Does anyone think that Dale Carnegie's methods are effective any more?

I’m talking about his most famous book, which first came out in 1936:

How to Win Friends and Influence People

My mom has always been very critical of my social skills (in almost a bullying way that has continued past my 45th birthday), so she had me read this as a pre-teen. I don’t regret it. I think the book is food for thought at least.

Even back in the 80s, I was talking to a family friend in his 20s who said that (based on studies in his major, I don’t quite remember) a lot of Carnegie’s thought had been proven untrue. I’ve never heard anything similar, and I wonder if anyone here can confirm or deny such a thing.

FWIW, I think I am a pretty well-adjusted adult, and I am happy with the quality and quantity of my friends. I don’t think the specifics of Carnegie’s book have helped me much in this regard, but I think the book made an aggregate impression that was helpful. To wit, I think the book emphasizes the importance of taking an interest in the other person and considering his/her reality in interactions.

FWIW, I have a couple things to say about Carnegie’s methods:

1. The book is from another era–and not really in a good way.

The book is overly earnest and cheesy. It’s from an era of glad-handing salesmen and perhaps more genteel but nevertheless superficial interactions and presentations. At the same time, the book comes from an era of significantly lesser psychological sophistication.

The methods of the book no doubt worked better then, but their effectiveness, I believe, has attenuated over time and was already rather weak when I first read the book in the early 80s. OTOH, some of the things, such as praising before giving criticism (a good thing to do) have become standard operating procedure in modern society among anyone familiar with self-help or business effectiveness lit. I.e., some of the methods, whether due to Carnegie (likely) or not, are nothing special any more. Others would easily be called out as obvious manipulations (“Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to”) by a high percentage of today’s adults.

2. A lot of the techniques were probably never that great in the first place.

Example: “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.” Sure, people hate it when you dominate the conversation. But this was one of the techniques, in combo with “Become genuinely interested in other people,” that I implemented at an early date in my life but don’t feel have ever had that much of an effect. People are creatures of self-interest. They can pretty easily turn you into a therapist and not really give you all much credit for taking on that role. Actually, the book had the effect of turning me into a kind of amateur therapist (but a pretty good one), and I like helping others. I just don’t think it’s really helped me win friends per se.

I could analyze the book a lot more, but I’m more interested in your opinions. (Wait a sec, that was a pretty Dale Carnegie thing to say!)

As regards “Become genuinely interested in other people”, it can be taken to mean becoming their therapist but it doesn’t need to. It’s quite possible to be interested in what they’re interested in/knowledgeable about and talk about that. If you realize they’re only interested in themselves, it may be time to move on.
How does How to Win Friends compare to Influence: How and why People Agree to Things by Cialdini? Are there other well-regarded* books in that same genre?

  • As opposed to PUA-type shit.

I am very introverted in person but I keep a copy in my car and still get a lot of value out of it. My mother gave it to me when she realized I was never going to be outgoing like she is. I gave a copy to my teenaged daughter when I realized she is a personality clone of me at that age (and quite annoying in her presentation sometimes).

I never took “How to Win Friends and Influence People” as a manual on how to be a politician or a salesperson because I (and my daughter) will never be one of those. Instead, it is about folk psychology has real value. I can be as eccentric and nasty behind closed doors as anyone can be but I am generally popular with most people that know me in casual and professional settings.

I think the advise about listening versus talking is extremely good advise and the world would be a better place if many more people followed it. I also think it is helpful to point out that it is extremely important to establish common interests and you can’t do that if you start rambling on about the first thing that pops in your head whether the other person cares about it or not.

That book did have a nasty side-effect for me at least as well. If someone else isn’t reciprocating, boring me to death and wasting my time, I recognize it as extremely rude and just walk away with no regrets. Fuck’em if they can’t demonstrate some civility. You don’t need to be friends with everybody. Unlike Will Rogers, I have met plenty of people that I just can’t stand.

Like any self-help book, a lot of what you can get out of it is how much you have to put into it. It can’t create anything that isn’t there, at least in some small part. More methods for channeling it to one degree or another.

“How to win friends and influence people” sounds to me like a code for “How to mislead people into thinking you are their friend, and persuade them trust you enough to be influenced to your advantage.” It is not surprising that this concept was very popular among salesmen with a commission to be earned.

The most valuable thing you can learn from reading the book, is how to spot your potential enemies who have read the book. Know thy enemy.

