Dale Carnegie (no relation to Andrew Carnegie) originally wrote the contents of this book as a textbook for his courses on Effective Speaking and Human Relations.
In 1912, Carnegie began his career in this field by teaching public speaking to professionals and businessmen in New York. But, he soon found his students needed another skill even more: how to get along with people, especially at work.
Most people think technical knowledge and hard work are the secrets to success in life. Sadly or gladly—depending on how you look at it—this is not true. Only about 15% of your financial success is due to technical knowledge, while about 85% is due to personality and leadership skills. The people with the highest earning power are always those who have “technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.”
John D. Rockefeller said, “The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee. And I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.”
NINE TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THIS BOOK
1. Constantly remind yourself how important these principles are to you. Create a mental picture of how your mastery of them will help you lead a richer, fuller, happier, and more fulfilling life. Repeat to yourself over and over: “My popularity, my happiness, and sense of worth depend upon my skill in dealing with people.”
2. Read each chapter twice as you go. This saves time in the long run.
3. As you read new ideas, stop frequently to think about them and exactly how and when you can apply each suggestion.
4. Mark the passages that impress you most. Make this book your own. Then reread and review your prior markings and think about why you marked those passages.
5. People forget quickly almost everything they are taught, especially the contents of books they have read. So reread again and again anything you want to keep fresh in your mind. There are too many ideas in this book to put into practice from merely a few readings. There is a lifetime of instruction within these pages.
6. Carnegie wrote: “Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. So if you desire to master the principles you are studying in this book, do something about them. Apply these rules at every opportunity. If you don’t, you will forget them quickly. Only knowledge that is used sticks in the mind.”
It’s difficult to apply all these suggestions at the same time. For example, when you are disappointed, it is much easier to criticize than to try to understand the other person’s point of view. It’s easier to find fault than to praise. It’s more natural to talk about what you want than what others want. So, while reading this, remember that you are not merely trying to acquire information, you are attempting to form new habits. This will require persistence and daily application. Refer back to these pages often. Whenever you are confronted with a specific problem, such as conflicts with your spouse, children, or customers, hesitate before doing the impulsive thing, which is usually wrong. Instead, come back and review the relevant parts. Try each of these new methods, and watch them work magic for you.
7. Offer people some fixed amount of cash every time they catch you violating a certain principle. Make a fun game out of mastering these rules.
8. The president of an important Wall Street bank had a system for self-improvement. He reserved every Saturday night to review his appointment book. After dinner, he went off by himself, opened his book, thought about all the interviews, meetings, and conversations he had during the week and asked himself:
What mistakes did I make that time?
What did I do that was right, and in what way could I have done it better?
What lessons can I learn from that experience?
His weekly review often made him unhappy because he was surprised by his own blunders. As the years passed, he learned to make less blunders. Sometimes, he felt proud of himself after one of these sessions. This system of self-analysis and self-education did more for him than any other single thing he ever attempted. It improved his ability to make decisions and greatly improved all his contacts with people. Use a similar system to check your application of the principles in this book.
9. Record your successes in applying these principles. Carnegie wrote: “Be specific. Give names, dates, results. Keeping such a record will inspire you to greater efforts; and how fascinating these entries will be when you chance upon them some evening years from now!”
THREE FUNDAMENTALS OF HANDLING PEOPLE
1. If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive: Don’t Criticize, Condemn, or Complain
Carnegie wrote: “B. F. Skinner, the world-famous psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior will learn much more rapidly and retain what it learns far more effectively than an animal punished for bad behavior. “Later studies have shown that the same applies to humans. By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment. Hans Selye, another great psychologist, said, ‘As much as we thirst for approval, we dread condemnation.’ The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned. Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
A safety coordinator for an engineering company had to make sure employees wore their hard hats at the job site. Whenever he saw workers not wearing them, he reminded them of the rule and told them with a lot of authority that they must comply with it. The workers sullenly put them on and usually took them off as soon as he left. Then, he tried a different approach. He began to ask them if their hats were too tight or uncomfortable. Next, he reminded them as nicely as he could that the hats were designed to protect them from injury and merely suggested they always be worn on the job. As a result, more men complied with the rule without any resentment.
If you try to correct and condemn others, they will justify themselves and condemn you in return. History is filled with examples of the futility of criticism and the benefit of being wise enough not to indulge in expressing them.
