This article is the second in the series “The Entrepreneur in Time” which is exploring some of the basic assumptions about entrepreneurs from the emergence of entrepreneurship in capitalist business writings up until the present day. I embarked on this topic to discover if the character of the entrepreneur has always been the same, or if the idea has developed over time. One hundred years ago it was said that entrepreneurship was the only way to escape your class. I’d say this still holds true today. I hope readers find some pearls of wisdom from these stuffy old tomes!
This book was written around the time of the invention of the first canned beer. I thought that was just a nice thing to remember from the ‘30s!
Dale Carnegie (1936)
Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People is still quoted as a classic piece of managerial wisdom. Despite his tips on how to maintain a happy home, Carnegie went on to be twice-divorced. His family relations advice may not have been foolproof, but his business leadership lessons have stood the test of time. Remember, they emerged from a time where managers were “the boss” and didn’t have to try very hard to get employees to like them. They ruled.
The first few chapters of the book reveal insights garnered from psychology, such as people’s need for recognition and appreciation (quite new in 1936). Carnegie suggests thirty core principles that help to win people over to your ideas, change their minds without resisting you and generally like you.
The 6 ways to get people to like you
In part two, Carnegie wrote six statements related specifically to getting people to like you. Remember, these principles were written in a different era. How relevant are they still?
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
1. “Become genuinely interested in other people”
My knee-jerk reaction to this is to re-phrase it as “learn how to fake genuine interest”. Carnegie’s method requires huge efforts being dedicated to politeness and avoiding criticisms and conflict, so perhaps it could not be phrased so honestly. It is impossible to like everyone and everything, so fake interest has to be practiced. If you are not a good actor but you need this person, perhaps try to spend only short spells of time with them so as to keep up the act longer. You need to keep the insincerity out of sight as much as possible if you feel it will affect the access to the resource you need.
This is a timeless piece of advice and worth practicing. Remember to smile with your eyes as well as your mouth – crinkle them up at the side as natural. A fake smile is easy to catch. You could test it out on a friend or partner who knows you well. Are they convinced? No? Then why should anyone else be?
3. “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language”
This one is very foreign to me. I am guilty of being bad with names but excellent with faces. I tackle this by being up front from the beginning of this shortcoming and giving a sincere advance apology for future encounters. It hasn’t failed me to my knowledge. Also, I am more impressed by those who remember details of what I was talking about at our last encounter than their name. After all, the name rarely comes up again once the conversation gets going. Are there still a lot of people out there who get very offended if their name is forgotten? Or are people incredibly impressed when they are remembered by name, because of the difficulty of the task?
4. “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.”
Absolutely, 100%, DEFINITELY follow this rule. If there is one thing people are assured of being an expert on, it’s themselves. Let it roll on and try to make some mental notes on what the person considers important accomplishments, milestones and so on. I once heard a good rule of thumb from a businessman. If you have a few spare business cards or napkins in your pocket, excuse yourself to the bathroom after speaking to someone potentially important and immediately jot down bullet points. What good is all this listening if you don’t remember these details after?
5. “Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.”
There is danger in this one if not carefully executed. Many a movie has contained the scene where someone is trying to pretend they know all about cars or the stock market and so on, only to be pretty easily caught out for not having a clue. I would typically advise a person to steer clear of something they ultimately know nothing about. A useful sentence to interject is “I don’t have a lot of experience in this area personally but it certainly sounds interesting” or “it is something I have always wanted to try out” (be context sensitive!). Using a hobby as a metaphor to explain your idea can also be effective, but have it clear in your mind before you dive in. I think the main lesson to be distilled from this statement is not to go on about your own interests at the expense of the attention of the person you are speaking to.
6. “Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely”
Genuine sincerity, like the first statement on general interest, can be hard to emulate but is important to learn. Appearing sincere involves observing basic etiquette: reply to messages sent to you within an appropriate timeframe. Nobody likes to be ignored, and nobody likes an auto-reply. Sincerity is detected in real responses. Phone people back when you miss a call. Don’t be late for meetings and appointments without good reason, and learn what the local etiquette for apologizing is. In The Netherlands, it may be bringing flowers. In Spain, it may be inviting the person out for a coffee. These personal touches are what make you come across as caring, and can manifest themselves into genuine sincerity as they become habitual.
Modern success story: Chris Gardner
Gardner’s exceptional story was made famous in the movie In Pursuit of Happyness. If you think your situation is bad, remember that Gardner was homeless during an unpaid internship WITH a two year old son! From those humble beginnings he is now a multi-millionnaire providing inspiration worldwide. His key to success was passion and perseverance.
To conclude: Did Dale Carnegie get it right?
Carnegie gave 30 pieces of wisdom in total. These statements were taken from part two of his seminal work titled “Six ways to make people like you”. Overall these tips were intended set you on the way to building a great reputation and network by acting upon them at all times. It is not easy advice in the least. Maintaining a good mental database of the contacts you meet is tough, and if you are not particularly a people-person these tips will be especially problematic. Overindulging will also possibly lead to you sounding fake and overenthusiastic.
Personally, I find being more honest to my character the best way to go but the basic tenets of politeness promoted here should definitely form the structure of your first encounter with anyone. A first impression can be a last impression after all. If you remember an early scene from The Hobbit, when the dwarves arrived at Bilbo’s house one by one, you’ll see how politeness started the ball rolling into revealing the plot afoot step by step than overwhelming the poor fellow from the start.
Context will always be king for any generalized advice. But at least this will get you started in a room full of strangers. Just for your interest, here are the other 24 pieces of classic advice that went on to influence how management changed from classic authoritarian style to today’s diplomatic style.
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Win people to your way of thinking
- The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
- If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Begin in a friendly way.
- Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
- Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
- Appeal to the nobler motives.
- Dramatize your ideas.
- Throw down a challenge.
Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
A leader’s job often includes changing your people’s attitudes and behavior. Some suggestions to accomplish this:
- Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Let the other person save face.
- Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
- Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
Andrea Francis is the PR and research evangelist for Twoodo, the ultimate “one box to rule them all” online productivity tool. She is into events, marketing and PR with tech startups in Europe. Andy likes getting things done and makes an awesome homemade hamburger.Subscribe to the Podcast