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!)