Abraham Lincoln, even after he became a practicing lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, enjoyed attacking his opponents in letters published in newspapers. In 1842, he offended one politician, James Shields, so greatly that Shields challenged him to a duel. While Lincoln was opposed to dueling, he had to defend his honor. He chose cavalry broadswords to take advantage of his long arms and took lessons from a West Point graduate to prepare for the life-or-death fight. On the day of the duel, he and Shields met along the Mississippi River. At the last minute, their assistants stopped the duel.
Lincoln learned a valuable lesson about how to deal with people from that harrowing experience. He never wrote an insulting letter or ridiculed anyone again. In fact, from that time forward, he almost never criticized anyone for anything. During the Civil War, Lincoln replaced general after general as leader of the Army of the Potomac because each one made tragic mistakes—McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade—driving Lincoln to pace the floor in despair. While the North savagely condemned these incompetent generals, Lincoln held his peace. He had a reputation by that time to have malice toward none and charity for all. He often quoted, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” When his wife or others spoke harshly of the South, Lincoln said, “Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”
Just one example of Lincoln’s great leadership skills is shown in his handling of one of the greatest blunders in the Civil War. From July 1 to July 3, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg took place with the North victorious. During the night of July 4, General Lee began to retreat when storm clouds deluged the area with rain. When Lee reached the Potomac River, he found it swollen and impassable. He and his army were trapped between the river in front of them and the Union Army behind them. Lincoln saw the opportunity to capture Lee’s army and end the war immediately. With high hopes and gratitude for this unbelievable opportunity, he ordered General Meade to attack Lee immediately. He telegraphed his orders and, to make his point perfectly clear, sent a special messenger to Meade demanding immediate action.
What did Meade do? He ignored Lincoln’s order. He called a council of war instead. He hesitated. He procrastinated. He telegraphed all kinds of reasons for not attacking Lee immediately as ordered to by Lincoln. Meanwhile, the waters receded sufficiently for Lee to escape with his forces over the Potomac River.
Lincoln was understandably upset. “What does this mean?” he cried to his son Robert. “Great God! What does this mean? We had them within our grasp and had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours; yet, nothing that I could say or do could make the army move. Under the circumstances, almost any general could have defeated Lee. If I had gone up there, I could have whipped him myself.” Bitterly disappointed, Lincoln sat down and wrote Meade this letter:
“My dear General,
“I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within our easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so south of the river, when you can take with you very few—no more than two-thirds of the force you then had in your hand? It would be unreasonable to expect and I do not expect that you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.”
But Lincoln never mailed this letter. It was found among his papers after he died. He had put the letter aside perhaps because he had learned from bitter personal experiences that sharp criticisms almost always do more harm than good.
We resent harsh criticism—even if we deserved it—and remember those who passed such judgment upon us with smoldering resentment, long after the incident—sometimes until death. Carnegie wrote: “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity. Bitter criticism caused the sensitive Thomas Hardy, one of the finest novelists ever to enrich English literature to give up forever the writing of fiction. Criticism drove Thomas Chatterton, the English poet, to suicide. Benjamin Franklin, tactless in his youth, became so diplomatic, so adroit at handling people, that he was made American Ambassador to France. The secret of his success? ‘I will speak ill of no man,’ he said, ‘ … and speak all the good I know of everybody.’ Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Famous pilot Bob Hoover was flying an exhibition World War II propeller plane home to Los Angeles after an air show in San Diego when both his engines suddenly stopped. Two passengers were flying with him. Although he was able to skillfully land the plane without anyone getting hurt, the plane was damaged beyond repair. After the emergency landing, he checked the fuel and confirmed his suspicion that the plane had been fueled with jet fuel instead of gasoline.
When he returned to the airport, he asked to see the mechanic who had serviced his plane. The young man was miserable and ashamed of his mistake. Tears streamed down his face as Hoover approached him. He caused the loss of a very expensive plane and could have caused the loss of three lives as well. Hoover did not scold him. He did not even criticize him. He put his arm around the man and said, “To show you I’m sure that you’ll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow.”
Before you criticize your children, remember that they are children. Carnegie wrote: “Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and, it breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness. ‘To know all is to forgive all.’”