly update and hone his material. And that's one thing I feel is missing here. I'd love to see this renewed and sharpened in the wake of the changes that have occurred in the 80-od years since its first print. The foundation is there and its principles superb - but the wrinkles are getting obvious, especially where any marketing team with a library card have abused much of this book to the hilt
The most poignant element of this book is simply its constant focus on positive reinforcement. It's a stark reminder of how undervalued this has become, and how belligerence is still the common currency of interactions. It's quite incredible with the age of the writing how relevant many of the ideas remain. Dale's elegant analysis of the futility of arguments, how people respond to blame and the obsession with being right... sheer brilliance!
My main disagreement with the book is simply a moral one. I feel that a lot of the techniques and examples rewarded immature behaviour in other people. Fragile egos are protected and stroked - with bizarre examples of people responding with outright hostility to simple factual correction. Rude, belligerent individuals are given special attention and a pat on the head. I'm a big disbeliever in the notion of ingratiating yourself to immature people, simply so that you can keep their custom or get them to hire you. And there is a lot of that here... that and the common example of "So I had a big meeting and asked about their rock collection. 3 hours later they still hadn't shut up about limestone"
So much so, I find that you really need to calibrate the execution of Dale's techniques with precision. The world has become cynical of Colgate smiles and butt-sniffing compliments. It is a sad reflection where most of these now ring alarm bells more than endearment. Heck, even reading a few of the examples had me either cringe or do the trouser-pat to make sure my wallet was still safe. Some of these ideas would either raise an eyebrow or come across downright condescending to some. The notion, for example, that a fault must be indirectly alluded to and sandwiched in praise. Personally, I find that, so long as the critique is tactful, private and solution-oriented: People are actually grateful for the frankness
In fact, some are downright counter-intuitive. Compliments on a person's "innate skill", for example - bad idea. Recent studies (Mueller & Dweck 1998) have shown (at least in children) that this backfires horribly. It actually hinders risk-taking and exacerbates upset in the wake of failure. Complimenting the effort, however, is the magic touch. It's subtle nuances and discoveries like this that need consideration to help boil down Carnegie's ideas. I appreciate the desire not to tamper with the original text - but at the same time feel it's being left in the dust
The other thing to bring into perspective too... this isn't the only way. It's easy to read this and believe that the cotton-wool-I'm-sure-it'll-be-fine way is the only way to live. But look around you. Many people in great positions of influence and power aren't strictly good or positive individuals. In fact, a strong example is in this book's very pages. In the chapter on "Don't tell people they're wrong" - We're told that Benjamin Franklin changed for the better after a friend took him aside and... well... pretty much broke every rule in this book. Just a straight out "Dude, you're wrong and people dislike you" - but he changed. He improved. The stinging remarks seemed to be the effective option here
It's not that Dale is wrong, not by a long shot - but let's not launch the trebuchet away with the rock here. I simply feel it wise to read this with an open mind. Employ the principles, but remember that critique, anger, assertiveness and sometimes even hurting feelings have their place too
Personally - I'd recommend this more for the business / politically-minded. As a core foundation to know how to appeal to customers and people - Utterly superb. But for those looking more to attract and foster mature relationships... I'm hesitant. It's good, don't get me wrong. But I feel that the nuances of interpersonal relationships strike much deeper than these pages allude to. Hope this helps