I took the Dale Carnegie course. If you are an experienced sales professional it is interesting but not that helpful in being a better salesperson. If you are a beginner who has trouble speaking out in groups or to people in general it’s more useful.

In my view it’s most useful for people who manage other people in telling them how to approach things in a positive manner in getting people to do what you want and that is a very BFD if you want to be a successful manager. If IIRC it was $ 1800 or so.

The most useful thing for me was the on the fly mnemonic memory techniques for remembering names. I remember when we were doing roleplay they had us each step up and be the loud, angry accuser and have the other person be the voice of reason. I scared the piss out of the entire class. They were trembling when I finished.

Right, there is some basic self-help theory in there that anyone should have, really. In 1936, it was probably a big dose of that. Today, it could still be so if people haven’t gotten it elsewhere. And I see it more on picking up on the overall message than learning specific techniques.

I, too, took the Dale Carnegie course. A lot of the people in my group were moving into some kind of sales, management or customer service position for the first time and really did need help learning the basics of social interactions.

I will say that personally, the course helped me curb some of my most obnoxious traits, at least in public.

Frankly, “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking” is useful advice in almost every situation.

Actually that was a motto in Edgar Wallace’s ‘Carfew’, 1914
“You can make a fortune,” said his lordship, “if you let the other fellow do the talking. Good afternoon.”

Carfew is related to confidence trickstering.

I re-read “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” once in a while. The attitudes to female roles are a bit dated, and I can leave the religious aspect out, but I find it helpful and uplifting. Like any self-help book one in isolation isn’t a magic bullet to your problems but taken as part of an overall learning strategy I think they’re still useful.

I found out you can make a lot of friends if you buy people beer. I’m only half kidding.

But I did want to say that I thumbed through the book once, so bear that in mind-- I’ve read all his points, but not completely read all the details of each one. Anyway, what struck me about it is that a lot of the things are “women’s” things.

Women already smile more than men in conversation, yield the floor more often, listen sincerely, encourage people to talk about themselves, come up with ideas and let the other person (particularly if it’s a man) think it was his idea, and so on and so on.

So the way that men can win friends and influence people is by behaving like women.

Seriously. Women flatter other people. They do it especially to men they are interested in, but they do it to other men, and to women they are simply courting as friends. They even do it sometimes to people they don’t like, because even if Jane doesn’t like Susan, she still wants Susan to like her. She really has to HATE Susan before she turns off the flattery.

Now, there are women with poor social skills who don’t know how to do this, and get rejected even more harshly than men who don’t know how to do this, but on the whole, women who have been socialized in the US already do all these things.

Interesting observation!

Man, what a bleak outlook you have.

I haven’t read it, but it’s one of the first social skills self-help books/courses that was ever devised. As such, its title is probably a bit anachronistic, in that it sounds more shady and duplicitous than it really is.

I’ve known several people who took the courses, and they all describe it as more of a toolkit for how to be sociable and use that sociability and other social skills to put yourself in the best light for what you’re trying to accomplish.

That doesn’t mean that it’s a handbook on how to manipulate people, or anything like that; the way I’d paraphrase how the people I’ve known who took the courses described it as how to be a friendly person who doesn’t turn the other person off and gets them interested in what you have to say.

Kind of like the social skills equivalent of bathing, wearing decent clothes and brushing your teeth. None of those things are manipulative in their own right, but having dumpster breath is certainly going to impede you in any kind of social interaction. So too will lack of the right people skills.

The Karass negotiating seminar is much more valuable.

Well said, bump.

And I think it’s true of lots of self-help books: They teach what to many people is “obvious,” or stuff you already do naturally, and so can seem trite; but if you’ve somehow gotten through life without learning it, but are now ready to, they can be life-changing.

I don’t think its ideas and concepts are out of date, rather they are skills that many have forgotten or discounted whereas people will still respond to an actual application of the principles, as opposed to a cynical attempt to go through the motions without putting heart into it.

I read it as a teenager in the early 1980s. I really only remember one thing from it, but I’ve maintained that one thing my whole life: getting people’s names right. Specifically, pronouncing their name correctly, and addressing them by the name or variation thereof that they prefer.

It makes sense to me. I know that I respond less than favorably to people who Dick around with my name.

Best self help book you can read. It’s too wordy, but the core message is as true now as ever.