How to win friends and influence people

How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday was the birthday of Dale Carnegie who was born in Missouri in 1888. He came from a very poor family but became famous as a writer and lecturer, motivational speaker and marketing guru. I guess you could say he was the father of public speaking (if you don’t count Aristotle of course). Let’s just say that he was the first person to have the idea that salesmen (and I use that term deliberately) needed to have more than a product to sell in order to make a sale. They need to be able to convince people that they couldn’t do without the product they were selling. They needed to be influential.

His best known book was “How to win friends and influence people”. It was first published in 1936 and is still in print. Carnegie’s ideas probably seem very commonplace today but his ideas were radical in the early 20th century. One of his key ideas is that it is possible to change people’s behaviour towards you, by changing the way you react to them. He thought that you could influence people by getting them to like you. The more they like you, the more likely they are to respond to you in a positive way and this in turn will lead to them being more likely to buy what you are selling or agree with what you are saying.

To be honest, I have always found these ideas to be a little creepy. I always believed that people should be genuinely likeable and not just for the purpose of influencing me, or selling me something. But it’s true that I am more likely to listen to the ideas of someone I like. It puts me in a more open frame of mind.

If you are writing presentations, reports or even just emails to your colleagues you probably want people to do something, or feel something, otherwise why would you be taking the trouble to write anything? And if you want people to do or feel something, then it helps if you are likeable.

So can you make yourself more likeable and still retain your integrity? Yes, I think so.

One easy thing you can do is to adopt a positive attitude about life. People quite like to be around positive people. I don’t mean that you should pretend to be happy if you are feeling really down, but adopting a positive attitude not only makes people around you want to talk to you, it also makes you feel more positive about life. This is the ‘fake it till you make it’ scenario and the science says that this really works. Watch this TED talk to find out how.

Secondly, spend as much time as you can listening to other people. Giving people your attention and listening closely to what they say is both respectful and flattering. I am not always very good at listening (coming from a family of champion interrupters as I do) but I do find it very effective when I can manage it.

If you agree/disagree or have any other tips for influencing people without selling your soul, please comment. I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll leave you with a nice quote from Mr Carnegie…

Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you own, it depends solely on what you think.

Dale Carnegie 1888 -1955