This book often appears on lists about that are meant to help you be more successful in life i.e. the self-help category. After reading the book, I have an idea why that is so. The strength of this book is its pedagogy. The book hands out advice on building strong relationships through ideas presented in the form of small chapters: each 5-10 minutes long. The lessons or main ideas are backed by examples of how the author and his students benefitted from their application in real life. The topics cover a broad spectrum, including conflict management, building mutually beneficial relationships, praising people and criticizing them without hurting their feelings to name a few.
If I were to summarize the entire book , it would be: treat other people as you would like yourself to be treated. They deserve your time, attention, praise, admiration, encouragement and respect. Those who make small efforts to develop meaningful relationships succeed more often than those who don’t.
In other words, Mr.Carnegie wants us to stop thinking that we are at the center of the universe and should accept our reality as one being based an interdependent one which prospers from win-win relationships between people. Maybe today this message is not a big deal since similar messages can be found in books, articles, and talks by a huge number of life coaches and motivational speakers but back in 1936 this was probably a big deal. This earned the book a reputation which it carries it to this day.
A brief summary of the main ideas can be found at Wikipedia.
I had mixed feeling reading the book. The author bases the effectiveness of the ideas on real life events. I really liked that. These tips are really effective. For example, we ignore the power of a simple smile to uplift the mood of a place. In one of the chapters, the author advises us to remember people’s names and use them as it builds trust and ”it is the sweetest sound to a person”. One of the chapters introduces the sandwich approach to criticizing someone, a technique taught by many coaches today. So yes many techniques are useful.
The problem with this approach for me was that I am fond of the author first elaborating an idea in detail and then backing it up with real life examples and science but here you have a ton of examples which are followed by a small paragraph outlining the main idea. Though there is nothing wrong with this approach, I grew weary of it quickly.
There is another stark problem that became too obvious as I read the book. Some teachings came across as too-good-to-be-true and some as phony . In many of the examples, whenever a conflict arises, the person of interest (the author or one of his acquainances) just looked for a thing to praise in the other person or their belongings ( for example their office furniture) and this praise led them to secure million dollar deals with the people they were fighting with a second ago. In one chapter an old lady gave her late husband’s car to a man just because he told them that he found their house lovely! Who does that?
Daniel advises us to become keen listeners who look for things to talk about with strangers to develop relationships. He urges us to find out something the other person wants to talk about and then to get them to talk about it at a stretch while we listen and only interject praise intermittently to make the other person happy. While there is nothing wrong about knowing about someone’s interests, I believe that this would be a sacrificial relationship where you are just a passive recepient who is looking for the other person’s acceptance/friendship in exchange for listening to them. I would rather have a genuine friend who shares my interests rather than someone to whom I cling for social capital. Many chapters urge you to use praise to make headway for your benefit.
All in all, this book is interesting and useful when approached with caution.